I have been thinking for some time of re-purposing my blog, or at least of putting some more pages on it, about conducting research. And, of course, by that I mean conducting good research. I want it to be a space where people who are doing research can swap ideas, point to resources that they have found very useful, and ask questions that they think they might be able to get help with.
And I say “people who are doing research”, because I do not want to think only about “researchers”; I want to think about ways of finding things out, especially in education. So that might be teachers, or parents, or those of us who are just interested in what is going on in research. And I also want those of us who do research for academic purposes, whether to publish or to get a degree, to think of research as something that connects to our everyday life, and not something cut off and isolated.
So the first resource I am going to offer is Dan Kurland’s website on Critical Reading.(http://www.criticalreading.com/) I fell in love with this website at first sight. And I think that there were two main reasons for that. Of course, the website is full of very useful tips and methods. But the first thing that I pick out is the idea that we learn to write by reading. That is true at all levels of literacy skill, so if you want to know how to write a research paper, article or report, make sure that you have read a lot of them.
And the second thing, and the basis for the method of Critical Reading, is the idea that a text has (at least) three functions which correspond to the questions: “What is it?”, “What does it say?” and “What does it mean?”
And needless to say, that means that when you want to write something that other people will find interesting, you need to ask yourself what that writing is going to be, what it is going to say, and what it means. I see more pieces of academic writing than I care to think about where the author has concentrated entirely on what it says, and not given anywhere near enough thought to what it means. And sometimes they have only thought about what it is; it is an essay I have to submit, or it is an article I have to get published, and there is an end to it. How much better if we thought about what we want that piece of writing to mean!