Frayed research

Phew! I submitted our article for the MERGA conference last week and now I feel like I’ve come out of hibernation: I’m standing blinking in the sunlight wondering what happened to everything I was doing before I started work on the article. (One of those things was this blog, which is why I’ve been quieter than usual lately.)
One thing that caused me to descend deeper into research-hibernation was when I stopped to check the word count after getting halfway through what I wanted to say, only to discover that I was already 1500 words over the limit. I had to sacrifice a lot of what I had planned to say, and was left feeling like my research had a lot of loose ends flapping about everywhere.
This is not the feeling I get from maths research. I’ve published very short articles in maths journals before, but felt no qualms about them at all because they were all tied up. I don’t mean I had finished everything there could be to do. No, I mean that there was a proper result — something about which you could really say, “This is it. This is true. This is why it’s true. And that’s all I need to say.” It’s neat.
Education research is not neat. I’m always left with the feeling that you haven’t said anything. It seems more like, “This is sort of it. This is what might possibly be considered reasonable. This is why I think I might be in some way justified by holding the belief that this might possibly be reasonable. A lot more could be said but I have to stop now.” See? Not neat.
My experience researching maths has left me with the feeling that things ought to be neat, and I stress myself out trying to tie up the loose ends in my education research. What I’m learning to realise that loose ends are the way things are in education research and saying why you think something is possibly reasonable is actually enough.

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  1. […] the question, and usually leaves you with more questions than answers. (As I have discussed before: Frayed Research.) So the can of worms is fully open now and they are wriggling all over the […]