Research is a Community Process

Research is a Community Process

Researchers, even the most experienced ones, never work alone.  During a person’s dissertation journey, he or she develops a proposal and a protocol, collects the data, conducts the analysis, and writes the dissertation.  It might seem like a solo project, but it is not.  The person has lots of help along the way.  The dissertation mentor, the committee, and various professors are all part of the community that contributes to the person’s success.  Research always involves a community of people that is larger than many junior scholars realize.  The purpose of this article is to encourage readers to become active members of the larger scholarly community, build their personal community of researchers, and see committee personnel and administrators as an important part of the group.

After a person earns the coveted title of “Doctor” what should he or she do next?   One of the first steps a person should take after earning his or her doctorate or PhD is join a community of researchers and fellow scholars.  While a newly minted doctor is technically qualified to conduct research, there is a difference between a qualified and an expert researcher.  Associating with experienced scholars through conferences, webinars, and mentorship events can help new researchers sharpen their skills, learn other research methods, and gain new perspectives (Nolte, Bruce, & Becker, 2014).  

There are many formal groups that one could join.  For University of Phoenix (UOPX) alumni, the Research Hub and the School of Advanced Studies Alumni Research Group are excellent places to start.  UOPX offers eight research centers and 16 special interest groups in the Research Hub.  Alumni, faculty, and SAS students may join any one of them at no cost.  The research centers also provide calls for participation and list professional associations that offer scholars multiple conferences throughout the year to present their findings and interact with other experts in their field.  These professional associations are not free to join, but membership often comes with many benefits including free or reduced prices for webinars, books, journals, and conferences.  UOPX offers its own annual research conference, Knowledge Without Boundaries, at various campuses in the United States.

Formal associations and groups provide forums to meet new people.  Individual researchers should use these forums to build their own professional learning network (PLN).  A PLN is a group of people that share common interests and learn from each other (Way, 2012).  By creating a PLN, the new scholar provides for himself or herself a fellowship of people that can be called on for advice, assistance with a project, and friendly encouragement.  Social media can help researchers build their professional network.  The UOPX Research Hub, Research Gate, Google Scholar, Academia.edu, LinkedIn, and the UOPX Alumni Association are just a few of the platforms for building a personal network, attracting like-minded scholars, and publishing one’s work.  The SAS Alumni Research Special Interest Group is an excellent addition to anyone’s PLN.

So far, this article laid out the benefits of formal associations and personal professional networks, but there is another group of people that has not been described.  These people work behind the scenes, but are invaluable to a researcher’s professional life.  Who are they?  They are the committees and administrators that make the research engine go.  Institutional review boards (IRBs), scientific review committees (SRCs), grant reviewers, administrators and office support personnel are invaluable to the research process.  Inexperienced researchers often see these people as obstacles to prevent them from pursuing their dream projects.  While IRBs and SRCs are gatekeepers to an extent, they and their anonymous administrators are also research enablers.  Without them, no legitimate research is possible.  Rather than view this group of people as the invisible enemy, researchers should assume that these professionals are able and willing to help.  Researchers should understand the role of committees and administrators, learn the rules and principles behind their structures, and reach out to them with questions and concerns.

Formal association, personal learning networks, committees, and administrators should all be part of a scholar’s professional life.  It will take some effort and a small financial investment to build a strong network, but the benefits are tremendous.  The University of Phoenix provides a number of great resources to help both new and experienced researchers develop their skills and increase their networks.

References

Nolte, M. C., Bruce, M. A., & Becker, K. W. (2014). Building a community of researchers using the Research Mentoring Model. The Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 7(2). doi:10.7729/72.1070

Way, J. (2012). Developing a personal learning network for fast and free professional learning. Access, 26(1), 16-19.

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Dr. Daniel Roberts

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Daniel Roberts
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