What Takes Place Behind the Scenes of Research?

This month we are publishing Critical Reflections on Research Methods edited by Doris S. Warriner and Martha Bigelow. In this post Doris explains how a stolen car and a shut-off notice, amongst other things, led her to reflect on her experiences as a researcher.

In 2001, a participant in my dissertation research study called. She told me that her car had been stolen. She said she had been pulled out of the car and injured before they drove away with it. I was listed as a contact person on the police report, so I was later contacted in the middle of the night to be told that the police had located the damaged car at a local truck stop. I eventually helped to retrieve the damaged car from the impound lot. That same year, another participant needed help talking to the local utility company after receiving a shut-off notice in the mail. I accompanied her to the appointment and helped everyone understand what was going on and what needed to be done in order to avoid having power disrupted.

These are just two of many situations which caused questions and doubts to swirl and bounce around in my head. I wondered whether this constituted research, how to engage, and what else might require quick unplanned responses. As I endeavoured to manage these unexpected circumstances, weigh decisions, and understand the potential consequences of my actions, I was filled with uncertainty.

Over the past 15 years, I have continued to work in research contexts with unexpected twists and turns. I have also tried to mentor graduate students through many situations, relationships, contexts, and challenges that they too could not have anticipated or prepared for. I have looked for answers to questions about ethics, relationships, trust-building and process in my experiences as a researcher, in books on qualitative research methods, and in the work of colleagues also working in complex research contexts.

However, while I found many generic discussions of research ethics (e.g., the need to obtain IRB approval and how important that is), I did not find the honest, first-hand accounts of unresolved questions, misgivings, doubt and uncertainty that seem to characterize my own experiences as a researcher. Hungry for more revealing accounts of what takes place behind the scenes of the situations and scenarios written up in peer-reviewed publications, I began to examine some of the questions, challenges and limits surrounding methods of inquiry, analysis and representation.

In 2014, I organized a session for the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association entitled Critical Reflections on Theory and Method: The Possibilities and Limits of Anthropological Work on/with/for Refugee Communities. In 2015, I organized a session for the American Association for Applied Linguistics on Producing Knowledge about/with/for Vulnerable Populations: Collaborations, Constraints, and Possibilities. Combined, the two sessions brought together junior and senior scholars who had navigated relationships, roles, reciprocity and knowledge production processes in complex multilingual contexts and who had many important insights to share about their personal experiences, questions and accomplishments.

This edited collection showcases work that delves into, explores, and examines the possibilities and limits of our methods, our relationships, our roles and our research stories. I hope it will be of interest and value to researchers working on sensitive issues or in challenging contexts. And I look forward to continued conversations with all of you about the relationship between the methods of inquiry we use, the types of knowledge we help to produce, and our lived experiences as researchers.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry.

What can we Learn from Listening to the Voices of Refugee-background Students?

We recently published Educating Refugee-background Students edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry. In this post Shawna and Raichle tell us what we can learn from the voices included in this collection.

We are so excited about the opportunity to publish this new collection of educational research with Multilingual Matters! We’ve worked with refugee-background students in a variety of contexts: Raichle and Mary Jane have both engaged in research with adult education classrooms, and Shawna and Raichle currently collaborate with local school districts in Chittenden County, Vermont, which is a refugee resettlement community. Our book includes the work of researchers working with adolescent and adult students in seven countries, including those which have traditionally been among the top countries of resettlement – the United States, Australia, and Canada – as well as those with steadily increasing refugee populations: Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

One of our goals for this book was to put student voices at the center – to help us see schools and communities from the perspective of students with refugee backgrounds. This not only helps us understand students’ educational experiences, it also helps to counter the deficit-based narratives that are prevalent about refugee-background students – narratives that position these learners as lacking in social, cultural, and linguistic capital. There has been a rise in anti-establishment and nationalist sentiment in the US and Europe resulting from anxieties about migration. Refugee migration itself is often framed as a ‘crisis’, thus removing the human element from the discussion. When choosing chapters for this collection, we looked for those that highlight the agency, resilience, and ‘funds of knowledge’ of refugee students.

What do student voices in this collection tell us? First is that many refugee-background students are doing exciting things with literacy, both inside and outside of the classroom. Bryan Ripley Crandall’s chapter, for example, includes excerpts of academic and creative writing from several young men of Somali-background. Some of this writing, such as a film script and an essay about a family heirloom, came out of students’ English classes, however, much of it was shared on social media. Technology plays an important role in literacy for students in Delila Omerbašić’s study as well, which shows how students use digital tools to display cultural and linguistic knowledge. By exploring what she refers to as the girls’ ‘digital landscapes of knowing’, Omerbašić reminds us that students have many skills and resources that we might leverage as assets in the classroom. A similar

A student’s request for feedback on her drawing

message comes across in Amanda Hiorth and Paul Molyneux’s chapter, which includes excerpts of student-generated drawings, which offer unique insight into the emotional and social experiences of Karen students, as they transition from a newcomer program into a secondary school.

We also learn that students can assert themselves in powerful ways, to promote social and educational change. Erin Papa utilizes a photovoice approach in her

A Cambodian student’s attempt to write her name in Khmer

collaborative research with Guatemalan and Cambodian youth. In this approach, the youth used photography and writing to share about their lives and to suggest ways in which the school district and community might be improved.  Amy Pucino’s chapter shows how Muslim Iraqi students respond to discriminatory remarks from their peers, using humor, logic, and body language as communicative strategies. These chapters remind us that if given the opportunity, students can use language and literacy to be change agents.

We have been so inspired by the creative approaches of students – and researchers working with them – in this collection. This work has energized us as teachers and scholars, and we can’t wait to hear from readers: How do you create space for student voices in your work?

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like Talking About Global Migration by Theresa Catalano.

 

AAAL and TESOL in the Windy City

Last month I headed off to Chicago with Anna and Tommi for my first international trip with MM – a week of back to back conferences, starting with AAAL and ending with TESOL. After a nice, relaxing flight over, I arrived in Chicago ready to dive straight into the first day of AAAL the following morning.

On the walk to the conference hotel on the first morning, I truly understood how Chicago got its “Windy City” nickname. It was absolutely freezing! No matter which way you turned, hoping the next block would offer some shelter, the gusts coming off the lake seemed to find you. It was a relief to arrive and hunker down in basement where the exhibit hall was located.

Tommi, Anna and Flo at AAAL

After a fairly relaxed start, it was quite the baptism of fire when the first coffee break brought a flurry of people downstairs to the exhibit hall, and every subsequent break continued in the same vein, with all three of us scrabbling for pens, order forms and books at once. Still, it was great to see so much enthusiasm for our books and it was a really successful conference in terms of sales, with Jan Blommaert’s new book, Dialogues with Ethnography, and Translanguaging in Higher Education edited by Catherine M. Mazak and Kevin S. Carroll proving particularly popular.

Dinner with Wayne Wright

It was also a really good opportunity for me to finally meet so many of the people I’ve been emailing back and forth with over the past three and a half years, and put faces to names. We were even able to spend time with a couple of our authors after the conference over dinner and had lovely meals out with Wayne Wright, and Maggie Hawkins and her son, Sam. I particularly enjoyed sampling the culinary delights Chicago has to offer, including deep dish pizza, steak and the best Brussels sprouts I have ever encountered in my life!

With AAAL over and Anna on a flight back to the UK, Tommi and I headed straight off to the convention centre where this year’s TESOL was being held. It was a totally different experience for me, having never exhibited in a convention centre before, and I couldn’t believe the sheer scale of the place. After a quiet start, our stand got busier and busier, and by the time Tommi left for home on the penultimate day, I was rushed off my feet! Again, sales were good and it was particularly pleasing to take so many preorders of Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry’s forthcoming book, Educating Refugee-background Students, due out in May.

It being my first time in Chicago, I took the opportunity wherever possible to see some of the sights at the end of each day at the conference. I ventured off to Millennium Park to see the famous Bean sculpture there, visited the Art Institute (where the highlight, aside from the collections of famous paintings, were the incredible Thorne Miniature Rooms) and waited in what felt like the world’s longest queue to go up the Willis Tower and try out “The Ledge”, a glass balcony that extends four feet outside the 103rd floor!

Flo

 

Critiquing the Notion of English as the Global Lingua Franca for Academic Journal Publishing

We recently published Global Academic Publishing edited by Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis. In this post the editors examine the idea of English as the global language of academic publishing.

It is commonly asserted that English has become the global language of academic publishing. The push for scholars in many parts of the world to publish their research in English-medium journals has grown markedly in the past two decades, affecting researchers working not just in the natural sciences but also in the social sciences and humanities. This trend has developed against a backdrop of neoliberal policies in many global contexts that have strongly affected the aims, activities, and working conditions of higher education. In many cases, using English and writing for publication in English signal the ‘internationalization’ of higher education, with little attention being paid to what might be lost in this move or what the costs may be to individual academics and to knowledge production more broadly. In fact, the shift to English means that knowledge published in English may not be available in local languages, hindering the development of local research cultures and societies more broadly.

In the past 25 years, research has documented many of the barriers to multilingual scholars gaining access to the global academic marketplace (in English); their perspectives on their successes and challenges; and the policy conditions that foster the growing pressure to publish in English. The chapters compiled in our new edited book, Global Academic Publishing, critically examine how these pressures and policies play out in specific geographic contexts, some of which have not been previously explored. The book’s section on policy explores the effects and inequities of both implicit and explicit policies for the use of English in academic knowledge production. Implicit policies for English-medium publishing include the nesting of English in many of the metrics now being used to evaluate the work of academics, for example, the journal citation indexes published by the Web of Science and journals published by Elsevier, Springer and other European and North American publishers. Evaluation systems driven by such metrics tend to ignore other ways of evaluating research quality and sidestep deeper conversations about what topics and questions are valuable and to whom.

The perspectives section of the book investigates the dynamics of academic publishing in English that continue to develop even in contexts that have historically had high levels of access to English such as Scandinavia and western Europe, where pressures for English have an impact on scholars’ multilingual identities and engagement with knowledge production for various audiences. The book’s section on journal publishing pushes the boundaries of research on academic publishing to look at how editors respond to pressures for English-medium articles in terms of their journals’ policies and practices. It also examines the rising phenomenon of open access publishing including those unscrupulous open access publishers who prey on scholars’ desires for English publications. The final section of the book draws together research critically examining different types of pedagogies supporting scholars and graduate students in their publishing efforts, from courses to workshops to self-support structures using mobile technology.

This volume marks the launch of the new book series we are editing, Studies in Knowledge Production and Participation.

Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis

For more information about this book please see our website. If you found this interesting, you might also like International Student Engagement in Higher Education by Margaret Kettle.

 

New series: Studies in Knowledge Production and Participation

This year we are launching the new series Studies in Knowledge Production and Participation. In this post, the series editors Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis explain why there is a need for a series in this area.

Series flyer
Series flyer

In an increasingly multimodal, multilingual world that is considered by many to be ‘globalised’ or ‘globalising’, questions about knowledge production are coming to the fore. New technologies, global mobility, and changing economies are contributing to interest in what is defined as knowledge, how it is produced, and who has access not only to new knowledge but also to the ability to produce and use new (and old) knowledges. This new book series will explore multiple facets of knowledge production, distribution and evaluation within these fast-changing contexts.

The topic of knowledge production is not new in academia but it is only in recent years that a field of study is developing that critically explores scientific and academic knowledge production in traditional arenas such as universities, in traditional forms such as journal articles and books. The series will be launched with an edited book focusing on conventional academic knowledge entitled Global Academic Publishing: Policies, Practices, and Pedagogies, which will bring together chapters from a wide range of national and regional contexts exploring a key dimension of academic knowledge production. Studies in this collection will use qualitative/ethnographic as well as bibliometric and survey research methods.

The series will also extend beyond traditional academic and scientific contexts and forms of knowledge production.  With the advent of new technologies, academic knowledge production has taken on a wider range of formats, including blogs, wikis and Twitter feeds. Questions related to who has access to these forums and how the knowledge created within them is taken up, shared, and evaluated, and for what purposes, are in need of exploration. At the same time, what are sometimes called ‘vernacular’ or ‘indigenous’ knowledges are increasingly being recognized and made accessible through new technologies, and the series aims to make these types of knowledge visible. A key question in the series as a whole is what counts as knowledge in the contemporary world.

The editors welcome proposals for the series, following the book proposal guidelines on the Multilingual Matters website. The series will aim to include books using a number of research methodologies, with research representing as wide a range of geographic locations as possible.

For more information about the new series please see our website or download a flyer for the series here.
Proposals should be sent to Anna Roderick.

Books, snakes and snacks aplenty – AILA 2014

This week saw Kim and Laura banished from the office. No, we weren’t sent to the other side of the world for bad behaviour but rather, we headed to Brisbane, Australia for the triennial AILA conference. With a theme of ‘One World, Many Languages’, we knew this would be a great conference for Multilingual Matters. AILA is always exciting for us, as so many of our authors and editors are in attendance. It’s a great opportunity to catch up with old friends as well as make new connections, and hear some fascinating papers.

Some wildlife enjoying our books!
Some wildlife enjoying our books!

The week started well, with strong sales and lots of interest in our new books, particularly Language Globalization and the Making of a Tanzanian Beauty Queen (Billings), Key Topics in Second Language Acquisition (Cook and Singleton) and Measuring L2 Proficiency (edited by Leclercq et al). We also got to meet a different type of delegate – the organisers had arranged for some local creatures to join us for the opening reception! We met snakes, a wombat, a kookaburra, a tortoise and a baby crocodile – some even seemed quite interested in our books.

Jan Blommaert's keynote
Jan Blommaert’s keynote

The conference was pretty busy all week so we didn’t get to many sessions, but those we did attend were high quality and very interesting. Of particular note were the keynotes by Lourdes Ortega, Elana Shohamy and Jan Blommaert, as well as the session on publishing by Mary Jane Curry, and the symposia on indigenous languages organised by Gillian Wigglesworth and Teresa McCarty. Jan had some particularly comical examples of lookalike language!

Brisbane by night
Brisbane by night

The Wednesday afternoon was a chance for everyone to take a breather, as it was a national holiday in Brisbane for their county show, known as the Ekka. We took the opportunity to explore some of Brisbane and had a lovely time doing the typical tourist attractions – we loved the Big Wheel and got a great view of the city. Back to the conference the next day and the stand was as popular as ever, with more animals to see including koalas, possums and a skink. Our best-sellers of the week really did sell well, with Identity and Language Learning (Norton), Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes (Blommaert) and A Scholar’s Guide to Getting Published in English (Curry & Lillis) taking the top spots.

We couldn’t possibly write a piece on this conference without mentioning the food. We’ve never been so well fed! The organisers truly laid on a feast every day, with cakes, pies and biscuits aplenty. Needless to say – the diet went out of the window for the duration of the conference!

Thanks Brisbane, not only for hosting a fabulous conference but also for showing us the very best of your city. We loved it! We’re already looking forward to the next AILA in Rio in 2017.

New Books on Academic Writing

A Scholar's Guide to Getting Published in EnglishThis month we are publishing A Scholar’s Guide to Getting Published in English by Mary Jane Curry and Theresa Lillis. This book provides advice to academics needing to publish their work in English when it is not their native language. Nowadays, researchers all over the world are under pressure to publish in English and this book offers guidance to scholars to help them explore the larger social practices, politics, networks and resources involved in academic publishing.

John Flowerdew from the City University of Hong Kong says the book provides “an excellent overview” of the principles and procedures involved in scholarly publishing. The volume is based on 10 years of research and is written by experts in the field. Both Curry and Lillis have published widely in the field of academic writing.

Risk in Academic WritingWe are also publishing another book on the topic of academic writing next month: Risk in Academic Writing edited by Lucia Thesen and Linda Cooper. This text brings together the voices of teachers, students and authors to examine the idea of risk in the world of academic writing.

Professor Sue Clegg from Leeds Metropolitan University calls it “a powerful, challenging, engaging, and moving collection” and Claire Aitchison from the University of Western Sydney says it is a “must-read.”

Both these books complement our existing publications on similar topics including Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 Writing by Joel Bloch and Ethnographic Fieldwork by Jan Blommaert and Dong Jie.

Plagiarism, Intellectual Property and the Teaching of L2 WritingEthnographic FieldworkAll these titles are available on our website at 20% discount. If you would like any more information about any of these titles or if you’d like to receive a copy of our latest catalogue please email us at info@multilingual-matters.com.