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  • 00:00

    [MUSIC PLAYING]This is a question that I think pointsto very big debates within universitiesand outside universities in this country.

  • 00:21

    And these debates are about quality of research.And perhaps, no other area of researchis more contested than social research.But at an individual researcher level,I think there are several ways of beginningto think about quality.Perhaps, the most straightforwardis to think about quality as a judgementthat people make about particular items of research,of research processes, research outputs.

  • 00:50

    And they make those judgements in a numberof sites of assessment from decisions about publication,to decisions about funding, to awarding degrees includingPhD degrees, to synthesizing research and choosingparticular pieces of research to be integrated into largerstudies and so forth.And those decisions aren't made on the basis of prioritizing,so it's a negotiated standards and criteria that are specificto particular communities as well as to particular sitesof assessment.

  • 01:24

    Not to be slightly less abstracting,but if you wanted to improve or thinkabout the quality of your own researchand defined quality as this form of judgement, what you needto do would be precisely to look into those sitesand acquaint themselves their rules and their standardsand their criteria and their ways of workingand try to develop a working approximation in your headof what should count as good researchin your particular community of reference.

  • 01:55

    But that's just one side of the storyof how you want to begin to thinkabout the quality of your own research.You might chose to think about qualityin a slightly different way as well, whichis quality has an attribute whichis intrinsic to certain kinds of researchand to certain research outputs.Some research processes, some research outputsare in themselves, better quality in this than others.

  • 02:25

    Ethical problems, misalignments of research questions, researchaims, research data, techniques and claims,methodological oversights, major and minor--all those things are possible descriptorsof poor quality in fields of researchacross all types of assessment.

  • 02:49

    Now, if you think of quality in this way,one way of improving your-- let's call it-- criticalliteracy would be to acquaint yourselfwith a whole range or a wide range of theories,methodologies, methods, philosophical assumptions thatmight be criss-crossing your field.And so to develop from these a working understanding of whatshould count as quality in relationto each particular type of research.

  • 03:16

    And on top of this, I think thereis one more think that you need to be mindful of-- developingcritical literacy in this process,it is important to engage with these different typesof assessment and with these different types of research.But it is also important to practice.

  • 03:37

    Therefore, really taking advantage of opportunitiesthat might come your way to do a peer review,to do engage in coaching, to be involved in research synthesis,it is really important to actually take advantageof those opportunities.And also, particularly at the early stagesof your engagement with those, askfor feedback on your contributionto these particular activities so that you canbuild your own learning curve.

  • 04:03

    It's very interesting that you said that some researchconclusions are better in themselves,obviously suggesting that there are methodological criteriato help us say well, this is better or this is not so good.So what are those criteria?How might I as a student understandhow I might make those judgments?

  • 04:24

    I think it is a very delicate judgement to makeand you would be rather foolish, I think,to try and step outside any methodological assumptionsand think of criteria that are sort of good and there onceand for all.But what you can do is to engage in critical reading of piecesin a range of methodological traditionsand try and work out what should count as good researchin each of them.

  • 04:55

    And you will probably see as whatothers have seen through doing research on these issues,you probably see that there are some generic common concerns.The further you move outside particular methodologicalframes, that they're more abstract and generic theybecome, and probably then more commonsensical they becomeas well-- things such as generic [INAUDIBLE]of claims and of the research processesthat people describe as having comebehind the construction of those claims,things such as how virtuous-- and I'musing this word in full acknowledgementof its implications-- but how virtuousthe engagement of one particular individual was in research.

  • 05:49

    That has ethical context and integrityin research, Independence in research.Thinking about the bias in certain way--all those aspects are quite common across a numberof methodological traditions.But they are rather commonsensical,so you might need to start with that but actually reallydelve deep into each methodological traditionin order to understand what really should countand indicators criteria and definitionsof what counts as good research should be constructed there.

  • 06:21

    It's very interesting because you haven't mentionedthose classic phrases like reliability and validity, whichif I asked the same question to some peoplethose would be the terms that would come up.Why is that do you think?I think these terms have to come later with connotations thatmake them more connected to certain methodologicaltraditions than to others.

  • 06:47

    And people might have this reactionto those terms that makes you thinkof methodological imperialism and methodological orthodoxy.And we don't actually want that.We want people to engage with what counts as good researchand with research quality on its own terms,rather than transforming it even morethan it actually already is into a kind of political struggle.

  • 07:11

    And you'll hear a lot about paradigm wordsbetween quantitative and qualitative methodology.And I don't think that we have a needto go into that when we think about research quality.It's more about reflecting on your practiceand developing your own critical literacy.That's great.And one thing that I hear a lot now from researchersis this need to make research impact.

  • 07:35

    What do we mean by impact and how can researchers havean impact with their research?Shall I start with the second part of your question, whichis how could researchers think about ensuring or enablingimpact of their research.

  • 07:55

    Now as you know, impact is a buzzwordused in many public arenas, but it's alsoa very ambiguous term.As a PhD student, you are expectedto comment on your potential contributionto knowledge and to academic practice in your own field.

  • 08:18

    And this a reasonable expectation and itcan be defined as one form of academic impact.But the public story about impact goes way beyond that.It goes into issues of impact into the wider world,into enabling and affecting changein particular social practices and social settings.And this is where the issue of impactbecomes more controversial, I should say.

  • 08:44

    Now, we need to have both realism and vision,I think, in thinking about the impact.Short-term impact and a [INAUDIBLE] measurable impact,commercial impact-- they might not be within easy reach.And also, they might not necessarilybe the most important thing in relationto a particular field and particular types of researchand of research projects.

  • 09:11

    Therefore, impact might be best achieved over time and in teamsrather than as an individual effort.But that does not mean that it is notimportant to actually engage in thinking critically about whatthe point of your research is in the widersocial context of your work.But it is really important to be thinking critically about whatthe point of your research is in wider social space,in the wider social world and allows meaningful waysof engaging with particular relevant communitiesof practiced professional communities thatmight be connected to your field,such as health research and nursing,such as education and teaching.

  • 09:55

    Now if I may, I will give a realistic long-winded example.If we think of professional practice,we can conceptualize the ways in whichit might touch a form of researchor it might be influenced by research in several ways.

  • 10:15

    It is a multi-faceted kind of relationship.I'd like to give you just three examples.First of all, research is engagedin the business of constructing creating knowledge,but also providing facts, providing explanations,providing demonstrations.And a practice can be conceptualizedlike some kind of consumer of that information in a rathercontemplative, neutral way.

  • 10:43

    And that is a perfectly legitimate wayof thinking about how research might contribute to practice.But we can also think about practice, such as teaching,such as nursing, but you can also think of practicein terms of a craft or the exercise of expertise,the exercise of skills.But if we think of it that way, thenwhat practitioners do is try and draw upon whateveris available to them including research knowledge which mightbe research outputs but also knowledgegained via engagement with researchersand in research processes.

  • 11:18

    So they draw on everything that's available to themin order to gain increased control over the contingenciesof their practice so that they become better at what they do.And that is, I think, a very straightforward wayof thinking about the roles that research can play in practice.But there is a question mark next to this,and that has to do with the ways in which veryoften this relationship is simplifiedin public discourses.

  • 11:48

    To just define an example that is for the fields of educationand nursing particularly relevantis the whole idea of research being encouraged and investedin in order to provide access to worksin times of questions in the public domainand emerging from practice.If you think of practice as an exercise of craft, then yes,it's a very legitimate way of thinking about it.

  • 12:15

    But if you think of practice in a very instrumental way,then it is very easy to see how this particular agenda mightbe high-jacked by a much narrower type of consideration.So you've got to be mindful of that.And onto that third example of a possible relationshipbetween practice and research, and thatis thinking about professional practiceas a form of social action in a public social space in whichpeople, practitioners are exercising judgementbased on very serious deliberation about the aimsof what they do, about the values with which what they dois imbued, and about the consequences and the outcomesof their actions.

  • 13:01

    They engage in a constant process of making decisionsbased on such judgements, which is basicallya process of ethical deliberationin the public space.Now if you think about practice in those terms,then the role of research is much moredifficult to conceptualize but it does not mean that researchdoes not contribute to that.Practitioners draw upon implicit processes of deliberation.

  • 13:25

    They draw upon tacit knowledge that is honed and refinedto some degree through engagementwith other worlds of research and other worlds of practicesurrounding that particular field.So again, there is a very [INAUDIBLE] rolefor research to play there.Now to come back to your question,how to think about the impact of my own research--perhaps as a PhD researcher-- well,there isn't much more-- there might be some projects,but in most projects, there isn'tmuch point in thinking about exercisingdirect impact tomorrow.

  • 14:03

    But there is a great enough point, I would argue,in thinking about reflecting on those possible ways in whichresearch and practice might come togetherand identifying ways to enable those connections to happenand therefore to enable co-construction of knowledge,mobilizing knowledge, developing knowledge togetherwith other professional communities of practice.

  • 14:26

    So we've come a long way from the Carl Marx dictumthat the point isn't to understand the world,it's to change the world.Well, I suppose the point of advanced research in the widersocial context is it really differs from one contextto the other end, from one disciple to the other as well.

  • 14:47

    And just to give you an example, if you think for exampleof historical research, many historianswould argue that the point of their researchis pretty much to bear witness and that it shouldn't reallybe concerned with enacting changein the world in any different way.And then moving from that, you canthink about other fields of researchin which the point of doing that researchwould be, for example, to change the languagein which public issues are being couched in the public sphere.

  • 15:21

    And again, that can be described as a very valuable formof impact.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Publication Year: 2011

Video Type:Interview

Methods: Quality criteria, Research impact

Keywords: critical thinking; intrinsic value; judgment and decision-making process; knowledge creation; practices, strategies, and tools; quality indicators; Skills development; Social action; Social impact ... Show More

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Alis Oancea takes a different approach to research quality, linking it to individual fields of study rather than generalized ideas such as reliability and validity. She also discusses the relationship between research and public impact.

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Quality of research: How do I know if my research findings are any good?

Dr. Alis Oancea takes a different approach to research quality, linking it to individual fields of study rather than generalized ideas such as reliability and validity. She also discusses the relationship between research and public impact.

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