The word “research” has its origins in old French in the 16th century. The word rechercher meant (and still means) “to search for”. Nowadays we would say that research, and specifically “scientific” or “scholarly” research, is the search for truth, or the pursuit of or quest for credible knowledge. It is precisely because research has become such a complex and multidimensional endeavour that we need to “make sense of” it. Making sense of research thus unpacks research as a technical and methodical process which starts with framing interesting questions and culminates in credible findings. (Johann Mouton)
Making sense of research is designed to take students beyond the messy experiential realm into what actually happens when getting registered, writing proposals, being examined and eventually crossing the stage to be capped.
Contents include the following:
- Academic architecture and why history matters
- How to do it (research)
- Thematic techniques
- Ethnographic, reception, visual and textual methods
- Getting published
- Some words on deconstructing deconstruction
- Getting technically oriented
- Getting conceptually orientated
Making sense of research is aimed at all research students.
I can say with some degree of confidence that no such book has yet been written in South Africa (or anywhere else for that matter) on how to do, think and suspect research. Witty, informative, and in parts irreverent, the wide range and critical treatment of research topics earns this volume a secure place on the bookshelf of a postgraduate student or a young faculty member trying to make sense of the world of scholarly inquiry in a digital age.
Part 1: Academic architecture and why history matters
Chapter 1: Decolonisation: what it is and what research has to do with it
Chapter 2: Towns and gowns and bawdy songs too: the symbology of academia
Chapter 3: The BA degree – what is it worth? A hypothetical talk
Chapter 4: Research management at universities
Chapter 5: Where to graduate studies: of bulls and bears
Chapter 6: Employability: Sciences and the Humanities
Chapter 7: In pursuit of media history bunk
Chapter 8: Philosophy and “wot-not”
Part 2: Research in a digital age: Wot’s Wot app?
Section 1: Whereto the digerati with short attention spans?
Chapter 9: Becoming a researcher: breaking the idols of rigid pedagogy
Chapter 10: Freire, Google and the smartphone: problem posing in an age of technological and information overload
Section 2: Paradigm wars, science, literature and numbers: wot’s app?
Chapter 11: Making sense of media, literary and other subjects: what are we doing?
Chapter 12: How academics do research – why industry should take note
Chapter 13: Research methods and friending interdisciplinarity: bridging the numerical divide
Chapter 14: Science vs constructivism: creating or finding reality?
Chapter 15: Research methods: reasons for making controversial decisions, and why these decisions are controversial
Section 3: How to do it (research)
Chapter 16: Mediagraphy and media memory studies as means of media and cultural inquiry
Chapter 17: Autoethnography and reflexivity: where does the researcher fit in?
Chapter 18: Semiotics: making sense of what it means to “make sense”
Chapter 19: Action research: how to make a difference
Chapter 20: Photovoice, a visual methodology
Chapter 21: When to be egotistical? Identity, writing and first-person pro-nouns
Section 4: Thematic techniques
Chapter 22: Working with NVivo: software working for you
Chapter 23: How can computer software add value to qualitative data analysis? A case for ATLAS.ti™
Section 5: Ethnographic, reception, visual and textual methods
Chapter 24: “We are just gossiping, but for you, this is work”: doing ethnography in 21st-century South Africa
Chapter 25: Reception analysis: engaging with the audience
Chapter 26: Drawing is only for kids, right? Wrong!
Chapter 27: (Con)textual gymnastics: critical discourse analysis
Section 6: Getting published
Chapter 28: Journal accreditation and peer review: navigating the swamps
Chapter 29: How to publish and not to perish
Section 7: Some words on deconstructing deconstruction
Chapter 30: Branding, science and theoretical hoaxes
Chapter 31: Writing deconstructionist gibberish: a five-step approach
Chapter 32: Navigating ethical clearance: farce and force
Part 3: Getting supervised
Section 1: Getting technically oriented
Module 1: What is higher degree study?
Module 2: MA and PhD study: some questions applicants should ask themselves
Module 3: Guidelines for students and supervisors
Module 4: Getting started: template for a short proposal
Module 5: Lessons in research methodology
Module 6: How to get on with your supervisor
Module 7: Methodology is the engine of your study
Module 8: Managing paralysis, rethinking productivity and getting to submission day
Module 9: Dummy dissertation for postgraduate students
Module 10: Speeding around MS Word documents
Module 11: Who owns the thesis?
Section 2: Getting conceptually orientated
Module 12: Some primary 20th-century theories the student may find relevant
Module 13: Freirean critical pedagogy
The Conversation - 19 April, 2018
This article has also appeared on the following sites:
Inside Education - 23 April 2018
world.edu - 20 April 2018
Mail & Guardian - 24 April 2018
“Abnormal times. I suspect that the so-called "new normal"/"great reset" is going to wipe out - by sheer brute force - the old publishing models. So far, the response has been flat footed - and a bit like deer in headlights. So, it could help if Making sense of research itself, which was novel in proposing breaking with normative (and often untenable) research habits, could be marketed as having presaged the new normal. It is a prescient book whose main thesis is that we must recognise that we are stuck in 20th century paradigms; its main contribution is to set the scene for a ‘new normal’ in research, something that it achieves without the assistance of a pandemic. It is a primer on the new research agenda of the 21st century, and a toolbox for the agile researcher working in changing times, whether working from home or not, working alone or in teams, and in uncharted territory.”
Professor Nyasha Mboti, Associate Professor, Communication Science, University of the Free State
"Making sense of research is far less an instrumentalist 'cookbook' on research-as-process, than it is a substantive reflection upon research-as-practice.
The first type appeals to the undergraduate textbook market and can be 'learned' for abstract assessment (i.e., 'tested'), whereas the second type appeals to those already having some experience of research and supervision. That is the market for Making sense of research.
The first type (e.g. Bezuidenhout, et al 2013, Research Matters), an introduction, follows the form of lecture notes -- measured by a didactic and technical standard. It can be read from a podium and consumed. It belongs to the monological lecture theatre. It is aimed at average students, particularly those who see education as a means to an end, rather than as a benefit for character. With these books, you learn with them. That is their market.
The second type (e.g., Making sense of research) is mostly read with some hindsight. You READ these books, rather than study them as lecture notes. They invite dialogue. One does not ask whether its content is correct or not, but whether it is true or false. With these books, you THINK with them. They are appreciated with experience. They are more valuable than useful. Hence, Making sense is for researchers more than for students doing a module on research. And that makes it a valuable book for any researcher to have; to be read from time to time, particularly early on in one's academic career. That said, the book is not so esoteric, not to be practical. There's nothing more practical than a good theory."
Professor Marc Caldwell, Department of Communication, University of Fort Hare
“Given the present zeitgeist of the #DecolonisationMovement, I see Making Sense of Research as being (1) a handy manual for 21st century post-positivist students/learners and (2) traversing the same route as Umberto Eco's How to Write a Thesis. And hopefully, it will also enjoy the multiple edition lifespan of Eco's book!”
Jeff Sehume PhD (UJ); previously a policy analyst at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection.
"Not merely a handbook, but really a hands-on book, it’s the only text that answers all those questions an emerging researcher has but either is afraid to ask or does not realize need to be asked."
Thad Metz, Distinguished Professor, University of Johannesburg.
“The book is ideally suitable for undergraduates, graduate students, independent
consultants, policy experts and scholars or anyone interested in pursuing a challenging
and exciting career in research.”
Blessed Ngwenya, University of South Africa
“Being a researcher in methodology itself, I always stress the central importance to students of how you do research. Since 2018, Making sense of research has been my go-to-guide in recommending them certain chapters. Two reasons for this is that I teach across a variety of fields and methods, including textual analysis, reception theory and ethnography, and Making sense of research contains a wide collection of different strategies that relate to these and other methods of data collection and analysis. Secondly, out of all the wider readings and chapters I suggest to the students I supervise, I most frequently receive notes of gratitude for the Making sense of research chapter/s.”
Prof. Lauren Dyll, Associate Professor, Centre for Communication, Media and Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal - Durban
“Once Making sense of research gets into the hands of our postgraduate students, they sell the book to each other. It really is a compass to help students navigate their research journal, it’s even better when our students refer the books to their peers.”
Eliza Govender, Associate Professor & Academic Leader, Centre for Communication, Media and Culture, University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal, Durban
“The Keyan Tomaselli edited Making sense of Research (Van Schaik 2018) which made the politics of doing a Masters or Ph.D (from both the supervisor and student point of view) a fun and even hilarious read - pure 'shooting from the hip' , while maintaining the requisite academic standards of a monograph. Most research books I have looked at over years of buying and selling them, are too 'clinical / didactic.' Making Sense of Research is the first locally, and perhaps among the few internationally that bring in the human element in the deep waters of Masters and Ph.D research.”
Cedric Sissing, ex-Adams Booksellers, now with Ike's Books, Durban.
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