In considering what sort of data I might need to collect, it occurred to me that I haven’t really narrowed my research question. Well, actually, that’s not true. I’ve done it in my head, but not so much within the context of these journal entries.
I’m applying for an interdisciplinary research fellowship, and what better way to narrow one’s focus than to have to write a proposal? I mean, a real one! Overall, I want to create specialized resistance training programs for dancers. I imagine having representative samples split into groups by gender and genre (specifically, ballet and modern/contemporary dancers). Women and men demonstrate different patterns of injury, but you’ll be hard pressed to find one that hasn’t sprained an ankle at one point in his/her career. So I plan to control for type of injury by limiting the participant pool to dancers with previous lower leg injuries. My hypothesis is that complimentary resistance training will reduce the rate of re-injury (recurrence of the same injury or another (seemingly) unrelated injury), and improve performance in professional dancers. But the issue of defining performance remains.
In my view, that is where qualitative research comes in. For this fellowship, I’ve proposed a qualitative research project with the goal of defining performance based on physiological and aesthetic criteria. I hope to accomplish this through survey and interviews, collecting data from three sources: members of the dance community, dance patrons, and company directors (employers responsible for the hiring of dancers). After participants watch a diverse sample of dance (either live or on video) I anticipate asking some of the following questions:
- Who was your favorite performer, and why?
- What is it about his/her performance that impacted you the most?
- What are three adjectives that describe your favorite dancer’s performance?
- Does body type impact your perception of this dancer’s performance?
- What physical attributes do you look for in a good performance?
- Would you hire this dancer?
- What do you look for in a “good” dancer?
and so on, and so forth. From this data I hope to match up qualitative aspects of performance with physiological characteristics, so that performance might be somehow “graded.”
And this is where I start to get overwhelmed.
If I limit my participant pool to Chicago, the possibility of a generalizable performance scale is slim to none, however I’m confident in my ability to recruit and implement the study in this area. Plus the follow-up study is likely to also have a sample of convenience due to the practicality of implementing an intervention in the place where the researcher (me) lives. If I try and spread my reach nationally or internationally, this is obviously a benefit to the validity and generalizability of the study, but people in Uganda and Canada are likely to have far different opinions about dance and the quality of a performance than people in Chicago. Perhaps herein lies the problem, and why I can’t find an existing model that convincingly grades aesthetic performance.
Somewhere in the Bernard, it says that some things just aren’t meant to be researched. Oh dear…. is this one of those things?
I’m just finishing the chapter on sampling (admittedly late), and thinking back to my ongoing survey research. There was little to no intelligent design when it came to the subject pool. I cast my line as far and wide as I could to get dancers to self-elect for this survey. The result, at present, is a sample of 400 dancers from all over, but highly concentrated in the Chicago area because of my reach. That, by the way, is an assumption because location is not an item we asked for (oops).
In the course of these past 500-ish words, rather than figuring out what sort of data I need, I’ve managed to strike a blow to my confidence instead. I’m reminded of the advice of Wolcott (paraphrased):
Get started. Practice research, even if you suck at it, because it’ll get better every time you do it.
I read plenty of lousy research studies, and one hopes that one won’t join the lot of them, but I suppose I can’t expect everything to be perfect the first few times around. I mean, if the IRB said that it was ok, it couldn’t have been that bad, right?!? Perhaps what’s important in doing and writing research is not eliminating flaws, but recognizing and acknowledging them.
Side note: I’ve been thinking a lot about something that was said in class last week in the round table with Dr. Brittian. I fully accept and honor the need to be rigorous in one’s work, and passionate to a fault. As such, I completely agree with the advice to specialize in qualitative or quantitative research. As I’ve mentioned before, I feel myself aligning with a qualitative approach to historically quantitative questions. However, my work, and my life in general, have always taken on an interdisciplinary nature. Perhaps I’m easily distracted, or self-deprecating to the point that I feel like I have to be good at everything, but I’ve also come to feel that my ability to transcend occupational labels has been an advantage.
The lack of inter-disciplinarians, in fact, is likely why dancers have little concept of the research conducted on dancers. So I’m left to wonder: is it possible to be rigorous at multiple things, particularly if it fills an existing gap?