No satisfaction? – by Diana Erandi Barrera Moreno

What is the purpose of research if it cannot help to ease people’s pains? Or is it that just by sacrificing we feel like we can achieve something?

How can I find the words to describe my shock? By the end of the first phase of my research, the people that kindly gave their time to be part of my study asked for the last time whether I was satisfied, or if I gotten what I needed. My emotions were mixed. On the one hand, I felt humbled because they wanted to help. On the other hand, I was struck by the thought of research exploiting people, as if they were objects who contained precious information that needs extracting.

From my perspective there are three key characteristics of research. It should

  1. Provide an intelligible source of information that,
  2. Contributes to improve people’s quality of life, and is
  3. Produced in an ethical environment

I certainly hold my own values and cannot impose them on everyone else. But if research in the social sciences also advocates for the social development of our worlds, it has to be accountable for its means as well as its ends.

For my  doctoral research study I have decided to pursue a more participatory design so as  get my boots dirty by being on the ground – as the noted sociologist, Raewyn Connell,  describes it in her book Southern Theory.  Even though, historically, qualitative research has been admonished for its lack of rigour, I perceive a more challenging environment for its proper development with those who are also in my study.

imageAnd it seems to me that ultimately it is only by walking this road, as I have noted elsewhere, alongside those who are the participants in my study that I will get to know the opportunities and challenges that qualitative research more generally, and Action Research in particular, confronts and from there how I might resolve these issues in ways that meet the characteristics that I have outlined above.

And maybe then I will have a better answer when participants seem puzzled because my study does not involve taking them to university to fill in a questionnaire. And just maybe they will, like me, begin to see that researching alongside me  can actually be fun and interesting and contribute something to the quality of their life rather than just being information for my satisfaction.

Editor’s Note: Diana Erandi Barrera Moreno is a Doctoral Candidate (Education) in the Centre for Globalisation, Education & Social Futures, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. She has working experience in software development and in 2014 she completed an MSc programme in Education, Technology and Society at the University of Bristol. Diana’s current project is aimed at reconnecting and strengthening the links among different generations in Bristol by using technology and exploring personal narratives. Email: