Past Experiences with Research

One of the most pivotal experiences in my life occurred in the eleventh grade in an average government class. The assignment was preparation and participation in a mock jury trial. My task was to “prove” my case. Despite the fact that the evidence and facts were on my side, I lost the case. This experience was not the first (and certainly would not be the last time) I experienced disillusionment in the sense that life is not fair, rational or even predictable, but it was one of the most memorable. It was one of the most enduring milestones toward growing up. A critical insight into human nature revealing that people often choose to believe what they want to believe, often contrary to empirical facts to the contrary.

For what reasons have you conducted an inquiry or consumed research in either your personal or professional life?

Understanding this tidbit about my past experience, it is no wonder that I am enamored with research. In fact, research has been a mainstay in every facet of my life: personal, academic and professional. As an undergraduate student in the field of Psychology I participated on several research projects, enjoying the data analysis far more than the actual implementation. As a result of those experiences, I am fairly well versed in the different types of research designs broadly characterized as “quantitative, qualitative and mixed method” (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2010, p. 87; Johnson & Christensen, 2008), as well as some of the experimental design problems associated with each. Further, I am also familiar with the concept that research contains facts and information referred to by Locke, et al., to include other research resources, descriptors, provenance, context, methods, interventions, discussions and recommendations, in addition to the results of the particular study (Locke, et al., 2010). Personally, I have long utilized references as a primary tool for finding relevant material.

Personally, I have also had many occasions to utilize research in my perpetual quest for more information. Personally, there have been medical and legal questions that needed answered. For instance, my son, Gabriel, has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Big names with acronyms can be very frightening without any facts or knowledge in place. There have been numerous decisions to be made regarding the best interests of my son regarding education, medication, social situations, etc. As a result, I have consulted many different research sources, such as the internet, medical journals, doctors, professional publications, and trade publications.

Lastly, as I value information and knowledge more than opinion, I have often turned to research to answer professional questions, in every vocation I have endeavored to participate.

What challenges did you face when trying to find information to fulfill a specific purpose?

Prior to reading the discussion post, I brainstormed some of the challenges I have faced searching for information. Some of the issues that came to my mind included finding reputable sources, difficulty accessing reputable sources, and/or difficulty determining the right combination of descriptors to find the information I needed. Additionally, once I found relevant research there were oft times other types of issues such as discussed in our resources, such as finding research alleging “findings that cannot and should not be used to infer what might be obtained from an experiment or other more appropriate research methods” (Carlson, 2008, p. 103). Sadly, this problem is not limited to content analyses, but also occurs when researchers overreach in their interpretations of the data in experimental designs as well.

It was somewhat gratifying to see some of the issues I have experienced utilizing research written in black and white, validating my perceptions. Specifically, our text lists four impediments to reading research as “specialized jargon, perceived level of intellectual demand, lack of self-evident validation and difficult retrieval” (Locke, et al., 2010, p. 73). My primary issue has been difficult retrieval. There have been numerous times I have attempted to locate an article to find it is inaccessible through Walden University, or if it is accessible, there is a price. This situation has occurred in all areas of research. In my opinion, there are those who prefer intermediaries to explain research to them for the reasons listed above; however, just as often there are those who would prefer to read the original artifact to determine if it is in fact as represented by the intermediaries. It has been my experience that information is often distorted in the translation. Case in point, the New York Times article, “Cold, Hard Facts” outlines exactly the types of misinformation that occurs when intermediaries glean information from other sources and spoon feed it to the public (Doran, 2006). My father is always trying to “inform” me about this or that from information he has heard on the local news. My response is always, that he should check his facts before spreading the news station’s brand of news. Perhaps, it is the paranoid in me, but every news station has bias and in the end, sensationalism sells far more than a dry and/or dense research report.

Further, our text identifies six (6) perceptions of research as “complexity of results, conflicting results, trivial topics, impractical studies, absence of commitment and caring, and conflict with other sources of truth” (Locke, et al., 2010, p. 75). To wit, my biggest challenge has been conflicting and/or confounded results. As my introduction aptly illustrated, I am not much swayed with unverifiable “other sources of truth.” There are of course exceptions of my own personal opinion in certain matters where empirical studies are not as relevant such as love and/or belief in God (note, I said not as relevant, not irrelevant).

There are many rewards to utilizing research, specifically in the realm of life-long learning. Finding an answer long searched for can be like unwrapping a present on Christmas day.

What lessons should be learned from your experiences about some of the rewards and challenges you may face as you consume research as an instructional designer?

All of the previous challenges are possible with regard to research in instructional design and more. For instance, instructional design is an explosive and broad field of investigation and discovery. Further, its links to technology further confound the variables associated with determining causation and/or development of effective experimental design. It is imperative that all research be analyzed with scrutiny for validity. There is a ton of information available on the internet, but unless it is carefully validated we run the possibility of spreading misinformation ourselves. I often find information on the internet as useful first steps in the research process, guiding my directionality. However, if the sites I locate have no references, I am forced to choose other material. I am typically reluctant to use information I cannot verify myself because of the propensity for misinterpretation.

Further, once again, the instructional designer is faced with the “half-life of knowledge” scenario as discussed by Gonzales wherein almost as soon as one discovery is made, another comes along to sweep it away (Siemens, 2002). Thusly, making it far more important to access information than to retain every single tidbit. Again, the instructional designer must remain always vigilant, seeking facts and reliable information to successfully develop effective instructional design materials.

References

Carlson, L. (2008). Use, misuse, and abuse of content analysis for research on the consumer interest. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 42(1), 100-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-6606.2007.00096.x

Doran, P. (2006, July 27). Cold, hard facts. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/27/opinion/27doran.html?ref=environment

Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2008). Educational research: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods (3rd ed.). Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/courses/63694/CRS-CW-5364554/Week1_EducationalResearch_Ch1excerpt.pdf

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Research in instructional design . Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Introduction to research . Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.

Locke, L. F., Silverman, S. J., & Spirduso, W. W. (2010). Reading and understanding research (3rd Ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Siemens, G. (2002). Instructional design in ELearning. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/InstructionalDesign.htm

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