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.

CAUTHE 2018, 5-8 February, Newcastle, Australia

The CAUTHE conference headed back to Australia this year and I was happy to discover that in February, Australia’s Newcastle has very little in common with the UK’s Newcastle (no offence Geordies!). Thanks to Tamara Young and Paul Stolk of the University of Newcastle for organising a great conference – the NeW Space building is amazing!

Newcastle beach

Channel View was celebrating the publication of 3 new books (among others at the conference): Femininities in the Field, edited by Brooke A. Porter and Heike A. Schänzel, Qualitative Methods in Tourism Research, edited by Wendy Hillman and Kylie Radel and Tourism and Religion, edited by Dick Butler and Wantanee Suntikul. We held a raffle which Jill Poulston of AUT won – the first prize was 10 CVP books.

Raffle winner
Sarah with the CVP Celebration Raffle winner, Jill Poulston, and authors Heike Schänzel, Kylie Radel and Wendy Hillman

This year’s CAUTHE was marked by the sadly rare occurrence of having an all-female line-up of keynote speakers. These were kicked off by Annette Pritchard, with a brilliant presentation that looked at gender and the advent of AI. This was followed by great talks by Sara Dolnicar on peer-to-peer accommodation and Cathy Hsu on future directions for tourism research. I also enjoyed a number of interesting papers on a variety of topics, including selfies, gay tourism and dating apps, online reviewing, the value of storytelling, authenticity and Juliet’s balcony, the role of novelty and surprise, aesthetics and beauty in tourism, the increasing influence of far right populism on tourism, and air rage!

Wendy Hillman and Brian Hay at the gala dinner

The conference finished with the annual hilarious Great Debate (should it have been a draw though?!) and a lovely gala dinner and fun CAUTHE disco at the Honeysuckle Hotel.

I got to explore some of Newcastle during the conference, which despite the major works going on, seems like a great place to live and work.

I was lucky enough to have a few days of holiday either side of the conference in which I managed to take in the Big Bash semi-final in Adelaide (still excited), a short trip to Sydney and a visit to Melbourne (sadly England did not to do as well in the cricket as Adelaide Strikers!) which included dinner and karaoke with many lovely peeps from La Trobe and William Angliss – thanks again Elspeth Frew for organising! 🙂

Already looking forward to next year’s conference in Cairns!

Julia Menard-Warwick on English Language Teachers and her latest book

A couple of months ago we published Julia Menard-Warwick’s latest book English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines. Here, she gives us a bit more detail about the differences between the situations in Chile and California.

English Language Teachers on the Discursive FaultlinesIt is two days after New Year, 2014, and I was just visited in my office by one of my first cohort of MATESOL students, who came to study with me at UCDavis in 2004, the year I first visited Las Peñas, Chile. She has been teaching ESL in California, and most recently implementing evaluation research for a California school district. Frustrated but fascinated by the local policy context, she is thinking about coming back to get a PhD. She congratulated me on publishing my book, and I showed her a copy of English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines.

A theme of our conversation had been the slow pace of research, and how long it takes for researchers in the academy to make any kind of difference in the “real world”. I agreed as it has been 10 years since I first started doing this research, and it is just now coming out as a book. We looked closely at the cover photograph, which my husband took in Las Peñas in 2005 and she asked if the woman with the armload of books in the foreground was someone from my family. I explained that it’s actually just some random person who looks like she is standing on a discursive faultline. We went on to discuss the McDonald’s sign, the Internet sign right next to it and the sign that says  ‘cambio’ – that is for a money-changing place, but it also means ‘change’ in general. And then there is the orange barrier in the middle which shows that the plaza is somehow under construction. As my former student was leaving, she said, “You make a difference in the lives of your students.” “So do you,” I said.

Looking back over the last decade, I am reminded of Caryl Emerson’s quote about research that I used in chapter 1 of my book: “Strictly speaking, I cannot ‘analyze’ the content of another consciousness at all. I can only address it – that is, offer to change it a little and to change myself a little as well by asking a question of it.” I went to Chile in 2004 with questions about the identities of English teachers in a geographical context where the language is little used, and in a historical context where relations with English-speaking countries have often involved cultural, political, and economic imposition. Over the next several years, coming and going from California, I asked questions, I observed classes, I taught workshops, and as a result I made some small differences in the lives of some teachers, and some more substantial differences in my own ways of looking at English teaching. My decision to ask similar questions in my home state of California initially seemed like a practical response to the requirements of my faculty position here – but has led me to a much fuller understanding of English as a global language in a context where it is more commonly thought of as a “basic skill.” As Bakhtin reminds us, when two people “gaze at each other, two different worlds are reflected in the pupils of (their) eyes.”

In August 2013, I was back in Las Peñas for the first time since 2010.  After seven weeks in the much more culturally-different ambience of Andean Bolivia, the Chilean coast felt like home. But of course, I found changes: more English-language graffiti, a new US-funded program to teach English to working-class high school students….The instructors at “Universidad de las Peñas” who participated in my research have changed as well: Norma retiring; Genaro taking over as the director of the department; Paloma developing a large Facebook following for her commentary on English teaching; Alán (at least temporarily) giving up his dreams to get a doctorate in the UK; Azucena directing the new US-funded English program. Since I was mostly visiting the university, I didn’t try to track down the prospective teachers and practicing high school teachers that I had interviewed in 2005-2006 – but I did run into Francesca in another Chilean city, riding her bicycle across a foggy plaza at night. She was on her way to a party and I was leaving on the bus the next morning, so we only spoke for 5 minutes, but I was happy to learn that she is happily teaching English in a private school in that city. Ironically, I have seen less of the California teachers over the last few years – with the exception of Molly, who has stayed involved in my research while teaching composition to “underprepared” students at a state college. My husband and I had dinner with Ruby and her husband, as well as the mutual friends who introduced us, right before I left for South America last summer.

Writing a book – constructing knowledge in the academy – on the surface seems like a process that has a beginning and an end. Starting in 2004, I conducted research in Chile, I conducted similar research in California, I analyzed my data, I wrote articles and presented at conferences, eventually it all turned into a book published in December 2013. Now I can go on to my next project. I even HAVE a “next project,” on bilingual identity development, which is why I keep interviewing Molly because she keeps learning and using Spanish in interesting ways. And yet, it is difficult to feel like my last research project is really over: I have tentative plans to keep teaching in Las Peñas …I continue working with new teachers in California…. The work now reified as English Language Teachers on the Discursive Faultlines has “changed myself a little” and continues to inform the way I think about teaching, teacher education – and bilingual identities. Emerson’s quote about addressing “the content of another consciousness” applies just as much to teaching as it does to research. As I said to my former student this afternoon, we often can’t make a big difference, and often the differences we make happen very slowly, and often the wrong people have power both in the academy and outside it – but none of that is reason to disengage. Both in teaching and research, my goal is to promote dialogue between teachers, students, researchers, administrators, and policy makers. The book is finished, but the dialogue continues.

Gendered Identities and Immigrant Language LearningYou can find more information on Julia’s book here. You might also be interested in Julia’s previous book Gendered Identities and Immigrant Language Learning.

Random thoughts on the SLA series – now a vintage product

This  summer we are celebrating several 10 year anniversaries, including Sarah and Anna both marking 10 years working with the company, and our SLA series also reaching this milestone. 10 years ago this month, the first book in the Second Language Acquisition series, Portraits of the L2 User edited by Vivian Cook, was published. Here, David Singleton, the series editor, shares his thoughts on the history and achievements of the series.

Edited by Marzena Watorek, Sandra Benazzo and Maya Hickmann

A little over ten years ago I was asked by Marjukka Grover if I would be prepared to write an evaluation of a Multilingual Matters series about which MM had some concerns. I agreed to take on the job, and in due course submitted my recommendations. I added in my report the unsolicited comment that, since a large number of readers looked to MM for books on the acquisition of additional languages, what MM could really do with was a series devoted to SLA. A few weeks later Marjukka’s reply came. Basically, my assessment had found favour with the MM Editorial Committee, including my suggestion regarding the desirability of initiating an SLA series. “By the way”, her reply added, “would you be prepared to edit such a series?”

Edited by Joan Kelly Hall, John Hellermann, Simona Pekarek Doehler

I realized that my answer to this question would be heavy with consequences, and so I posed some sensible clarificatory questions. But I was always going to say yes! This seemed like a golden opportunity to try to extend to the publishing domain what organizations like EUROSLA were trying to achieve in relation to research co-operation and conferences – namely, an open, inclusive approach to researchers of different cultures, ages, levels of experience, and theoretical and methodological propensities. It is for others to say whether and to what extent the series has delivered on such aspirations. My own sense is that we’ve gone at least some of the way towards meeting them.

Edited by Thorsten Piske and Martha Young-ScholtenI think of the series as what I’m proudest of in my career. It has not only enriched our field with an amazing array of accounts of SLA (and multilingualism) research, but it has brought to the attention of all of us findings and reflections that would otherwise have had a more restricted airing. I am constantly excited by he fact that the authors and editors in this series are Chinese, Croatian, Hungarian, Japanese and Polish as well as American, British, Finnish, French and Spanish (to name but a few!), and also by the fact that the books – whatever their origins – sell well and are frequently cited. They are read in all their variety, consumed to the core!

David Singleton, series editor of the SLA series
Look out for David at conferences!

I spend a lot of time at academic events sidling up to colleagues asking them if they would consider writing a book for the series. It could happen to you. If it does, please say yes. If it doesn’t, please take the initiative of sidling up to me and telling me about your project. I am aware that journal articles are the current flavour of the month in some countries in terms of career advancement facilitation. It is worth remembering, however, in relation to the dissemination-of-ideas dimension of publication, that most journal articles are read by an infinitesimally small number of people, whereas the generality of books that appear in the SLA series are genuinely widely consulted and used.

Edited by Rosa ManchónMay they continue to be so used! May the series flourish for ten more years, for a hundred more years, forever!

David Singleton

For more information on the Second Language Acquisition series, please visit our website here.

Congratulations Maria, L3 student paper prize winner

Maria Tymczyńska

At the recent L3 conference we sponsored the best student paper prize and the winner was Maria Tymczyńska from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. Her prize was £100 worth of our books which she will be receiving shortly.

Here she explains in some depth what her paper is about:

“The paper is an empirical study aimed at investigating lexicosemantic processing in trilingual speakers having conference interpreting (CI) experience using online psycholinguistic research methods. E-Prime is used to examine the nature of lexical processing of single words in the translation performance of twelve professional conference interpreters (PRO), twelve conference interpreting trainees (CIS), and a control group of fourteen non-interpreting trilingual speakers (TRI), all with the following language combination: Polish (A/L1), English (B/L2), German (C/L3). Two models of cognitive organisation in case of trilingual speakers have been developed, including those with and without CI experience.”

We wish Maria all the best with her future research and hope that one day perhaps we will be publishing her work!