Faculty Life: Scholarly Research

Scholarly research is one of three primary areas of engagement for higher education faculty and is the subject of this section of the community commons.   Expectations for scholarly research vary depending upon the higher education setting, including the type of institution, the discipline, and the policies and practices of a particular campus and department.  It is critical for new faculty members to set a clear and focused research agenda early on so that each of the research activities they engage in moves their research agenda forward in some way.

An integral part of work as a CSU faculty member consists of reviewing, conducting, and publishing original research.  Engaging in research is an important part of academic life.  The type of research methodology used depends upon the researcher’s field of study, institution, department, and subject matter.  New faculty members are expected to engage in substantive research, present it in professional settings, and publish it in established peer reviewed journals and other appropriate venues.

The suggestions provided in this Faculty Life – Scholarly Research section do not represent any one point of view, but rather are a composite from a diverse group of faculty ranging from those new to academic life to veterans, from many different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, working in many different sorts of institutions, and coming from multiple perspectives.  These suggestions are intended to begin a dialogue, offer questions to ponder, or outline areas to pursue.  The purpose is to explore workable strategies and helpful tools that offer success in academic life for those with a passion for scholarly inquiry and publication.

Faculty Life – Scholarly Research will focus on nine areas:

The field of study often determines the type of research faculty engage in. In addition to the broader categories of quantitative and qualitative methods, there are many options for conducting research, such as whether to collaborate and how, what to study, whether to cross disciplinary lines, and choice of method from any number of subcategories within the two main types of research.  Practitioner research is another variation in which practitioners, whether nurses, engineers, artists or educators, study their own practice with the intent of better understanding or improving it.  Choosing which type of research to do depends on the institutional setting, the field of study, and personal preference, among other parameters.  Know about the options when you set out to do research in order to determine the best fit for your research situation.

Faculty members are faced with so many opportunities for research that choosing what to spend time on may seem daunting.  New faculty members need to set a direction and a focus for their scholarly research by outlining a research agenda while understanding that it is flexible and may change over time.  Peer review committees look for a pattern of accomplishment that indicates a building body of understanding. This pattern is established through conducting a series of related studies headed toward expertise in a particular field.  It is possible to lay out a substantive research agenda that shows sustained effort over time by reading broadly and strategically choosing research questions that pique your curiosity and build on one another. What results is a research agenda that will help achieve tenure by showing a deep understanding of a number of related issues.

All research requires time to plan, propose activities, and implement the plans.  One of the ways to find the time is to locate funding to support the work.  It is a common expectation for faculty to apply for, receive, and manage external and internal funding that supports research.  Locating funding involves two activities, finding an agency, foundation or entity interested in the research question, and completing a research proposal for funding to support it.  By starting small and building in scope and amount, new faculty members develop a record for responsible, high caliber work and the ability to follow through.  Know the resources available in your field and seek help with how to successfully write grant proposals.  Learning a few tips about how to find and request monies to support research is critical to new faculty member success.

The peer review process is integral to scholarly research.  It is a process of subjecting research methods and findings to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field.  Peer review requires a community of experts who are able to perform an impartial review.  This is a difficult process since history has shown that the significance of an idea may not fully be appreciated among its contemporaries.  The process is considered essential, but has also been criticized as slow, ineffective and misunderstood.  Peer review refers to the screening of submitted proposals or manuscripts and encourages authors to meet accepted standards of their discipline.  It is designed to prevent dissemination of irrelevant findings, unwarranted claims, unacceptable interpretations, and personal views.  Publications that have not undergone peer review are likely to be regarded with skepticism by scholars and professionals. Accomplished faculty members understand the process and follow expectations carefully.

Research should be completed in a professional way, with careful adherence to ethical standards. There are a number of safeguards in place to ensure that faculty members have clear guidelines concerning what is and is not appropriate. Research proposals must clear a rigorous review through an Institutional Review Board (IRB) to protect human subjects.  Clear guidelines on copyright have been articulated assuring that credit is given where credit is due.  Careful procedures are outlined for citations of others’ work.  In spite of these efforts, there are instances of crossing the line reported and investigated.  Make certain not to be one of these cases by knowing the guidelines and following them precisely.  Examining some of these situations may illuminate common pitfalls while setting high expectations for ethics related to research.

All faculty members have an obligation to stay current in their field of expertise.  Research depends upon a carefully built sequence of studies by numerous individuals.  Stay current in the field by doing a review of the work in your research area prior to beginning your study. New faculty members need to become effective consumers of research, incorporating the findings into their teaching, research and service activities. Locate journals you may eventually want to publish your results in and begin reading them regularly.  Learn about the latest work being done nationally and internationally in your area of interest.  Attend conferences where you can hear what others with similar questions have been learning.  Set aside time each week to read, discuss, and determine where your field is going with respect to your research question.  Contact colleagues with similar interests and read their work.  These connections will be essential to your research success as a new faculty member.

Ask any faculty member with a substantive teaching and service load, and the number one roadblock to completing research and going public with the results is time.  Finding time to follow your passions with respect to inquiry, curiosity and the search for understanding is one key to satisfaction as a faculty member.  There are ways to carve out the moments you need to engage in this important aspect of faculty life, and some will be explored in this section.  Many CSU faculty members do find the time.  So how do those who manage to balance teaching, research and service do it? Their strategies, tips and suggestions will prove invaluable to new faculty members.  Creative use of dedicated time, long range planning, and clear deadlines are some of the keys to their success.

The only way to get results published is to write and submit.  This seems like a simple truth, but new faculty members often find it difficult to find the time due to competing demands that overshadow writing time.  Veteran faculty who find the time often create an ongoing writing portfolio that contains several pieces in various stages of completion, and have a committed time each week to work on them.  This simple organizational tool may serve new faculty members well as they establish themselves as regular writers.  We will explore a number of strategies that faculty members who have successfully set regular writing schedules have used in this section.

Once the research is planned, implemented, data collected and analyzed and everything is written, it is time to go public and enter the ongoing conversation. There are several ways to go public with findings, by presenting them in any number of arenas, or by submitting them to any number of publications.  New faculty members need to seek out opportunities to share their work in a variety of venues. Look for a range of opportunities, from local to national, informal to formal, practitioner to refereed publications, and in a variety of formats.  Actively seek times and places to share your research findings.  Explore the many types of venues, match your work to the appropriate ones, and go about taking on opportunities to share your work.  You have much to contribute to the dialogue going on in your field of study.  In addition to creating your own published work, seek opportunities to respond to other authors, critics, or colleagues doing similar work.

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Resources for
Scholarly Research

The Journal of Higher Education
Baird, L. L. (Editor).  The Ohio State University

Journal of Educational Change
Hargreaves, A. (Editor). Springer Netherlands

Journal of Innovative Higher Education
Morris, L. (Editor).  Institute of Higher Education, Springer, University of Georgia

Education Policy Analysis Archives
A peer-reviewed scholarly journal
Arizona State University, Tempe

Journals in Higher Education
Center for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Virginia Tech
Listing of journals in higher education, especially those that focus on higher education pedagogy.

Quantitative Research Assessment Tool
Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR)
Designed to help users evaluate the merit of quantitative research studies.

Collaborative Research: Liability Issues
Department of Health and Human Services
Tutorials and case studies related to ethical research.

Center for Practitioner Research
National-Louis University
Definition of practitioner research and critical issues within the genre.

Planning your Research Agenda
New Faculty Institute, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Offers steps for setting, rethinking and revising a research agenda.

Research Funding for New and Young Faculty
Sponsored Projects Office, University of California Berkeley
Lists organizations and programs by field of study and deadlines.

Staying Current with Research
Digital Research Tools Wiki (DiRT), PB Works
Tools to stay current, including EventSeer, Google Alerts, Google Reader, IssueLab, and Journal alerting services.

Master Journal List
Thomson Reuters
Comprehensive list of journal titles, and description of the selection process.

Higher Education Conferences Worldwide
Conference Alerts, Academic Conference
Lists conferences in all disciplines.

How to Hack a Conference (AKA Attend One Productively)
Croxall, B. (December, 2009) Profhacker
This blog post describes must do activities that enhance conference attendance.

Issues Concerning Conference Attendance
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Articles about conferences in past issues of the Chronicle.

The Sage Handbook of Quantitative Methodology for the Social Sciences
Kaplan, D. (2004). Sage Publications, Inc.

The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research
Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y. (2005). 3rd Ed., Sage Publications, Inc.

How to Write a Lot:
A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing

Silvia, P.J. (2007). American Psychological Association (APA).

Research Methodology: A Step by Step Guide for Beginners
Kumar, R. (2005). 2nd Edition, Sage Publications

Case Study Research: Design and Methods
Yin, R. (2008). 4th Edition, Sage Publications

Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples
Tuhiwai Smith, L. (1999). Zed Books

The Craft of Research
Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2008). 3rd Edition, University of Chicago Press