Some preliminary remarks to aid in orientation....
Teaching and research: some similarities and differences
There are similarities and differences between taught modules and research modules. In terms of similarities, there is a common emphasis on enquiry and the construction of knowledge. Two differences relate to curriculum and assessment. In most teaching, there is a set curriculum to follow and the assignment is designed for us. In research, both these constraints (or supports, perhaps) begin to fall away. There is no set curriculum and there is no set assignment. It is up to us to in effect design our own curriculum and assignment question(s).
Career and work are pervasive topics. By pervasive, we mean that they pervade many aspects of life. In this sense, they are like many other topics such as history, identity, learning or love. There is no clear boundary to them. It is not possible to say where career and work begin and end. It is partly for this reason that career and work are transdisciplinary topics. Many disciplines are relevant, for example, psychology, sociology, education, organisational studies and literary studies, to name but a few. We therefore do not confine research to research method(s) commonly associated with any one of these traditions. Any approach to research can be adopted provided a convincing rationale is provided.
There are a large number of books on research skills. These vary enormously in content, quality and approach. We seek to recognise this in the design of support for the research project and dissertation. Readings are made available from a range of these books and exclusive reliance on any one author is eschewed. Through this, we seek to recognise the contested nature of research, evaluate competing perspectives and enable people to arrive at their own views. This in itself can be seen as a form of triangulation. A term that we will explain in more detail later....
The terms and language used in research can sometimes appear remote or difficult. It is at these points that a clear focus on the kind of problems you wish to solve or consider can be helpful. Research can provide new solutions to old problems and/or suggest new ways of problem-setting. You may find it useful to discuss these with your supervisor. The next page is designed to provide some examples of problems or areas that previous students have explored.