This past weekend I was a part of a group of graduate students invited to talk about the research process with a group of sociology honors students. Blake Sisk, Ebony Duncan, and I rolled up to Garland Hall at 7pm on a Sunday ready to share our triumphs and pitfalls in research... and even more ready to eat the free meal we were promised for our participation. I have come to relish in any opportunity to talk about my work (and to be rewarded with a free meal). As scary as it is to present a half baked research idea for the first time, I've done it so many times now that it has actually become one of my favorite parts of research. I'm used to talking about my research with faculty and graduate students both in sociology and interdisciplinary settings (each is a totally different experience). I will also soon have the opportunity to present in front of a community of Deaf scholars and those conducting social research on the d/Deaf community at the upcoming Deaf World/Hearing World conference in Berlin. But this weekend was the first time I was able to talk about my research on music and Deaf Culture with a group of undergraduates. It's an entirely different game. And to be fair, this was really more a discussion of research process. Regardless, I found it to be incredibly informative and rewarding. I left with a few new ideas, theories, and concepts to investigate which directly relate to the research I'm conducting. But I also left with, hands-down, the best metaphor to describe the research process ever stated.
In a discussion connected to finding the best literature to ground your research while also being creatively open to theories and research in other fields, Ebony shared an eye-opening and reaffirming metaphor about the research process. (Paraphrasing here...) "Research is like a labyrinth. Sometimes you feel like you are walking away from the center, but you must walk away in order to come back around to it." Genius. Research is messy. Sometimes you find yourself asking, "Why I am reading this study of the experience of coming out as gay?" But it is in those moments that you are walking away from the core of your project that you discover Crip Theory--a fusion of queer theory and disability theory, which gives you a creative new hold on your research question. Research is a labyrinth.
This is a reminder to myself, and other scholars out there in the blog world, for those moments when you feel like you are walking away from the core, remember that this is just part of the journey.
And, as a reminder for times like today where I feel like I'm headed in the right direction...there will be another turn ahead.
Image taken from: http://www.samweller.net/wordpress/?p=191
(a podcast using the metaphor of a labyrinth to describe the writing process can be found here too.)