Today we will discuss how to gather and think about objects. Before we begin, let's review the six elements every research project should contain, with their definitions:
- Topic: what is the general subject you wish to research?
- Question: what about your topic interests you? Why should it interest others?
- Objects: what specific cases, historical moments, geographical regions, or social groups most intrigue you, with regard to the question you raised, above? (Note: you may want to think of objects as subsets of your original subject, above.)
- Lens: whose theoretical work will inform and influence you as you consider your questions vis a vis your objects?
- Method: precisely what original work will you be doing as part of your research, how will you do it, when, where, with whom, and why?
- Presentation: how, when, and where do you plan to deliver the findings or results of your original work to your audience?
As noted above, an object can be a case study, a region under analysis, a social group, or even one's own creative practice--as in the case of most students doing the "creative" thesis option. Researchers use objects to ground their theory into lived reality with words like, "for instance."
Comparing & Contrasting Objects
In most research projects, you'll see not one object, but two or three . When you compare and contrast two objects, you are asking three straightforward questions:
- What do these two things have in common?
(i.e. both are video games, both came as a result of a corporate merger, etc.)
- How do these two things differ?
- Vis a vis your research question, which of these is more significant: the differences between these objects, or the similarities?
- Why is that?
Your choice of objects can be a great way to engage the notion of the global. To me, "global" means comparative or cross-thinking. Generally, this involves at least one of the following:
- Thinking across cultures
- Thinking across histories
- Thinking across academic disciplines
- Cross-cultural research might involve comparing national practices, but it could also involve geographical regions within a nation, or compare groups organized by language, religion, age, subcultural practices, etc.
- Cross-historical research tends to involve different chronological time periods, but it could also compare accepted versus contested histories or views of events, populations, etc.
- Cross-disciplinary research tends to contrast views of a phenomenon using different academic fields (e.g. art history and biology; musicology and political theory, etc.), but it could also take the form of “research through practice” or a “creative thesis” in which the researcher creates a film, exhibit, piece of writing, music, advertising campaigns
There are four main ways researchers gather objects:
- through archival research (in libraries, museums, on sites)
- through contemporary news and pop culture web searches
- through interviews with others
- and through their own time observing environments, populations or phenomena.
On this page, you can see a number of popular news sites and blogs we recommend for media and cultural studies researchers. For serious news searching, though, you are going to want to turn to Proquest, a database that hosts thousands of periodicals and newspapers.