The Wood and the Trees of Research

woodsTwo roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by,

~ Robert Frost

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing recently. This was the plan so that’s all good. Apart from, I now find myself empathizing wholeheartedly with one of my dissertation students who wrote to me to say that she had done the reading I suggested, but now it seemed that a lot of factors were intertwined in the research area, and she wasn’t sure what her focus should be.

I research bullying, and have done for some time, so I know that the area is messy. There are group factors, family factors, individual factors, even genetic factors that need to be accounted for. Even if we narrow this down, and say that my focus is groups there are many possible emotions, thoughts, actions, schools, classes, consequences –  and myriad types and methods of bullying to look at.

GRANTS

Image adapted from ‘Life’ by Edward Monkton

The problem I am having is not so much in realizing  that the area is messy, but in reading a good paper, and coming up with four or five ways that the research could be extended in, useful ways, reading another paper to support one of these possibilities, and coming up with four or five new paths for future research. And that’s before I’ve even considered the recommendations I diligently set out in the General Discussion chapter of my PhD thesis.

I recommended to my student that she further research and think about a factor that she is particularly interested in. That she thinks “small and beautiful” for the potential research design of her project. I am finding it very difficult to follow this advice. All the possibilities are interesting, and could lead to useful research and intervention.

I need a grant proposal to be successful, to continue in academia. I’m just not sure how to determine which road to travel by…..

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