Make haste slowly…the value of pausing in doing qualitative research

“Make haste slowly” were words of advice given to me by the principal in the first school that I taught in many years ago. Terry, as he was known to teachers and staff, had many years of teaching and administration experience. His office appeared somewhat disorganized, with stacks of papers piled on his desk. Yet, rather than sitting in his office, Terry could often be seen walking around the school grounds, talking to children, teachers, and parents. He frequently dropped by my classroom to see what was going on. These were friendly, supportive and encouraging visits, and Terry allotted specific time for me to gain mentorship from a more experienced teacher.  As a young teacher I was enthusiastic to try out new ideas, although I did not always consider these within a broader context. Terry’s advice to me still lingers:  “Make haste slowly.” At the time, I did not fully realize what he was getting at, but with the years, I’ve come to appreciate this advice. In particular, I’ve come to understand that to do qualitative research of quality, slow work might be needed. What is the value of completing tasks slowly in a world in which we are continually pressed to do more, faster, in shorter time frames? Continue reading “Make haste slowly…the value of pausing in doing qualitative research”

Common failings in first (and sometimes later) drafts

Sometimes you come across some good advice that stands the test of time. Such is the case of a chapter I came across many years ago written by British educational researcher, Peter Woods. In this chapter, Woods (1985) talks about the “false solutions” that we sometimes use to counter the pain of writing up our research (p. 100). Woods refers to various flaws in argumentation that prevent researchers from making the best possible case in writing up findings from qualitative research studies. By avoiding these kinds of arguments, we not only improve our writing, but make a stronger case for using qualitative methods to examine the social world. Below is a brief summary of Woods’ list of “common failings.” Continue reading “Common failings in first (and sometimes later) drafts”

Tips for getting started (and finishing) a new writing project

So you have a new writing project that you need to complete. While you have the assigned topic, you just can’t seem to get started.  This is certainly something I encounter. After I have completed any combination of the following procrastinatory activities:

  • Get my favorite beverage accompanied by a snack;
  • Tidy my desk-top and office space. If you are prone to extremes, you can tidy the whole apartment or house;
  • Write a blog post (!) or
  • Play with my cat…

There always comes a point when I know that I must get started. What are strategies to get started on a new writing project? Continue reading “Tips for getting started (and finishing) a new writing project”

Writing as a social practice

Writing is a task that is usually thought of as a solitary practice. One need only go to a coffee shop in a university town to see individuals hunched over laptops reading and writing to observe some of the work that goes into completion of the numerous term papers, theses and dissertations completed each year at colleges and universities all over the world. Yet, researchers who teach writing remind us that writing is a social practice. What do they mean by this? Continue reading “Writing as a social practice”

Working on writing

One might mistakenly assume that writing as an academic activity gets easier with more experience. I have not found that to be the case. In fact, with time, I’ve struggled with the tendency to let other responsibilities crowd writing out of my calendar. When the unexpected happens – such as the death of a loved one or family illness – writing has stopped altogether. The longer I’ve worked in the academy, the more I have had to learn about writing, and work at continuing to develop a writing habit. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way…. Continue reading “Working on writing”