In one of her writings, Griffiths observes that educational research can never be perfectly done. Why she says so can be well understood and even agreed with if one has some knowledge of the field of research, including educational research specifically conducted for furthering social justice. Indeed, Griffiths has been involved for many years in the research for social justice and she feels strongly about social justice as being the ultimate desirable outcome of sociological research. It is difficult not to agree with her views. As a student who has put in several years of schooling and having been involved in a couple of educational research projects while at school, I must agree and support all that she has to say on the subject. This paper relates my own experiences during two research projects and how that experience corroborates the post-modernistic outlook of expert academics like Griffith.
Problems of Research in Social Settings
In order to understand the import of Griffith’s observation, it is necessary to first know about research in social settings, which are ever changing. It is also necessary to mention certain characteristics that generally govern all research studies. Social research is usually concerned with qualitative research although some statistical applications may often be needed for analysis. Any social research involves humans and necessarily depends for success on various factors like social attitudes of researchers and the researched. For example, the commitment of a participant or researcher may present problems during the course of the research. Again, the researcher may feel torn between gaining the trust of the participating subjects and revealing to them only as much as conducive for the research. There is also the question of power and empowerment and how this can influence relationships between researchers and the researched and in turn influence research outcomes. Relationships include those between research sponsors and researcher, writer and readers, etc.
The scope and outcome of a research study also depends on finance and sponsorship. An institutionally sponsored one can be promoted by the large amount of finance available, yet be inhibited in direction and content by the power of the sponsors to exercise control over the entire process. An individual or a group of individuals conducting research on their own are severely limited by low finance and institutional support, although they can be more independent in their research outlook. However, such individual researchers often face problems in accessing critical information resources whereas a sponsored effort could have helped access large institutional databases.
The researcher’s social, cultural, political, racial or ethical bias is another crucial factor that can hamper a research study or even alter its direction. A researcher may be driven by personal gains, monetary or academically, thus circumscribing his broader research vision. Any social research depends upon trust, commitment to the research objective, the interrelationships between the individual and society at large, the need of the individual to maintain privacy, the time that a participant can give for the research, etc. Since all these are unpredictable and beyond the control of any single researcher, any research design is challenging and the entire process complex and often problem-ridden. Griffith rightly observes that research is unpredictable and not at all perfect; rely as it does on humans and social environment, both being imperfect and changeable.
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