Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Research Strategies Postmortem

I just wanted to open the “postmortem” thread for the Research Strategies course for this term. To any visiting students, just a quick note that I’ve really, truly enjoying working with all of you this term. I’ve said frequently on the blog that this is my favourite course to teach (no slight on other courses – content-bound courses are intrinsically more predictable than a course organised around individual student research interests), and this term was a particularly dynamic and engaged cohort – you all worked extremely hard, which showed in the discussions and presentations. Please feel free to leave your suggestions for how we could improve the course in the future, and please also keep in touch – I’ll be interested in seeing how your projects evolve. Thanks for a fantastic term.

2 responses to “Research Strategies Postmortem

  1. martin turnbull November 5, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    Nicole, I can only echo the comments expressed by others in the class in thanking you for your obvious hard work and commitment to this course. I am elated at finally finding some deep thoughtfulness about the enterprise of knowledge generation and sharing in the planning world at RMIT.

    My main thought about the course is that there is a real gap between most (not all) of the courses in the masters program (speaking only about the planning and environment program) and the level of structured conceptual thinking needed in this course. Perhaps this needs to be filled with a kind of key concepts course that tackles common themes and approaches before getting into the practicalities of research projects.

    For my time and money, I would have liked more immersion in the techniques and in depth analysis of research projects. I don’t think it is good enough to refer students to events they can’t get to and modules that may happen next year. I also think that focussing in on our own (in some cases necessarily very limited) projects happened a bit too early in the semester and narrowed the vision.

    With reagrd to the minor thesis or whatever the small project to be done by masters coursework students is called, I do think it needs more up front definition of what kind of project will pass muster, and I must say I failed (not through want of trying) to get any sound advice on this.

    But these are minor groanings in what was overall a very enjoyable and non-onerous course. Thanks again. Will we get some advice on when and how to collect feedback onour assignments?

  2. N Pepperell November 5, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    I’m staring at the papers for the course as I type (and therefore appreciate that you’d probably prefer I keep this post short, and get down to work… ;-P). Everything submitted on time should be available from the postgrad office on Wednesday.

    I do apologise for the situation with modules and lectures – which are offered in first term, and which would address at least some of the gaps you correctly identify. In the first term (and I realise this doesn’t help you!), the course is paralleled by a lecture series in social theory, as well as its own lecture series, and the intensive modules provide at least a bit more hands-on methods training than we were able to provide in second term. There are still gaps (among other things, the modules are really very introductory: sufficient to help someone choose or rule out a methodology, perhaps, but requiring quite a lot of additional self-directed study by students undertaking a research project at high level…), but not as many as in second term.

    I’ll take on board the issue of when to transition into students’ individual projects: this was also a problem in first term (and I think I handled the issue a bit better this term – at least judging from the empirical fact that attendance didn’t tank quite so badly when we shifted to workshopping student projects… ;-P). I haven’t quite worked out how best to handle it. I have, however, had some thoughts about how better to organise the first several weeks of the course, which will hopefully address some of the issues you raise about needing more depth on common themes and approaches…

    On the issue of defining what kind of project will meet program requirements: this is a teething issue that hopefully we can handle better in the future. I believe that this is the first year that we have incorporated students from such a wide range of programs (my understanding is that, previously, many different research courses were run by different areas) – which, among other things, resulted in your being taught by people like me, who kept having to refer you back to your program coordinators for specifics… I have, however, been busily sticking my nose into the requirements of many programs, so hopefully I’ll be a bit better prepared next time around…

    From other feedback I’ve received, I suspect that your perception that the course was “non-onerous” may be… somewhat specific to you… ;-P

    I very much appreciate the time you’ve taken to leave feedback – please don’t hesitate to post or email further suggestions as they occur to you.

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