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As some of you may know, I have been in the process of completing a research paper that questions, ‘Do university students at UOW have a balance between their social, work and university life?’ Throughout this research process I have learnt an incredible amount about research and its differing strategies. In particular I have learnt the importance of curiosity, flexibility and critical judgement.
Curiosity is the starting point for any research project. I think Zora Neale Hurston explains it accurately when she says, “Research is formalised curiosity.” Curiosity is what drove me to question the work/life balance of university students. This particular question interests me so much because I struggle continuously to keep a balance. I know I’m not alone in this struggle which has resulted in a curiosity in knowing how many other students at UOW are in a similar position and to what extent. This curiosity is what connected my learning of this issue to particular researching practices.
Flexibility is another important strategy for any research task that is dependent upon responses from particular individuals, especially for my own paper. Flexibility became relevant from the beginning when I received feedback for my first submission of this project. It was made clear that my first question was too broad. This actually made me feel relieved as I ended up hating the original topic and I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy researching it. Without the ability to have a flexible timeframe and option to change ideas within the third week, this change wouldn’t of been possible. Flexibility also became necessary when I wasn’t receiving responses for my survey quick enough, causing me to push back my focus group session. To be conscious of the need for flexibility you need to be aware of the problems that can arise that can impact your project and your timeframe.
My ability to critically judge sources definitely improved over the course of this semester. Initially in tasks one and two, I definitely did not have a thorough understanding of what critical judgment entailed. Despite this negative start, I believe that I made a vast improvement from task two to my final research paper. I achieved this by applying the CRAAP Test that was introduced to us in both our lecture and tutorial. This test gives you five things to look out for when determining the credibility of a source – Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose. This helped me determine the most appropriate and accurate sources to use, a skill I can use for years to come.
On reflection, I consider the results of my research project to be a success. I was able to answer my question as I discovered that a vast majority of students DO NOT have a consistent balance between their work, university and social life. Through the choice of my methodology I was able to discover that this imbalance is mostly due to the working hours that all students are averaging at 20 hours per week. This leads to mental health problems that many students addressed during my focus group session. I believe the choice of a survey and a focus group were the right methods to choose for the answers that were required for each.
Despite these successes, if I was able to compete this task over again I would definitely do particular things differently. After completion of the survey and focus group I would hold another session of singular interviews that delve deeper into particular questions. This would allow for more thorough and descriptive research, especially in the case of asking ‘why’ for the reasons behind my key findings. An example of this would be to ask WHY people work. Is it due to necessity or is a career move?
Throughout the duration and execution of my research paper I made a conscious effort to keep up to the ethical standards that are expected of any professional researcher. Tilley (1998) in particular talks about informed consent within schooling environments. For each individual’s participant in the survey (students aged 18+ only) I ensured consent of participation through a starter page that did not allow anyone to go any further before agreeing to the terms and stating that each person was happy for me to use their information anonymously. This too applied for my focus group.
This research task has become invaluable as it has taught me the values of what makes credible research and how to become a successful researcher. These skills are especially essential because they give me the communication skills necessary for a Communications and Media Studies Bachelor and will help with all future research
I hope you have enjoyed reading the progress of my research paper.
Until next time,
- California State University (2010) Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP Test, viewed 22 May, < http://www.csuchico.edu/lins/handouts/eval_websites.pdf >.
- K, Bowles 2017, ‘Research Practice in Media & Communication: Critical Judgment,’ PowerPoint slides, BCM212, University of Wollongong, viewed 27 May, 2017.
- K, Bowles 2017, ‘Research Practice in Media & Communication: Curiosity,’ PowerPoint slides, BCM212, University of Wollongong, viewed 27 May, 2017.
- K, Bowles 2017, ‘Research Practice in Media & Communication: Flexibility,’ PowerPoint slides, BCM212, University of Wollongong, viewed 29 May, 2017.
- K, Bowles 2017, ‘Research Practice in Media & Communication: Respect,’ PowerPoint slides, BCM212, University of Wollongong, viewed 27 May, 2017.
- M, Dugan, Tolerating Ambiguity, viewed 23 May, < http://knowinnovation.com/2013/04/tolerating-ambiguity/>.
- S, A Tilley 1998 ‘Conducting Respectful Research: A Critique of Practice,’ Canadian Journal for Education, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 316 – 328.
- Stokes, J 2003, How to do Media and Cultural Studies, 2nd edn, SAGE Publications Ltd, London.