I’ll take this term over ‘research’ any day.
A recent #sachat on ‘Beginning Research in Higher Education’ uncovered many different definitions of research. Many participants defined the term to a point where they could not see themselves engaging in research, making it something that others in the field do with more resources or time.
I’d like to challenge that assumption.
Research, in higher education at the very least, is not something that always leads to a publication, or requires hours in the field. It is not always about annotated bibliographies and APA style and reviews by the ethics board.
Research is creative inquiry. Quite simply, research in higher education is what happens when we have the courage to ask questions and to seek out the answer. At times it is systematic, but the search for knowledge is more often messy. Just as there is no one set path to success, the same applies to the answers we seek. Any time we seek insight, information or ideas we are doing research. Simply by being curious, we are researchers.
There is also a level of responsibility that comes with this creative inquiry. Just as we are bound to be lifelong learners, there is an equivalent duty to be lifelong teachers. Knowledge gained through creative inquiry is not meant to be hoarded or hidden, but rather shared. Creative inquiry is in part a call to action – we are charged to communicate what we have learned, to add to the wider network of knowledge we all draw from and, in the process, to help guide others in their own journey. Just as we teach community building in our work with students, so too must we act as contributors to the knowledge network. I prefer ‘network’ in this case to ‘knowledge economy’ – knowledge being distributed, reviewed and refined rather than consumed after being sold to the highest bidder.
Of course, as one rocket scientist once said “Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” (Wernher von Braun). But isn’t that the point? Creative inquiry by its very nature starts with not knowing – if we knew the what, the why and the how it wouldn’t be research now would it?