Autobiography and Biographical Research in Higher Education
Robert Hampel, Secretary-Treasurer of the History of Education Society, recently published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that deals with how to help doctoral students undertake a successful research project.1 Hampel argues that traditional advice to students, such as ﬁnd a topic that is related to other topics and ﬁlls a distinct niche in scholarship, is overrated. What it often yields is a study that is severely hampered, perhaps most importantly by the student’s lack of any real personal commitment to the project. In place of this traditional approach, Hampel oﬀers four alternatives: research that builds on current research, research that is autobiographical, research that arises from conversations, and research that responds to funding initiatives. Those of us in the scholarly vineyard of the history of higher education seldom have the opportunity to obtain funding for our work, let alone the work of our students, though in the following account of my work, funding does surface as important at key times. Hampel’s other three alternatives oﬀer more insight into the choices that I have made regarding biographical research projects. It is a combination of two of his particulars, however-that research is often autobiographical, and that research comes from other research-which I want to highlight in this chapter on biographical research in higher education.