Supporting the The Master of Research: Education and Society Programme

A short reflection on research and sense(s)

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In today’s Core Theory session with Rachel we discussed questions of epistemology, philosophy and ontology. In encouraging us to stand back and think about our taken for granted assumptions, truths, beliefs and convictions we carry around with us, Rachel forced us to attend to the conceptual frameworks we all bring to our research enquiries.

These provide particular ways of seeing; windows to the world that throw light on some things and not others. These frameworks – built up over time, through our experiences, our connections and encounters with others (human/ non human), or memories of pasts (real and imagined) – are integral to the way we approach research – the things we see as significant, the quandaries that ‘itch’ and keep us up at night.

This metaphor of conceptual frameworks as providing us with particular lenses on the world – ways of seeing – is useful in thinking about the ‘doing’ of research.

I also wonder what other metaphors of sense might be relevant to research.  Thinking about this, I returned to the words of Les Back who I referred to in Tuesday’s session where I talked about some of the different ways we might define ‘research’ and what it can and does do.  Les argues that Sociology is a craft of attentiveness, an ‘art of listening’. He calls on us to be patient in how we listen as well as look upon the social world when we do research. Here is a longer quote from Les:

“Some people argue that that means we’re facing a crisis of the empirical. What value can there be for the humanities and social sciences in a world of prodigious, extraordinary, powerful corporate and state information machines. That’s one way of thinking about itas a crisis and informational struggle that we’re completely impotent in the face of. I have a different feeling about it. It comes back to the training of a certain attentiveness, of slowing down the pace of thought, of asking different questions, and having a different kind of attention. It’s a tough enterprise. And the fact that it’s hard makes it important. We need the time to think carefully, to ask difficult questions, and to challenge our own assumptions about what we think is the case. To cultivate that patient openness to the problems that keep us awake at night and that we feel passionately about.”

(Les Back- available here: )

Posted by Kim


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