Wednesday, August 24, 2011
The Three Cycles of My Research
Here's how I would describe what the mean:
This is the chase. I've got my mind on a specific goal. Usually I'm chasing after a gravestone carver, an 18th century African American in New England or a specific historic house. I do wide surveys of documents and record groups in my attempt to locate something, anything on my target. This often involves creating a research plan so that my chase is focused and efficient. All the while I still get lost in the effort and can spend days or weeks on end chasing after my goal.
Often referred to as the literature search. I typically circle around a topic, reading what seems to be relevant, and then later expanding my circle. This summer has been an intensive background reading phase for me. In the past I have read many genealogical works on New England as they related to my research. This summer I decided I needed to read everything related to New England. This has been a serious literature search. I realized I couldn't move forward until I really understood everything that has already been published and what the gaps are in published works. I started on this to achieve two things: 1) to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge and 2) to provide direction for my own research so I wouldn't waste time researching something that has already been done. Clearly trying to read *everything* will take me a very long time but I've made great progress in the last few months.
There is where I take everything that I have learned from the research and background reading phases and turn it into something that can be shared. Most of my efforts to-date have involved preparing presentations or articles. I'd like to shift that in the future to include books, newsletters, webinars and maybe even a podcast. Output takes just as much, if not more focused effort than the other two phases. Often this is when I need my "alone" time, particularly for writing. Output also takes the most discipline. I need to give myself deadlines and try to stick to them. Planning for the output stage typically starts in September, which for me, is a time of renewal and re-energizing. But it can also be strongly influenced, not surprisingly, by conference proposal deadlines.
Yes, the three phases do overlap. It's not realistic to think that I can do one activity exclusive of another. But each phase seems to take a predominance over the others for awhile.
I'm sure that my research phases are directly related to the cycles of my family life. I imagine most researchers do all three things on a more daily basis. Perhaps some researchers have other influences that are impacting the way their cycles work.
Let me know how it works for you.
Photo Credit: Photo by sonictk used under the Creative Commons license.
Posted by Marian Pierre-Louis at 8:55 AM