You can’t shoot lasers at children

Right now, I am in the throes of the UGLY WRITING. Namely, I am attempting to craft a research proposal. At the beginning of my writing process, I had a major family medical emergency (everyone is fine now), but it was one of those life-encompassing, make-you-realize-what’s-important kind of moments that make you hug all of your loved ones a little tighter.  While I still wrote things during this time, they were not good things. Still, bad writing and ideas are infinitely better than no ideas.  As Thomas Alva Edison said, : I have not failed. I have just found 10, 000 ways that did not work.”  I might be on at least the 6781st failure.

There is a ton of work to do as well beyond the crafting of my research proposal.  In my course right now, we are reading Scientific Research in Education, by Committee on Scientific Principles for Education Research, Richard J. Shavelson and Lisa Towne, Editors, National Research Council (free download!) as a guiding text for us budding researchers. In the text, they identify six guiding principles for identifying scientific research in education.

What I think is missing in the discussion of ‘scientific-ness’  are two major ways a researcher, and thus her research, needs to develop. The first are the ethical considerations that all educational researchers need to consider. During our class discussion, my fellow cohortian Tim Xeriland, mentioned the idea of “physics envy:” physics research being the sort of gold standard of scientific inquiry.  But we educational researchers can’t shoot lasers at children.  There are ethical limits to what we can do, and rightly so, for the research we do.

The second issue here is our own researchly philosophical disposition. In Creswell’s text, Research Design: qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods, does this well. While “good scholarly writing” situates the issue within the larger theoretical conversation, what is implied by that positioning is an approach to research that is taken by that researcher. In the drafting stage of a proposal, I find my newbie student status demands a defining of that disposition. That’s a lot of moving parts–no wonder I stumble. And once again, I get up, dust myself off, and try to avoid shooting off any lasers at kids.