Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Developing lines of inquiry

The greatest challenge setting out on Module 2 is arriving at the topic of an inquiry that will interest and sustain you through to then end of the programme. Coming up with topics and thinking around questions is something that requires time. We ask that you talk to other’s in your SIG(s) – check out the facebook page Bobble has set up. There is a lot to be said in favor of raising questions about likely topics and supplementary questions that can be asked. Another resource you can use to sharpen your focus is to talk to your own professional networks about you ideas. Useful things can be recorded in your learning log / journal.  And of course another resource to explore is what is already known about your topic. What have others said in a published format – and here you will find the summon page on the library portlet you can access via MyUniHub.

A great quality to have in this endeavor is the one of curiosity – to develop an inquiring mind. Why should such a thing be? Is that the “truth” and so on.  Moreover, this develops a critical quality in your thinking, which is just what we are looking for in the programme.

Freakonomics is a marvelous read which illustrates the point most clearly. There are 6 chapters in the book which demonstrate so many of the qualities and practices you will need to develop as you proceed with the programme.  The subjects covered are diverse and links are made between various data sources and analysis of this throws up some surprising findings. In the Chapter on why drug dealers still live with their moms there are issues on research ethics and keeping the researcher safe. The researcher in question was rather na├»ve at the outset but in the end uncovered a great deal of useful data which otherwise would have been missed in the original project. So, flexibility is another key quality.

The book is a page turner and it’s written in a highly engaging style. While some of the findings are not surprising – some are, and they are all based on real evidence which has been interpreted and analysed.  I recommend Freakonomics to you as a means to understanding some of the more practical applications of inquiry and research alongside the processes involved including data analysis.

When you come to do your inquiry you will collect data which you yourself will be expected to analyse. To have an awareness of the entire process involved at this stage will help you in devising your plan.

Some points to look for in various titled chapters are:

Chapter 1: Teachers & Sumo Wrestlers – data analysis
Chapter 2: Klu Klux clan & Real Estate Agents – ethics of covert observation
Chapter 3:  Drug dealers living with their moms – the appropriateness of questions asked of participants in an inquiry
Chapter 4: Where have all the criminals gone – links between seemingly disparate events / facts
Chapter 5: What makes a perfect parent – drawing valid conclusions from contradictory evidence
Chapter 6: Perfect parenting Part 2: relating two data sets.

While Freakonomics has nothing to do with Professional Practice (Arts) – there is a great deal to learn from it in terms of asking questions, ethics, critical thinking, proper use of evidence and data. I would love to hear comments from you on this fascinating book ….


  1. Fantastic! Everyone should read this!

  2. Thanks for this blog Rosemary. It is just the help I need at the moment as I start to look at my inquiry questions. I have been looking out for a book about, researching. I have just bought the Judith Bell book on research and have am learning a great deal from that, but it's not helped with my initial thoughts on my inquiry. This seems a fascinating read and will hopefully help me with my questions.
    I'm already intrigued to find out why drug dealers live with their mums:)

  3. Thanks for this Rosemary.
    I have just ordered a copy as I am currently reviewing my research and finding it more difficult that I thought to find meaning other than the glaringly obvious. Perhaps this will give me another angle to think about things from.

  4. Winging it's way to my kindle as we speak. Looking forward to reading it.

  5. This book was a great help and a great read.

    Thanks again Rosemary.