On the importance of teaching the mechanics of doing research – Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD

I enjoy writing my blog because I can then use my blog posts to teach my own students and research assistants every technique I need them to know. As I said on Twitter the other day, my writings on this blog are a shared knowledge base. I just opened the knowledge base to everyone in the world who might need it.

Q: “Why do you tweet and blog about your research and writing process in such detailed manner?” – A: Because I can embed my tweets in blog posts that I then write to help my own students. It’s a knowledge base. I just make the knowledge base publicly and widely available.

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) April 14, 2018

What has surprised me as more and more students, and even early career scholars and seasoned professors have emailed me and tweeted at me about how they’ve found my blog helpful was – I *thought* professors taught this stuff. This was my belief up until, well, I got to graduate school, and then I realized that NOBODY was teaching this stuff, the mechanics of doing research.

Graduate students seem to be expected to learn how to do research by osmosis or some kind of magic process. As for how I learned, I have always been inquisitive, and my professors at UBC were kind enough to mentor me and share techniques with me, but a great deal of how I learned to do research was also intuitive, reading books, and looking at professors I admired and seeing how they worked and interviewing them about their daily process. Lucky for me, they were very open and direct about how their writing and research process worked. Also, I will have to acknowledge that my qualitative research methods professor was very specific about how to write memorandums and do thematic coding.

You know why I write about mechanics of doing academic research and writing? Because many of my fellow academics ASSUME their students KNOW.

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) March 10, 2018

I am always frustrated to find that there are incredibly high and ridiculous expectations placed on students by their professors that they should know a lot of stuff that they were never exposed to in high school, undergraduate and even graduate programmes. This, and knowing that my blog is helpful to people, are very strong drivers for me to keep doing what I do.

Thank you for sharing so much. Writers need as many examples and explicit explanations as possible. Your posts are examples of excellent writing instruction.

Your blog posts have helped me IMMENSELY – thank you so much for doing this. because there is no magical research-methods absorption process.

— Faine Greenwood (@faineg) April 22, 2018

last night

me: i have to turn in an annotated bibliography next week what is that???
me, 5 seconds later: @raulpacheco might have a blog post on it
me, going through his blog: yes he does what a life saver

— james (@lysanderjames) January 18, 2018

I know for a fact that many students don’t know how to write a literature review, an annotated bibliography, or how to contextualize their research.

“Go and do a review of the literature and bring me a conceptual map that connects your main research questions with the literature” pic.twitter.com/hmFtB10YLl

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) March 10, 2018

“You should be able to situate your research question within the overall literature”. pic.twitter.com/LAdrwnXeaB

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) March 10, 2018

Many students don’t know how to take good notes, who to ask for help on topic sentences or which databases to search and how to systematize

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) March 10, 2018

And we need to be sensitive to different backgrounds, abilities, reading speeds, processing velocities, etc. </end thread>

— Dr Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco) March 10, 2018

These techniques (the mechanics of how to do research) can’t be learned through osmosis. We need to do better and teach our students how we get things done.

I’ve started a research writing and critiquing course. NONE of the PhD/M students had ever _heard_ of IMRaD, choppy writing & other bits (me neither before US doctoral research stage). Hard to do “contribution”, “connect with the literature” etc. without basics.

— Vinícius M. Kern (@vmkern) March 11, 2018

In the end, we are all better off if we are able to train our students on how to conduct research, and walk them through the process. Even if the process we document isn’t perfect, it can still help others figure out methods and techniques for their own research strategies.

You are one of the few who take time to meticulously discuss your processes. It may not work for all people, but at least gives insight into the kinds of practices for which to aim.
I have sent your blog to so many first years in my dept b/c I wish I had this when I started

— Mary Anne S. Mendoza (@MaryAnneSMM) March 11, 2018

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