All entries for Monday 10 October 2005

October 10, 2005

From naive clarity to informed fuzziness

As I start my doctorate I have much reading to do into the nature of social science research and how to go about it.

There seems to be a prevailing notion of starting out foggy and unsure and, as the object of study is painstakingly constructed, becoming increasingly focused. Initial ideas and research questions can be expected to change and should not be set in stone. A continuous convergence emerges as one refines the problem until finally it is crystallised and clear.

But that's not how I'm feeling as I take the first step on a journey of 1000 miles. Instead I see myself as starting out with a sense of naive clarity and fairly precise ideas. I hope and expect, after three years, to have moved towards a sense of informed fuzziness. Neither do I feel the need to ensure my current naive clarity be flexible. I prefer to think that it is brittle and inevitably going to be smashed to bits when tested in the field. From the rubble will emerge the phoenix of a new set of ideas – less sure, less clear and all the better for it. Ideally this process will continue iteratively with each working hypothesis getting smashed against the rocks to make way for the next. The whole thing will be messy, discontinuous and painful – but hopefully thorough.

Then again perhaps I should get off Warwick Blogs and go do some reading instead.


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