Ivory Tower Writing #17: Analytic memo-taking

This post covers a research-specific writing method known as analytic memo-taking, a skill useful for processing qualitative data.

For those who deal with a lot of qualitative data (e.g. from newspapers, interviews, speeches, and oral history), processing the vast amounts data into something readable requires a degree of skill and a lot of patience and perseverance. One of the ways to ease the burden is by writing analytic memos.

Analytic memos are basically short write-ups, often never exceeding one page (this, of course, is relative to your research), in which you as the researcher record your thoughts/impressions/interpretations. Analytic memos should not be confused with actually writing a draft or manuscript, but your draft will very likely use sentences or substance from your analytic memos.

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Ivory Tower Writing #5: Deciding your methods

This post provides an introduction to the issue of choosing your methods in research.

Once you have decided on a research question, you’re now likely going to start choosing what methods to apply in your research.

Depending on your field of study, your go-to methods will likely be either quantitative or qualitative. Some may say that quantitative methods are better than qualitative methods. Note that neither method is “better” than others absolutely. Imagine trying to cut a steak using a bread knife. Theoretically, you could do it, but then it’ll take a goddamn long time and you’re not doing justice to a prime cut of meat. Instead of insisting on using a bread knife, go buy a proper steak knife. That analogy illustrates the issue of methods: none are absolutely better, they just have different utility depending on what you’re trying to cut. As King, Keohane, and Verba wrote in Designing Social Inquiry (1994):

“All good research can be understood—indeed, is best understood—to derive from the same underlying logic of inference.”

Besides, choosing between qualitative or quantitative isn’t even half the battle.

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