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Research Intelligence

Winter 2022/23

Research Intelligence issue 153: Off the cutting room floor: Learning from research when things do not go as planned

Off the cutting room floor: Learning from research when things do not go as planned

Research Intelligence issue 153

Reflecting and learning to adapt to unplanned circumstances is an important skill for all researchers. However, rarely in published journal articles is there acknowledgement or exploration of times when research has not gone according to plan.

Guest-edited by Carmel Capewell, Bukola Oyinloye and Alison Fox, this issue of Research Intelligence shares reflections from researchers who, at various stages in their careers, have gained valuable learning from unintended developments in their research.

The articles highlight that research does not always follow the plan that was accepted by an ethics committee but is sometimes less acceptable to potential participants. The methodologies employed are varied, demonstrating that research, particularly when involving people, is a negotiated activity. Human participants have a tendency to think about what is being asked of them, but then to make their own choices and adaptations. 

Inspired by the approach of filmmakers who present entertaining scenes omitted from the final cut of a film along with the credits, ‘Off the cutting room floor’ aims to normalise the sharing of experiences of when research does not go as expected.

Contributions to this issue:

  • Bukola Oyinloye highlights the often invisible tensions between the gatekeepers in a study. She cautions to be attuned to the undercurrents between people if one is to have access to potential participants.
  • Patrick Alexander, in his ethnographic study in a school setting, reflects that once in the field, there is a need to consider the researcher’s position as viewed by others.
  • Bonita Cabiles reflects on her interactions with a research participant, particularly around establishing rapport and sharing moments of the participant’s experience outside the research focus.
  • Carmel Capewell reflects on how her eagerness to give young participants choice led to confusion and a focus on the technology.
  • Katarzyna Gawlicz explores the impact on research when young people exert their right not to participate, with consequent impact on the researcher.
  • Hibah Aladsani cautions early career researchers (ECRs) not to let their enthusiasm for trying new methodologies run away with them. She identifies the salutary lessons she learned, and how she salvaged the situation and published the research.
  • Alison Fox shares some experiences of researchers’ adaptations and learning when participants do not come forward to take part in research.
  • Lynne Taylerson explores the importance of protecting participants’ identities when using online social platforms such as Twitter and how adaptations can be made, with a bit of researcher ingenuity.

Elsewhere in this issue:

  • We share highlights from BERA Annual Conference 2022, including photographs from the keynote, plenary and parallel sessions, as well as the networking events.
  • Profiles of the 2022 John Nisbet fellows, Pamela Munn and Steve Graham, are featured.
  • PhD student, Sarah Clayton, who is supported by BERA’s 2022 Doctoral Fellowship, shares her research proposal looking at key concepts for understanding climate change in secondary science.
  • Lucian Ciolan offers a process perspective on educational policy in Romania and beyond.
  • Kathryn Spicksley, Cherry Zin Oo and Anna Mariguddi, who were awarded the 2021 BERA ECR Career Development Fellowship, reflect on both the challenges and the successes that they have experienced as ECRs.

Guest editors

Profile picture of Carmel Capewell
Carmel Capewell, Dr

Senior Lecturer at Oxford Brookes University

Carmel is a Lecturer in Early Years and Child Development at Oxford Brookes University. She has a strong interest in developing innovative research methods, particularly to encouraging the participation of young people in expressing and sharing...

Profile picture of Bukola Oyinloye
Bukola Oyinloye, Dr

Research Associate at University of York

Dr Oyinloye is a Research Associate at the University of York where she examines the doctoral applicant recruitment and selection landscape towards exploring opportunities to improve access for underrepresented groups. Alongside this, she...

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Alison Fox, Dr

Senior Lecturer at The Open University

Dr Alison Fox (BSc, Durham; MSc, Aberdeen; PGCE, Cambridge; MEd, Cambridge; PhD, Open) is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education...