- Postgraduate researchers
- Premia- resources for disabled researchers
- Practicalities of completing a doctorate
- At the start
- The language of research
The language of research
What do these terms really mean:
- statistical probability?
- inductive reasoning?
- causal relationship?
Are you really expected to know what they mean? Would it be acceptable for you to have a vague idea of their meaning? Would it be all right for you to know what they mean but not use them? You will find the definitions at the end of this section. How close were you?
In the introduction to his book ‘Demystifying Postgraduate Research' (University of Birmingham Press 2001) Jonathan Grix writes:
"If you command the basic vocabulary of generic research, you are far more likely to choose the correct theories, concepts or methods to use in your work. By grasping the core tools used in research, much of the mystery that can surround it begins to disappear. .....
Although not a guarantee for good scholarship, knowledge of the ‘nuts and bolts' that make it up can go a long way to ensuring that the tools of research are used properly. If you have the right tools and you know how to employ them, the research process becomes a great deal easier and quicker."
It will benefit all postgraduate researchers to have an understanding of the appropriate language and concepts from the beginning of your research.. If you face barriers to accessing the research language - because, for example, you are a BSL user, lip read, or have a specific learning difference, then support may be available at your university to support you with this.
The key is to source clear, unambiguous explanations or definitions of research terms to ensure that they are not a barrier. As Jonathan Grix states: ‘Fear of the unknown, the esoteric and the complex only hinders progress.'
‘Discussions with my supervisor have been difficult because of the huge amount of technical language he uses.
This is probably a problem for any postgraduate researcher who is starting work in a new field and doesn't understand all the technical terms, but for a deaf researcher with a more limited vocabulary it can be a huge barrier to their understanding of the project. In this case I did two things:
I told my supervisor when I didn't understand him at the risk of looking stupid; I tried to learn all the technical terms in the X-ray field as fast as possible! I started with general X-ray books and moved on to the easier papers. General science journals like Nature usually contain less specialist papers and are fairly easy to follow.
I'm in an open plan office; ten of us and you've just got a lot of people there. You just walk round talking to people about the subject. .... (I had a big issue round the language of research), especially in our first year. This is something we talked about quite a lot. And again that was nice because there were 5 or 6 of us first year postgraduate researchers and this is one we all felt completely lost with.’
Postgraduate researcher with dyslexia
- Typology: A classificatory system with which the researcher categorises data; frameworks with which to organise observations.
- Statistical probability: How far it is possible to draw an inference from a ;sample and generalise it to a wider population.
- Meta-analysis: A statistical technique for combining and integrating the data drawn from a number of experimental studies undertaken on a specific topic; an analysis of a range of papers for a new or different attribute.
- Inductive reasoning: A logical process of reasoning used to develop more general rules from specific observations; it moves from the specific to the more generalised.
- Epistemology: Theories of knowledge which may underpin academic disciplines, particularly relating to their methods and validation.
- Causal relationship: A relationship between variables where movements in one or more variable(s) are held to cause changes in the other(s).