At the panel presentation recently, we were discussing one of the forms for getting on-campus grants, and giving the person in charge some feedback. One of the areas that has to be filled out is the usual research method/methodology.
We humanists have difficulty talking about methodology in the ways that science folks do. They say, well, I'm going to do X to one group, and not to another, and measure the differences in reaction in this and that way. And there's method, and measurement, and you can use statistics and all.
But we humanists, our typical response runs more along the line of, well, I've got this questions, so I'm going to read some books and think, and then I'm going to read some more books and think some more, and then maybe I'll look at some pictures and think some more, and then I'll try to explain what I've been thinking about in writing. There's no measurement, and the statistics suck.
So we asked the person in charge to use more inclusive language, something along the lines of research methods and/or theoretical approach.
The responses on my last post (thank you, folks, very helpful) made me think about teaching research stuff to grad students next term, and how difficult that's going to be, yet again. And you folks are totally right, I think, that most folks could do a research course, but don't want to put in the necessary time. Unfortunately, I put in the time already, so now it's slightly less onerous.
But, yet again, since I'm supposed to teach it, I'm thinking of changing up the class somewhat.
In the past, I've given the students a project that requires some set work that tends to prompt lots of questions because I think having real questions to answer makes research interesting. I tend to think that the hardest parts of research are coming up with good questions and then thinking of possible answers. Figuring out how to test out the answers is easier, and involves finding and reading what other people have had to say, understanding the cultural contexts, thinking about theoretical issues, and so forth.
The thing is, in the past, I've set up this project (which works well, shockingly well), but not given much guidance. And I'm thinking now of spending more time working specifically guiding the process, doing pre-writing sorts of exercises to brainstorm ideas and possible answers, and then trying to be more transparent about the ways of testing out the answers.
But still, the whole methodology thing brings me to a halt. I don't know how to tease out my methodology or describe it, and that makes teaching it all the more difficult. How do the humanist types out there describe their research methods?