BCM210 Understanding Research Values

The original idea for this research project came from seeing a sticker on the window of the UOW Library.Untitled[1]

Upon seeing this I started thinking about how effective it was. I Googled safe spaces at our University and found it interesting that I could not find much at all, even though this new sticker and all the positivity it suggested had found its way to the entrance of the library. I then recognised that this was the curiosity that we had been talking about in BCM210. I had been struggling to find something to research, to find something that I really was curious about and I had stumbled across this very thing while wandering around campus.

Reflexivity was a concept that I struggled with early in the semester and it was only much later when I found the article[2] that explained my choice of research methods that I saw the idea and importance of reflexivity in a new context that I could understand my own reflexivity. The personal connection, beliefs and cultural frames that an individual views their research can have strong impact and influence on the research undertaken and analysis that can be achieved.[3]

I identify as a straight woman and recognise that a certain amount of privilege that comes with this. In regards to my research, it is important that I identify myself as an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community and my personal view is that safe spaces, inclusive access and recognition of the difficulties of minorities is an important step in building a space that is safe and pleasant for every student and staff member. Because of my views it is important that I remember to remain objective to complete research without allowing my personal feelings about safe spaces to influence my analysis.

These views also affect my social responsibility when completing this research. I did not think too much about this when writing my proposal as it was mainly fuelled by curiosity. Since receiving feedback, however, I have re-evaluated my position and plans for research. I have decided that to avoid being controversial and misrepresenting people I will not interview people like I had originally planned.

I have spent a lot of time searching for and reading resources in relation to this topic. In an attempt to use my critical judgement, I have read many views on the implementation on safe spaces in educational setting including ‘Safe Space Programs in K-12 Schools: Creating a Visible Presence of LGBTQ Allies’[4] which discusses the effectiveness of safe spaces for LGBT students and ‘(Un) Covering Normalized Gender and Race Subjectivities LGBT “Safe Spaces”’[5] which encourages thinking about safe spaces in a critical way.

In conjunction with the Media Alliance Code of Ethics, my research aims to report fairly and accurately.[6] I will be accountable to my research when making analytical statements and reading resources written by others to uphold these ethics and remain fair and honest, while not forgetting my reflexivity.

Academic integrity relates strongly to this as it is defined as ‘a commitment by academic communities, “even in the face of adversity,” to the six core values of “honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.”’[7] These values are very similar to the code of ethics for journalists to ensure that my research is of a good academic standard I aim to adhere to these values to the best of my ability.

The Lean Research Framework[8] shared on Moodle adds to these ideas of critical judgement and accountability by asking questions about respectful research. One relevant question is “What specific steps will we take to provide study subjects with opportunities to review and refute (if applicable) the study findings?”[9] In answer to this, I will have my research publically available on my blog, giving anyone the opportunity to refute my findings.

The most recent value we have looked at in BCM210 is flexibility. In two different classes during the week I completed a tolerance for ambiguity scale and scored results that were middle of class but indicated a low level of tolerance for ambiguity. As discussed in class, personality tests such as this are not definite summations of our personalities. However, they can point out things to us that we already know to be true and make us think about them in a different way.

For example, I am already aware that flexibility is not one of my strongest assets, especially when I am stressed. As a result, planning for adversity is important for me to make sure my assignment is finished on time. I have planned for this by putting things on my timeline a week before they need to be finished, giving myself a week for editing rather than a final week where things have gone wrong and I am struggling to finish on time. This has the added bonus of meaning that I will not take short cuts which would question my academic integrity, because I will have adequate time to complete everything properly.

Learning about these values weekly have helped me to develop a plan for research that is committing to getting things done correctly and on time.

Footnotes:

[1] 2016, University of Wollongong Library News and Events, <http://www.library.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@lib/documents/mm/uow211447.jpg&gt;, viewed 23 April 2016.

[2] G T Owen, ‘Qualitative Methods in Higher Education Policy Analysis: Using Interviews and Document Analysis’, The Qualitative Report, no. 19, 2014, available from http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR19/owen52.pdf viewed 18 April 2016

[3] ibid

[4] M Ratts et al, ‘Safe Space Programs in K-12 Schools: Creating a Visible Presence of LGBTQ Allies’, Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, vol. 7, no. 4, 2013, pp. 387-404.

[5] C Fox & T Ore, ‘(Un) Covering Normalized Gender and Race Subjectivities m LGBT “Safe Spaces”’, Feminist Studies, vol. 36, no. 3, 2010, pp. 629-649

[6] Media Alliance Code of Ethics, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, <http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/0921_meaaethics.pdf&gt;, viewed 15 April 2016

[7] W Rholetter, ‘Academic Integrity’, Research Starters, 2013.

[8] Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University, Lean Research Framework, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University, <https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B36nNXj12OvSMmJhZHRpOHZBMmM/view&gt;, viewed 20 April 2016

[9] ibid

BCM210 Research Project Update

My initial question was how effective are safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ students in our university? After receiving some very helpful feedback from Kate and a fellow student  I have altered my plans so as to attempt some less controversial and narrowly focused research in this area. I am going to look specifically at the university library and its recent declaration of being a ‘safe space’.

Originally I was going to conduct first hand research asking students and library staff their opinions and experience with safe spaces at UOW, but again working with the feedback I have received, I have shrunk this to focus on the library and its ideas that take the form of documents on their website. By this I mean policy, annual reports, mission statements and plans for development and how these have changed over time through comprehensive document analysis.

I have decided against asking people for opinions and experiences. This is in part due to potential controversy but also because I do not see the possibility of creating a fair and equal survey when I consider my own view on safe spaces as a positive and inclusive development. As Kate and Bradley both suggested, it is important to show the negative responses to such spaces but I thought this would be difficult and potentially uncomfortable considering my own views.

Again at the suggestion of Kate’s feedback I was simply going to find some research already completed on the negative views of safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ people but I thought that having secondary research on one side of the debate and primary research on the other may not work well. This is another reason that I decided not to interview anyone.

The re-evaluated version of my research question is does the UOW Library document the safe space for LGBTQIA+ students in their official documents? This will be determined through document analysis and comparison to documents that outline a successfully inclusive environment.

Curiosity: an introduction to BCM210

Curiosity is an interesting subject, in part because to speak or write about curiosity you have to be curious about the word, what it means. In my attempt to understand curiosity I Googled it, as that is the answer to the general curiosity of the human population in the twenty first century – a search engine that can find multiple answers to any question you can possibly think of. I looked for curiosity in relation to National Geographic. I find articles from here hugely interesting and it’s not uncommon for me to fight boredom with their content.

As it turns out, National Geographic had a fantastic interview with Adam Steltzner, one of the key engineers in the creation of the Sky Crane, instrumental in the landing of the Mars rover named Curiosity in 2012. More than the science and the findings of the rover I found myself drawn to Stelzner and how curiosity has influenced and shaped his life. from doing badly in high school, to noticing how the stars were in different places in the sky on the way home from a gig compared to on the way out, to becoming the head engineer of the planned 2020 Mars rover set to replace Curiosity.  I find that this is indicative of my curiosity; I’m more interested in the stories of people, the little things and the process of how things come be than the big questions of ‘what else is out there?’

When it comes to learning, this translates into me thinking of the now, choosing subjects based on how interesting I think it will be, how much it will satisfy my curiosity, rather than the big picture of what my degree will be. Perhaps that’s why it has taken me so long to get to the end of my degree. Perhaps it’s also why I’m completing a 200 level core in my final semester – and looking forward to what it has to offer immensely.  The point is my journey to this point has fuelled my curiosity and made me eager to find out more. That is not something that will go away with graduation, but I have now spent years learning the skills I need to follow curiosity, make is part of my life and use it to find more and be more.