Considering an audience

In “A Framework for Design”, Creswell outlines three research frameworks: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods.  He illustrates the differences between these frameworks by contrasting Postpositivist, Social Constructivist, Advocacy/Participatory, and Pragmatist knowledge claim positions and various strategies on inquiry associated with each.  Creswell ends the chapter with a cursory mention of audience, acknowledging that researchers must be aware of who will be accessing their work.

After putting down the chapter, I found myself reflecting on my own research history and wondering if the audience ought to play a more important role in designing a proposal than Creswell’s passing nod might suggest.  Like many self-deprecating graduate students, I may be quick to acknowledge the fact that my many pages of research will likely go unread by all but my professors.  As a student interested in theoretical concerns, I often find myself drawn to genealogies, discourse analysis, and intellectual histories.  Of late, I haven’t written anything that is of much use to anyone working practically on the things I am interested in theorizing about: the socio-political challenges of war, domestic violence, and inequality.  Maybe pausing in the early stages of research design to think carefully about an audience would help assuage inevitable concerns about naval-gazing and the usefulness of my work.

However, taking seriously the research needs of those working ‘in the field’ is unsettling in a way.  It would require making significant changes to the way I have previously approached my work.  I might have to actually talk to people, maybe even venture off-campus   One of the strengths of the Advocacy/Participatory approach Creswell outlines is that an audience is considered from the beginning.  By being engaged in the design and execution of a research project, the ‘studied’ might actual find use in the findings of research in which they are involved.

There is a potential for messiness in involving others in our research.  Considering audience in a meaningful way might mean working with the door open, involving others and building a project together rather than alone in an office.  Seeking out and building relationships take time.  Asking questions about what kind of research is useful could yield answers I may not be excited to hear: the nagging voice of experience reminds that needs assessments and best practices research is likely more helpful to keeping domestic violence prevention programs running than another analysis of gender discourse.  To be sure, there is a space for both policy-centred and theoretical research.  If I want to take seriously the challenge of conducting research that will be of some use to individuals actively seeking solutions to the issues I am passionate about, I need to start considering ways of translating my theoretical concerns in new ways.