Over the course of this process of creating, revising and specifying my research topic, I have discovered a great many things about myself and the process of research design. When I embarked on this mission to study the effects of new interventions in the defense language courses being conducted for military personnel, I first thought I would combine quantitative with qualitative methods of data collection and analysis to create a mixed methods approach. However, as I continued in my research, I realized I was far more concerned with the effect of the interventions in the DLIC on the students than just the oral language proficiency of the students as a result. While that would remain a vital part of my qualitative research, I decided I would cut out the quantitative portion of my study in lieu of pure qualitative research. This allowed me to get into trends that would not only learn what creates more proficient Arabic speakers in a defense context, but to see if these new interventions improved the education experience as a whole.
Some of the more interesting things I have learned about the research process came from my readings and discoveries of the different perspectives I had to keep in mind during the creation of my proposal. First, I had to determine what the focus and locus of my inquiry were; while I knew that I wanted to determine how well these defense language courses improved through these interventions, I had not thought about specifying my reasons why. Investigating my focus and locus of inquiry allowed me to see that I wanted to discover more about improvements to defense language courses as a means to facilitate communication between military personnel in the field. This would allow for greater rapport and, ideally, better outcomes in military operations and occupations in Arabic-speaking countries. Acknowledging and exploring these aspects of my study helps me immensely in knowing where to focus my energies, and to see the through line of studies like mine.
Going through each individual stage of my study - from focus/locus to preliminary research design and beyond - has proven to be a very comprehensive and gradual way to overcome my anxieties about conducting such a large-scale study, particularly given the fact that these interventions are not of my making (merely evaluating the effectiveness of existing interventions). Discovering further measures to establish and maintain the integrity of my study methods was something I had not thought about at length, and I was glad for the opportunity to make sure that my studies would be as authentic as possible. Deciding that I would allow for open, free-form interviews, and just record key words that would pop up in conversation, was a decision I was glad to make due to its ability to lessen leading statements. These decisions have helped me shape the interview and data collection process I wish to conduct, as well as the methods of displaying and analyzing this qualitative data (concept charts, etc.).
This entire process has made me feel much more secure and confident as a researcher. Understanding the why behind my inquiry gives me purpose, and encouraging specificity in my methods allows me to ask questions I should have been asking in the first place. With these answers, I feel good about the inquiry I have created, and confident it will result in a valid and intriguing study.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Shank, G. D. (2006). Qualitative research: A personal skills approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.
Schram, T. H. (2006). Conceptualizing and proposing qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall