03 March 2010

Research question

One of the things I have been working and working and working for the last five months is some clear goal for my research. After finishing the Masters of Research last year, I was a bit... not lost, exactly. I was happy to be unsure what I was doing. I thought I might be interested in Internet communities, but I didn't really know. What I was quite sure of: I did not want to spend another year counting metaphors.

Not having a research question was fine for about two months, but at some point, you really need to say what it is that you're doing. And in just about the middle of February, this lack of a clear objective really was killing me. So I worked on it for about a week, thinking about what it was that I was really trying to do. It turns out, of course, that everything I have been reading about and thinking about is one or another element of the question, but it's finally come together as:
How does discourse contribute to the emergence of‘communities among atheist and Christian users on YouTube?
I will then add subquestions about voice and metaphor, but at the core, this is what I am interested in. I am not interested, as I thought, in what community is, per se. I'm interested in how this thing they call community emerges from talking. Fundamentally, a very different thing, I think.

Now that this is settled, my writing has become much more focused and the report I have less than three months to finish (which needs to include a literature review, methods section, and pilot study) will come together more clearly. Once you have your research question decided, you know clearly what should or shouldn't be included. It's like a mantra in one way, a road map in another. It's a question I also, my supervisor remarked, don't know the answer to, something that wasn't true of my MRes work. My supervisor was happy: she said, I'm glad you worked this out and we didn't have to tell you. I took this as a compliment. I'd rather be a hard-working B student rather than a very smart A student.
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