Sunday, November 22, 2009

Marcus' questions

Q1) I was surprised by Potter’s comment about researchers rarely building on each other’s work. Then why does it take longer to write lit reviews than any other section of a paper? It seems like there’s a lot more consolidation of academic ideas than he’s admitting. I understand that he’s noting a difference between consolidation and cooperation, and that qualitative research is fairly fragmented, but I still wonder if he’s taking it a bit too far.

Q2) Richardson made me want to turn the tables a bit. He argues that much qualitative research, when written, is “boring” because of limitations on language needed to get published, and that qualitative research – the search for “meaning” – can’t be hamstrung like that. So, I’d ask … what is “boring?” How do you define “boring?” Can “meaning” not be found through “boring,” or is “meaning” the opposite of “boring?” Sports use rules, are they “boring?” What about poetry, which often has regulated verse? You can’t use abstract, personality-based concepts to criticize a lack of abstract, personality-based values; that’s the whole point of quantitative research, that everyone has a set starting point and can draw whatever conclusions they want from the data. I understand what he’s saying, that he wants readers and researchers to be more open minded, but he’s also setting himself up for criticism.

Q3) I think “convergence” is a really qualitative way of looking at the topic of academic integration. I understand that quantitative research is the standard, and that it is a kind of power structure; but just the term “convergence” implies a melding of minds, more conglomeration than cooperation, and I’m not sure that’s the best way to boost the status of qualitative research. I think the better appeal to conventional quantitative researchers would be a representation argument, making the point that the field is expanding into qualitative fields and particular institutions risk being left behind without staffing to meet that expansion. There’s also a capitalist argument – OMG, I used that word again! Beware, the hegemon speaketh! :) - that most grad students base their enrollment on detailed programs and research interests, not regional concerns or cultural loyalty (like most undergrads and myself). So, the school with the most diverse repertoire stands to gain the best and brightest graduate students, which would definitely make sense to a quantitative dean. “Convergence,” I don’t think, would carry the same weight.

Q4) I’ve also been thinking about Dr. Jensen’s comment last week that journalism departments are an awkward concoction of disciplines, theories and work experiences. That made particular sense coming from him, since from what I could gather, none of his pornography research has focused on news media, or “journalism.” It’s media research, certainly, but not traditional news media; yet he’s at the j-school, not RTF or Comm Studies. So if there’s a fuzzy difference between the disciplines anyway, and other branches are more open to qualitative research, then how much carryover is there from journalism grad programs to RTF or Comm Studies programs? This will sound tacky, but if qualitative researchers are doing the same work next door and having a party, why keep arguing with the bouncers outside the j-schools? Like I said, it sounds tacky, and I like the idea of qualitative research in journalism – that’s why I’m taking this class – but still, I may be in the minority.

Q5) I also liked the discussion about personally constructed reality, and I think it does speak to the heart of qualitative research … I just don’t agree with it. Either it’s raining or it’s not, and everybody knows which. So is that one of the fundamental gulfs between qualitative and quantitative research, or are their quals that like the idea of an objective reality?

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