Research World, Volume 11, 2014
Online Version

Article A11.3

Research Readiness: Report on an Early-Stage Researcher Education Programme

Heidi Collins
PhD Candidate, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Malaysia

Published Online: June 22, 2014

Note. This is a report on a 1-week research education programme held for the research students and academic staff of Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Malaysia, at Damai Puri Resort & Spa, Kuching, Sarawak, during 8-13 June 2014.

This is a report on a “Research Readiness Program” held at Kuching, Sarawak recently. As the title suggests, the main goal of the programme was to prepare participants for enrolling in a PhD programme. It was additionally intended to provide motivation and direction to those who are already enrolled in a research higher degree programme. The programme helped the participants engage with their perceptions of research and raise their enthusiasm for doing research.

An atmosphere of intense focus was created throughout the week by holding the workshop as an off-campus retreat-style event. This approach allowed participants to work together informally in the evenings on assignments that had been set each day during the formal sessions. Not only did this allow a large volume of work to be covered during the week, but it also enabled the participants and session leaders time to interact outside of the formal classroom sessions to exchange ideas, nurture enthusiasm, and build a sense of community.

The workshop was attended by 14 participants, and was led by five academics from Swinburne’s Hawthorne Campus (Australia): Keith Houghton, Christine Jubb, Judy McKay, Heath McDonald, and Jeremy Nguyen. Swinburne Sarawak’s D. P. Dash also facilitated discussions throughout the week.

As might be expected, the programme began with a discussion on the definition of “research.” The ideas discussed in this initial session sketched a description of research informed by a positivist formulation of the scientific method. Sessions that followed on research design similarly emphasised scientific designs that use hypothesis testing to study relationships between variables (Salkind, 2014). It was towards the end of the second day, while on the topic of validity, reliability, and sensitivity as criteria of goodness of measurement in research, the participants were introduced to the discourses surrounding “qualitative research.” Alternative ways of assessing quality in research were discussed (Silverman, 2010). Terms such as credibility, dependability, transferability, and confirmability were discussed as alternatives to validity and reliability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Seale, 2002). This raised awareness amongst participants that there are approaches to research that vary from classical scientific methods (Lincoln & Guba, 2000).

On the third day, many new possibilities for research design were opened up with a comprehensive introduction to qualitative research. This began with a discussion of the problematic nature of the popular reference to quantitative and qualitative research. It was clarified that researchers working from either positivist or interpretivist paradigms could both use qualitative and/or quantitative data. Yet when we speak of qualitative research we are often talking about not just qualitative data, but research conducted from an interpretivist standpoint that would underpin the research.

Participants’ understanding of research was further broadened in the final session of the last day when a participant enrolled in a PhD programme in fine arts, introduced the label “artistic research” as yet another way of conceiving and conducting research (Biggs & Karlsson, 2011; Mäkelä, Nimkulrat, Dash, & Nsenga, 2011). While time only permitted a short introduction to his research, it allowed the group to further challenge and expand our notion of research as a multifaceted activity.

In addition to discussing the concepts that lie behind research, the session leaders also took time to share many practical experiences related to conducting and publishing their own research. Many of the experiences they shared revolved around the challenges of publishing research in highly cited journals. This in turn opened a discussion regarding the tensions that may exist between needing to publish in highly cited journals to further one’s academic career, and ethical, practical, or political needs to publish work that focuses on local, contextual issues which may not be of interest to such journals.

The workshop included many practical components where participants broke into small groups to practise skills such as writing hypotheses, creating questionnaires, conducting interviews, and analysing cases concerning research ethics. The sessions were structured in such a way that having identified a research question arising from contemporary issues during the first day of the programme, participants were able to develop their research question step-by-step as the week progressed and new aspects of research design were explored. This culminated in a mock research proposal. By the end of the week participants had each presented their research proposals to the group. This exercise allowed participants to immediately apply the concepts and tools they had learnt. Listening and giving feedback on each other’s presentations allowed the participants to demonstrate their learning from the research readiness programme.

The programme ended with a sense of high energy and renewed enthusiasm for going forward with individual and collaborative research projects.

Further Readings

Biggs, M., & Karlsson, H. (Eds.). (2011). The Routledge companion to research in the arts. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (2000). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 163-188). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Mäkelä, M., Nimkulrat, N., Dash, D. P., & Nsenga, F.-X. (2011). On reflecting and making in artistic research. Journal of Research Practice, 7(1), Article E1. Retrieved from http://jrp.icaap.org/index.php/jrp/article/view/280/241

Salkind, N. J. (2014). Exploring research (8th ed.). Harlow, UK: Pearson.

Seale, C. (2002). Quality issues in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Social Work, 1(1), 97-110.

Silverman, D. (2010). Doing qualitative research (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage.

Suggested Citation: Collins, H. (2014). Research readiness: Report on an early-stage researcher education programme. Research World, 11, Article A11.3. Retrieved from http://www1.ximb.ac.in/RW.nsf/pages/A11.3

Copyleft The article may be used freely, for a noncommercial purpose, as long as the original source is properly acknowledged.

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