Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Cyborg one

After reading the sample SSHRC proposal on cyborgization I am starting to get a better idea of how to not only frame my question but also on how to form it.

The writer of this proposal clearly had a research interest in the way in which individuals with physical disabilities were seen in society. He or she (though I'm inclined to say she for some reason) managed to take that research interest and turn it into a research question by adding the debate between Transhumanists and Critical Disability Studies. In doing this she (or he) clearly framed her work for a cybernetics journal.

I am not only impressed with this proposal but also inspired to turn my research interest into something equally as specific and impressive.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Question

Luker raises a valid point in the assigned readings for this week. This being that, as students, we need to “transform [our] research interest into a research question” (51). She further elaborates on this point, stressing the need to focus/frame the topic and the question. Having read a handful of research proposals from class, it is interesting to view the variety of approaches available to us (some of which I had never even encountered nor used myself). The format of the proposal about the “Cocktail Party” seems to appeal to me the most so far. Something that was raised among our group discussion was that this format attempts to prevent the formation of bias by the reader (it even raises the potential, as ChristinaF pointed out, that the format chosen is a ‘sales tactic’). The author chose to include their personal information (i.e. program of study, experience etc...) in the last paragraph of the proposal. As such, this allows a neutral presentation of their study, appealing to a vast audience (instead of the community of feminist theorists of which the author is part of). Nevertheless, while I seem to have found a comfortable format, it seems like a long road ahead awaits me trying to determine my research question for the SSHRC and particularly forming “a set of relationships between or among concepts” (51). For now, my only ideas are to attempt a proposal around the field of LIS and architecture. From these I hope I can find a suitable relationship which can contribute to social life, yields a range of possible answers (as Luker deemed necessary) and which I can appropriately ‘sell’ to the SSHRC committee.

Master of Information or Master of Duo Talents?

One of the main ideas that Luker is attempting to continuously present in her book is that out research focus must be narrow. The examples of previous SSHRC proposals demonstrate this—The students who wrote them might have also read Luker’s book for advice!
Although all the samples range in topic choice, all SSHRCs are presented in a clear manner with their thesis apparent. Taking Luker’s advice, these students acted as salespeople in order to try to sell their work, rather than being concerned with the “who is going to care”. Personally, most of these topics to me were uninteresting, specifically the SSHRC about the cyborg. However, I was still intrigued by the importance of this research and how it will affect society. These examples emphasizes then the importance of being a Masters Student with research and sales talents!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Noises of frustration being made here...

I'm not sure how I ever came up with a research project in my first MA. It seemed like the idea was just always there, and maybe I'd discussed it enough along the way that it felt pretty fully-formed when I came time to write about it. Right now I'm having the opposite problem. Perhaps moving from one field (English) to another (Information? Library Science? What field am I in, anyways?) is what's holding me up, or perhaps I just lucked out the first time around. In any event, I'm now dealing with a fear that I have an interest (or interests), but they are too vague to make into a research proposal of any kind because I simply don't know enough. (I guess I should be "reviewing the literature" as Luker suggests in Chapter 5, but we've got that paper due and then a presentation next week and it all seems like it's mounting up already. How did this happen?)

It sounds like Laura and Alisha are having similar problems. Knight's assertion that all small-scale research must be "super-pragmatic" (48) has me slightly paralyzed because of the scope of the problems to be tackled. I'm working out, per Luker's exercises, what these problems (ie. what might research question) might be. At the moment I'm trying to tease out two potential topics to see which takes me further. Hopefully by next week I'll be able to write about one, but so far they are too jumbled for me to feel comfortable making public.

Is anyone else who has taken a few years off school finding the transition slightly bumpy? I feel like I've forgotten some secret way of thinking that used to be second nature.

"I'm just going to write because I cannot help it" (Charlotte Brontë)

Like others have posted this week, I’m grappling with a number of issues right now. So as both Luker and Knight have suggested I’m going to write about them in hopes of making sense of them.

The biggest issue is finding a research question. While I do have a general area I’m interested in (like Alisha, I’m interested in women in the library field), I don’t know how to narrow that down, nor do I know how to “frame” it. My undergrad degree was in English and French, concentrating in literature, so social science research is new to me. I spent the last year of undergrad researching constructions of female authorship during the 19th century--essentially, what it meant to female writers to be professional authors in a time when women writers were seen as hacks. I’m still interested in this area and think there might be some sort of connection between the stereotypes of female librarians and female authors, I’m just still trying to fully make that connection and figure out if this works for a social science research project.

The other issue I’m dealing with is who will care about what I’m researching (which seems to be a common concern). I’ve run into this problem before when doing large research projects and it’s always gone away as I begin to do the actual research and see where what I’m saying fits in or complements the existing research. However since this is a different sort of research, I don’t know if it’ll work the same way this time around.

Can you build a jungle shelter?

In reflection of this past week, one idea mentioned in lecture particularly stuck in my mind. This was the question of how accurate is quantitative research when attempting to measure intelligence? I recently finished reading an excellent book, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and he makes a funny observation about IQ tests. He states that IQ tests "measure cultural learning and not pure innate intelligence" (20). Using the example of New Guinea, Diamond states that their idea of intelligence is one's ability to build shelters out of jungle materials or mentally memorize a map of terrain, etc. This is much different from Western society, which values math/language skills instead. So, how effective is an IQ test? Can one's intelligence be measured through quantitative research? I'm not sure of the answer myself, but I realize that many parts of society vouch for their accuracy. For example, while I have never willfully done an IQ test, I have been forced to take part in numerous intelligence tests. In grade 2 my parents had me take the gifted test. In grades 3, 6 and 9 (like many of you, I'm sure) I had to participate in the EQAO testing. I think it's really interesting that measuring intelligence is constantly being attempted, and I have to wonder what institutions do with the kind of information they receive.

"It has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover"*

I’ve been thinking a lot about the research proposal for this class (re: incessantly) and I found that it ties in rather nicely with this week’s readings in Luker. So now you lucky devils reading this are going to get to observe my scatted illogical though process. Sorry in advance for the confusion.

I currently have an interest but as of yet no question. Which is perfectly all right as I’m not there yet, I don’t know enough. My interest is gender/women in the library field; you know how it fits, socially, economically, politically, because well like it or not almost everything is driven by our preconceptions of gender even in the professional world.

So I have my interest and the question is coming but what about all this frame business Luker is going on about. I admit I’m confused by it. The frame is supposed to be your “hook” apparently but what does that mean? Luker points to her freelance writer friends as examples, you’re trying to sell your question to a given audience. Is that right or did I misunderstand? So does that mean your frame is your bias, perspective or something? Any thoughts?

Sorry if this is more speculative than critical.

* Douglas Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy –I thought it appropriate given the chapter

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Real Question

Chapter 4, Luker presents interesting points about the writing process that are often overlooked. Most notability, she examines how we must focus our questions when we are beginning to write a research paper. She suggests that we must frame our research questions as “interesting” so that people will read it and that our topic be narrow in focus. In order to do this we must ask the “right” question in order to come to the correct conclusion.

Her outline of the 4 questions we must ask when researching is useful as oftentimes our papers can wonder. This spotlight will personally help me achieve my research focus in my upcoming research papers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Big Idea

I think the hardest part of having "an idea" is when you're trying to figure out what specific part of it has you so enchanted. I've been trying to work through a topic that completely struck me last weekend, and while the exercises help... I still fear this topic fails to address the very question Varsha is struggling with. Who will care? For me-- oh, I can name a very specific subset of people who will be interested solely based on the topic, and another few from the field who might be interested based on the theme. For everyone else (namely the people who might give money for the study of such a thing)... well. There I am stuck. Why should they care? And what if, in carefully structuring my question such that I can "make it relevant" to them, I actually manage to lose that little sparkle that made the topic fascinate me in the first place?
So far this issue is unresolved in my mind... more writing exercises will hopefully clarify this point. Ahh, stream-of-consciousness writing. My English teachers hated me for it in junior school; who knew it would be so useful now.

Am I in the frame?

In chapter 4 of Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences, Luker talks about framing your research question so that it fits somewhere - so that it belongs to some aspect of the world of social science.

I think 'framing your work' is Luker's way of asking you 'Who's going to care?' And that, essentially, is my biggest worry. My entire life I've had to deal with animatedly discussing a topic I find interesting, looking around the dinner table and seeing glazed over eyes staring at me with deep disinterest.

I have a lot of 'research interest', as Luker calls it, but I'm always stopped short when I ask myself "Who's going to care?"

Because of my background in business and computers a lot of my research interest revolves around those subjects. I’m definitely going to take Luker’s advice and do some anthropological fieldwork. I’ll look at journals that house papers that I find interesting and study how those authors/researchers frame their questions to fit.

Maybe I’ll even be inspired to narrow my research interest into a research question.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Favourite Research Method of the Week

As a supplementary post (and sorry if this is bad form), allow me to bring your attention to a project I heard about while making dinner last Monday evening.

Research methods were on my mind, and so my ears pricked up when CBC's As it Happens reported on a new initiative out of California that enlists volunteer participation in tracking roadkill on the side of the highway (click here to listen to the episode). It's called the California Roadkill Observation System (CROS), and it uses an online form to help volunteers report sightings by indicating species, specifying location (using either a Google Maps application built into the form, or one's own coordinates, presumably from an portable GPS navigation device), and even by uploading photos of the animal remains. To this date, the CROS website has received reports from more than 400 registered observers of over 7000 fatal accidents involving just in excess of 200 distinct species. And according to's Technolog, CROS is developing an app to make roadkill reporting even easier.

After this report and my subsequent visit to the CROC website (which includes a gallery for assistance in species identification), I was no longer in any rush to get to my dinner.

How much information do we take for granted?

After reading Luker's Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences, I took a look back on my journey through school. From kindergarten (well, what I can remember) through my first year of my Master's degree (I am a 2nd year student.)

I remember when my elementary school purchased its first computer. I remember the technician who taught the entire grade 1/2 split class how to use the mouse. I remember my first computer; do you remember entering C:/ to play "Doom"? I do! I remember when Microsoft made it possible to turn on the computer and not need to enter tedious C:/dos/run's.

I don't remember when I was able to maneuver so easily through the computer's software; nor do I remember when it became so easy to search through a library catalogue. I have never looked into my life with the perspective that we live in a world of information overload until I started reading Salsa Dancing. As Luker stated, information used to be scarce; scholars needed to research "the literature" and information had to mutually reinforce how one thought about research. We are now in an age where information is literally bursting at the seams.

I think we all have noticed a change in how information has become so readily available. Remember when we were in elementary school? Before a computer was in nearly every household? Remember when we had science fair projects that required us to travel to the local library? I now help my cousins with their science fair projects and they are able to search online for visual instructions on how to make a volcano, or weight machine, or how to complete a simple electricity circuit.

It's mind-boggling how much information is available and literally at our fingertips. It does beg the question though...does the amount of information available to us make us as dedicated and knowledgeable in our field as someone who was educated in the "scarce information" eras, or do we simply fly by the seam of our pants?

Christina P

Info-Glutton or Info-Connoisseur?

Of the themes I found interesting in Luker's three chapters, one in particular may resonate with those currently enrolled in INF 1001. Luker makes repeated reference to the difference in the amount and range of information that is currently accessible to researchers, and how this change should be taken into account in relation to modern research methods. Luker points out that the traditional precursor to conducting research, namely "knowing the literature", has a different value in an age where information is not only more plentiful, but also tends not to be organized by the "filters" of institutional validation (and its inverse). She also notes that these factors have over time contributed to the rise, within academic circles as well as in popular culture, of interdisciplinarity. I say that this might resonate with INF1001 students, in that one of our required readings for this week, Twyla Gibson's paper entitled "On Translation & Transformation (What's Next)", also refers to the increase in available information (not only in the shift from print to digital media, but also in the centuries following the invention of the printing press) resulting in specializations branching off from established academic disciplines, which sometimes are caused by, and sometimes lead to, interdisciplinary approaches.

I think that the substantial increase in amount, availability and equality (for sore lack of a better term) of information does force us to re-evaluate our concept of "knowing the literature", but I also believe this re-evaluation needs to address not only what is expected in the course of a research project, but also how specialized and exact a research project can become in an environment in which people are, on the level of output, publishing their findings in greater and greater numbers (through institutions or otherwise), and on the level of input, have unprecedented tools at their disposal to set their own parameters for filtration in the course of their research through, for instance, the use of increasingly sophisticated metadata.
Hi everybody! This is also my first time blogging and I'm very excited. I think this is a great way for everyone to share ideas and work as a group from home.

Personally, I found the Luker readings especially enlightening. She addresses a couple of topics that, as a first-time Master's student, I was admittedly concerned with. I felt intimidated by the prospect of learning "the literature," and then using this new found knowledge to create a huge project. This is because during my undergraduate degree, I found my research (in opposition to Laura's experience) was not quite as organized and straightforward as I thought was expected. Luker's opinion that we live in an age of "info glut," and therefore research methods need to be adjusted accordingly, provided me with some relief. It informed me that I am not the only person who is worried or feeling crazy. The Internet has made information accessible like never before, and perhaps having "independent" and "dependent" variables is not what's most important. It's time to be flexible with our research in order to best make use of the countless resources now available. I'm excited to continue reading her work and discover more about her insightful research methods!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fantastic! A new forum in which I can talk about Foucault.

Hello all:

Coming from a background in literature and critical theory, I admit that a lot of the research methods discussed in this book are ones I've never experienced first-hand. However, as someone who has done a lot of work with critical theory and literature, I am quite comfortable with the idea of multiple "truths" and the idea that research can contribute to a larger discussion without an obsessive focus on finding an absolute "truth."

I'm particularly interested in discussions of Foucault, obviously, but in the interest of not being tiresome to myself and others I'll try and limit my obsessive nattering about him. The other (brief) discussion that caught my eye was Luker's reference to Stephen Skowronek's term adminstrative capacity, which she calls "the institutional willingness and capacity to get things done" (27). Although I am not familiar with Skowronek's work, this did start me thinking a bit of the Canadian government's "institutional willingness and capacity" to get things done, and surprisingly I found myself writing (per the exercises at the end each chapter) not about Foucault and surveillance (which I assumed I would write about), but about the repeated calls for research (by fisherman, residents, and a few professors in Western Canada who have done some small, independent research) into various citizen health problems and animal mutations around the Athabasca Lake area and oil sands. I think the government has the "capacity" to do this research, but perhaps they lack the "willingness." Anyways, I'm not really sure if there's a research project in there somewhere, but it did set the wheels in my tiny brain spinning for a while.

I am well over the word limit and feel as if I've barely scratched the surface, so I'll quit until next week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

And on that theme...

I suppose I'll begin by saying that I did a BSc. It hardly seems to matter what it was in (CogSci, if anyone's curious) but what really matters is that while my degree was very interdisciplinary, there are a few key things that seem to make "science bachelors" work. One is that there is a truth-- obtainable, reliable, measurable, repeatable. If your work can't be repeated by everyone else, its value is considered significantly reduced and limited. The second is that if your research *isn't* orderly, linear process (see Laura's post re: Luker's comments on this) ... well... it isn't research.
This strong 'hard science- there is a truth' isn't, of course, true as you get deeper into things. Obviously at a higher level, math simply does not function like this. Neither does physics. However, my experience was that some of the sciences (like psychology) worked really hard at 'being a real science'... and a real science meant being able to find truth... even if that truth was only true within itty-bitty-carefully-defined-parametres.
I did enough philosophy of science, and epistemology (IB, anyone?) that I knew to beware the hard sale of 'truth' as a reachable, definable "thing". Even so, I am not convinced about the whole relativism vs. absolutism thing (for those who'd like a decent discussion of what relativism is and that whole debate, see here. For everyone else, relativism is basically the idea that things can be true for me, my culture, my country, etc. etc., but not necessarily true for any other person/culture/country because of their own views that make their own truth). How's that for fence-sitting?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hello everyone! While I’ve never blogged before, I do tend to write down my thoughts as I research, so I think this process will be useful so I can get some feedback on my thoughts during this course.

I want to begin by calling attention to something that caught my attention in the reading. While reading the first chapters of Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences, I was struck by Luker’s statement that “approaching our kind of social research as if it were an orderly and linear process will make you crazy” (11). When doing research during my undergraduate career, I had always thought of the research I was doing as orderly and linear, but reading these opening chapters is helping me to see another side of research. This quotation is one that I’m going to keep in mind throughout the course and beyond, as a helpful reminder that research isn’t always orderly and to keep myself from getting caught up in trying to make it that way.

Knight's comments on the importance of informal writing is a new concept to me. However, I believe that his reasoning is valid as with informal writing we are able to go through the procedure of what he calls "sensing making" and "claims making" in order to create understanding and connect those understandings. That is why I think this blog exercise is so important as MI students. As a class we are able to informally write out our thoughts and not only create understanding but connect these understandings while gathering feedback from our peers; which sits at the core of research methods.

Happy Informal Writing


My name is Varsha and this is actually not my first time blogging. I was 'required' to blog for a few of my classes in my undergraduate but I think my fellow students paid as much attention to my blog as they did the required readings...aka...not at all. So, blogging for this class will be quite a change.

After reading the first chapter of Salsa Dancing Into the Social Sciences, I was glad to read that we will be looking into research methods that deal with the ever expanding quantity of 'Literature'. The age of info-glut has always intrigued me because I can never decide if too much information is a good thing or a bad thing.

For example, the other day I was helping my brother with his grade 9 introductory English essay of "Who is my hero?". He was able to write this entire essay on Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, simply by consulting a few web pages. My brother has never met Satoshi Tajiri but by reading his paper you might be fooled into thinking so. I remember when I had to write a similar paper in grade 9 and was forced to choose my mother as my hero due to lack of information on J.K.Rowling. That was only 8 years ago.

At this rate, in 8 years one could write their entire Master's thesis paper with only the links provided at the end of a Wikipedia page. Should I cry out in disgust? Or be grateful for the convenience? I can't decide.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Small-scale studies=good thinking and writing

I have never really written for a blog, however, my understanding is that blogs are a form of personal thought expression. As such, the intended purpose for our group blog seems to coincide well with Knight’s first chapter where he discusses writing as a means of capturing ones thinking (1). Through this form of writing, we are able to organize our thoughts to make sense of them and yield a clear focus. Nevertheless, although diverse benefits exist from writing, issues of privacy arise. As Knight refers to these expressions of thoughts as private writing, it makes me wonder whether we can really call blogs (‘online writing’) private writing? Knight does address this issue partially by reassuring us that our writing can benefit by sharing it with “critical friends” (1). However, what is the boundary of this friendship? If a blog is open to the World Wide Web and any individual in the world can comment on our posts, can these ‘commenters’ be considered our critical ‘friends’? Does this form of online private writing hinder insight of our own thoughts or can it reek the benefits?

Here There Be Dragons

Hi. Well I've never actually blogged before so bear with me and forgive my lack of proper sentence structure/rambling-ness.

I'd like to discuss, in brief, the notion of "truth" or the pursuit of truth in the social sciences as proposed by Luker in Salsa dancing into the social sciences. I must say that I partially agree with Luker in her assertion that searching for the objective truth is like pursuing Zen enlightenment, difficult to achieve but worth the journey. Although, truthfully *lol* I lean more towards the group who believes that the idea of an objective truth is like finding a Komodo dragon in the back yard, possible but not likely.I personally believe that everything is subjective, that knowledge and "facts" are forever entwined in/with bias, which is perfectly alright so long as you remember its there. Yet like Luker I enjoy the journey, the challenge of trying to find that elusive objectivity.

I'll stop now 'cuz I've run out of room.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Hi Everyone.
This is my first time every blogging and it is definitely new and exciting. I wanted to open this blog by introducing myself. My name is Christina and I am new to the Faculty of Information's iSchool. I am pursuing my Master of Information in the library stream to hopefully achieve my dream job of "fight crime with books", while working for CSIS. I am very interested in crime, law and government policy so I feel that this is the perfect job for me. During my undergraduate degree, I worked as a student assistant helping patrons with their reference questions. It was in this position that I discovered that my boss had a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science in order to do what she did. I decided then that to achieve my dream job and come to study at the iSchool.