We finish the year with a two-part post from Cecile Badenhorst who is a Professor in the Adult Education/Post-Secondary program in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University, Canada. Her research interests are post-secondary, higher education and adult learning experiences, particularly graduate research writing, academic literacies and qualitative research methodologies. She explains her approach to teaching postgraduates about research conceptualization and how this can be woven into the writing.
Research conceptualization is the process of transforming ideas into an operationalizable research project. This involves delimiting the research, identifying and developing core concepts and establishing a research design and agenda. Research conceptualization is often not viewed as a central part of the writing process and yet without a coherent framing of their research project, countless students find themselves stuck in their writing. It’s important to realise that research conceptualization is usually part of the messy pre-writing thinking, conducted before writing happens, but explaining and justifying it is also very much part of the written documents students are expected to produce.
At the start of a research project, students are involved in the complex task of decision-making around delineating the research project. Research is usually activated in response to a problem and these puzzles, challenges and dilemmas create the need and rationale for doing the research. For many research students, constructing and communicating the research problem presents an immense hurdle and is often the most difficult part of the process (Ellis & Levy, 2008). It is challenging for several reasons.