Tuesday, June 11, 2019

“Research has shown”

Diana Senechal raised a question at a training session for teachers of English language learners:

“There must be other factors —”

“Research has shown,” the session leader said.

“But how can it be if —”

“Research has shown.”

Before that day, I had thought of research as investigation of uncertainties; now it seemed to put an end to all questions. If research showed something, well, there was nothing you could say; you had to go along with it. “Research has shown” — the phrase struck me with its vagueness, its exaltation of research (regardless of quality), and its use as a mallet to quash discussion.

Diana Senechal, Mind Over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018).
I just got this book from the library and went straight to the chapter about “research has shown,” thinking of a friend who has long been skeptical about that mantra. In English studies, “research has shown” might preface a wildly general claim about writing instruction based on a researcher’s (i.e., a teacher’s) experiment with one semester’s classes. Research has shown: end of discussion.

A few passages from Senechal’s Republic of Noise
“A little out of date” : Buzzwords and education : Fighting distraction : Literature and reverence : “Greater seriousness”

comments: 5

shallnot said...

Another buzz-term to throw at you: Research Creation

I keep wanting to ask that department how can you create research but I fear I’d get an answer. They’re on the 4th floor and I’m on the 1st and perhaps it’s better that way.

Geo-B said...

It's funny, because I distinctly remember being in an English department at a university in 1980, not the university I recently retired from, hearing the expression "all the research shows . . ." I quickly learned that it usually meant that the speaker hadn't actually read the research, which often embodies healthy contradictions. In more recent times, a student would say, well, I've done research on this, and I would politely ask, beyond Wikipedia?

Michael Leddy said...

@shallnot: I’ve heard “knowledge creation” too. I’ll have to see if these turn up in the book.

@Geo-B: i just remembered a line from The Specials’ song “Gangsters”: “Don’t argue.”

Frex said...

Someone was just asking me how anyone could have religious faith.
I said,"In somewhat the same way we moderns have faith in statistics."

Now I can add,"Research has shown" as a credo.

Michael Leddy said...

LOL. I’m waiting for a chance to use it in real life. Or Geo-B’s variant, “All the research shows.”