What ought to be my research?

Last week Stephen Downes wrote a post about research – about how research often focuses on what is and not on what ought to be.

For me, this links directly to the idea of axiology – what we value in research. It has me asking the question about what I value in research. When I originally wrote about it, I was very pragmatic. I valued research that affected real change in the world. I wanted research that had direct ties to practice, and I wanted my research to have an impact. Here is what I wrote back then:

For me, value in research translates directly to an effect on practice. I will see my research as successful if it changes the way people teach or learn (for the better). For me, I will see my research as successful when I see that others are citing it in their research or using it in their practice.

That isn’t so much the case now.

My new research project will look at the impact illness blogging has on those who read the blogs. It is an exploration, rather than an intervention. I’m not seeking to change the practice of illness blogging, rather, I’m seeking to delve deeper into better understanding the function that illness blogging plays on the people who read the blogs – but I’m also looking to tell my story. I want to integrate my story into my research. I want to see how my specific illness blog reflects the different things that people are learning from blogs. In some ways, I’m seeking validation for the work I did writing through my cancer treatment.

The presentation I did for the Queens University of Belfast conference on ePatient blogging and microblogging is an example of the story I want to tell. It is a short 20-minute presentation based upon a survey that I did while I was on medical leave. The presentation was titled “Cancer Blogging – A Survivor’s Story“. What struck me in the telling of the story was that all the questions that were asked of me after the presentation were about my story. The people listening to the presentation were less interested in the results of my survey – rather, they wanted to know more about my story.

So now when I ask myself the question what do I value in research?, the answer is the narrative. I value the story that the research is trying to tell. I want my research to tell a story that others want to read. I hope that the research process itself helps me better understand the important parts of the story – as what is important to me is not necessarily what is important to others. Perhaps that is what I’m trying to discover with my research – what parts of the illness narrative are the important parts? What are the parts that other people learn the most from? What are the parts of the narrative that matter the most to other people?

It is interesting to see just how different my values are today. It is interesting to see how my axiology has changed.

What do you value in research? Has your view of what is valuable in research changed over time?

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