Phase I: Planning

To be playful and serious at the same time is possible, and it defines the ideal mental condition. Absence of dogmatism and prejudice, presence of intellectual curiosity and flexibility, are manifest in the free play of the mind upon a topic.

—John Dewey

This and the next two chapters present a methodology for research where many ideas discussed previously in this book are given a more concrete form. The research process is outlined using a number of activities and conceptual tools aimed at familiarizing the reader with ways of thinking that are useful in the various phases of research.

There is a potential danger in presenting research as a sequence of activities, since it could be interpreted as a fixed recipe for research. All research projects are unique and the path from question to answer tends to vary greatly. Still, most research tasks go through similar phases and the aim of the methodology is to help the reader reflect on the various activities that take place between these two points. This is not a cookbook. It is a series of examples and exercises meant to expand and elaborate the ways in which you think about your research.

This chapter focuses on the phase that takes place before any data are collected. In many ways, most of the intellectual effort of a research project goes into this phase; tools for generating and evaluating hypotheses will be of central interest.

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