Keeping Track Of The World

Research Methods for Regular People

I Know What I am Talking About is in Here Somewhere

Most of us struggle to explain what our research is about in a clear and concise way. I don’t mean we are incompetent—although there are times in any research project when that seems to be the most logical explanation. Rather we have, to use the cliche, lost the forest for the trees. A simple question like “What is your research about?” leads to 30 minutes of biography, description of books read, snippets of data collection, speculations on possible analysis, and insights gained while sleeping, etc.

The solution to this problem of verbal and/or written excess is to maintain a very short description of your research project that can serve to focus your data collection, guide your writing, and advertise what you are doing to people that ask—without rendering them comatose. I recently heard Carey C. Newman of Baylor University Press discuss The ABCs of Academic Publishing. Newman provided what he called his XYZ model of communicating what you are writing about:

  1. My project is about X
  2. I am arguing Y about X
  3. The significance of Y is Z

This does not encompass everything that needs to be in a research report but it is a pretty good start.


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