Roadblocks, detours, dead-ends and thoroughfares: Creating a road map to navigate through the research methodology labyrinth

Year: 2003

Author: Luck, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Creating the theoretical framework, conceptual tools and design of a doctoral research project is a very complex undertaking. The intent of this paper is to help to demystify the process and give some practical guidance for new researchers in order for them to avoid (or overcome) obstacles and minimise the time and effort required to complete their research proposal and thesis.

When starting out on my doctoral research odyssey, a labyrinth of potential research methodologies confronted me. Finding a way through this labyrinth to complete my journey (doctoral thesis) seemed to be a daunting task. This paper describes the iterative processes I used to create a road map for myself to help me navigate through the plethora of research methodologies available when conducting educational research. To progress in my journey I had to negotiate roadblocks and detours and learn how to recognise when I was heading toward a dead-end and needed to back track in order to find a thoroughfare to my destination.

The theoretical framework I used in my doctoral research was the sociology of innovation theory or actor-network theory (Latour, 1987; Law, 1992). ANT is also referred to as the sociology of translation (Callon, 1986).

Roadblocks were incidents such as my principal supervisor and methodology specialist moving to another university. Detours were episodes when I digressed in my reading or in my thinking or both.

Sometimes this was on purpose in order to understand a key concept; at other times I had wandered off on a tangent. Dead-ends were occasions when my reading didn't help me to move forward in my thinking. One technique that I found helpful to assist me in overcoming the roadblocks, returning to the main road after a detour or spotting a dead-end was to take a helicopter ride to move above the roadway and the traffic and to view the research landscape. This allowed me to put my doctoral research into perspective and view the thoroughfares (the theory, research methods and techniques which would allow me to answer my research questions) that would lead me towards my final destination - the completed thesis!