chapter  9
14 Pages

Research and learning

When you start to do research, it is obvious there are lots of things to learn. That is one of the prime motivations for doing it: to learn everything we can about the topic of our chosen study. Anyone who has ever embarked on a masters’ programme or doctorate will also know that, in learning about how to do research and in learning about the subject they are researching, they also learn about themselves. When among their colleagues or supervisors only the outward signs are seen, new researchers may feel that only they have personal dilemmas; only they have difficulty getting down to work; only they are torn between reading and writing; only they are finding that research pervades all aspects of their lives. Researchers openly acknowledge that postgraduate students engage in learning, but they do not always carry that over to their own research activities (Brew and Boud 1995a). Like much of the learning they did as undergraduates, most of the individual learning which experienced researchers do in the course of their research remains private and not spoken about. This includes what they learn about themselves and the skills they develop, as well as findings that do not fit the overall pattern of explanation but which may inform future research. Experienced researchers may focus on getting grants and sending off work for publication, but for the novice this is all rather mysterious, and it leaves out the personal processes which researchers go through in achieving such outcomes.