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Research Skill »

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Level 5 »


Evaluate Information / Data and the Inquiry Process Rigorously Using Self-Generated Criteria Based on Experience, Expertise and the Literature.

Self-generated evaluation criteria means that students adopt approaches appropriate to the inquiry without guidelines preset by lecturers. This 5th level of autonomy would commonly require an engagement with the literature appropriate to the university year of the student, building on past research experience and demonstrating expertise.

In a RSD seminar it was asked if students could commence a course of study with an open inquiry, with no structure and guidance ie pitched at Level V. The answer was ‘Of course, and it is possibly appropriate to do this, to determine, for example the range of student strengths and weaknesses in inquiry in the discipline of concern.’. However, students with little expertise in the discipline, or specifically research in the discipline may frequently generate aims, questions of hypothesis lacking substance and difficult to answer or address, and have relatively poorly thought out evaluation criteria. In most contexts it would be unusual for all but the best students to provide evidence of working with a level of autonomy even approaching that demanded of Level 5 for each facet, without significant incremental skill development. Yet this, of course is the requirement of Masters by Research and especially PhDs.

Where do the sophisticated skills of operating autonomously in every research facet come from? No wonder many students struggle with their research thesis, no wonder supervisors often feel frustrated with the lower levels of student autonomy ie dependence, frequently presented to them, and no wonder there are moves to more coursework in PhDs. Of course students who can work autonomously, but do so without the degree of academic rigor required will also, ultimately, flounder.

Evaluation skills are pivotal in quality inquiry, and built on a sound understanding of knowledge and process used in a discipline. Appraising really takes place during every facet of research, as frequently, information gathering or organising or synthesising leads a student to reframe their research question, hypothesis or aim, in effect to embark once more. Most ocean voyages have a specific port of first departure, but multiple embarkations; it is the iterative and ongoing process of evaluation that frequently demands this.


Research Skill Development

Established October 2006

School of Education

6.22, 10 Pulteney Street
The University of Adelaide
SA 5005


Dr John Willison
T: +61 8 8313 3553

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