Changing Your Research Over, and Over, and Over… and Over Again

Eventually, it all starts making sense.

In conducting a lot of this research, and watching some presentations from last week, it appears that a lot of my classmates and I have had to table our assumptions about what we thought we were going to find in our research. And maybe somewhere along the way change the way we thought about our research topic.

During one of the workshop days, Professor Peake told us (more like warned us) to not become discouraged if we found that our research question, or research topic changed the more in depth we got. This has happened to be a few times since the semester started. When we first started thinking about picking our topics I knew I wanted to focus on Imagination. I didn’t know where I wanted to take the research but the word itself implies limitless options. It is important to focus on something that it interesting to you, or that you have a personal stake in, because this will take you further into your research and provide a unique perspective during the research process. So, for this reason I knew I wanted to focus on black women, being a black woman myself.

So after sitting down and figuring out how to merge black women with imagination I came up with the idea of ‘how do black women without a college education who own their own business imagine success.’ I wanted to be as specific as possible so I knew exactly who I was researching and had a clear research question in mind. But shortly after beginning my question bank, and interviewing one person I realized how uncomfortable I was asking questions about their education history, and reasons for why they chose not to attend college. It felt like the questions I was asking were too personal, or possibly inflicting some sort symbolic violence in questioning someone about their personal decisions, which may or may not have been their choice. So, in knowing that I felt uncomfortable asking the questions I decided that it would make sense to drop that portion from my research topic/question.

Learning to curb my preconceived notions about what answers my interviewees would give me during my participant observation also proved to be a difficult task. In one of my media experiments I talked about how I thought that one of the main factors that the women would focus on was money. Using money as the most important favorite to measure their success was not necessarily the case. Obviously, any business needs money to sustain itself, and opening your own business you can charge whatever you want for your goods and services (taking into account its actual value and the prices of your competition) so there is an opportunity to earn unlimited income. But the money was secondary to the independence that came from owning your own business and controlling your own salary. I didn’t account for this perspective so I had to shift my way of thinking while compiling the answers from my interviews.

Overall my project has taken on a life of its own, directing me in the direction that I should go. Something that has me pleasantly surprised is the fact that I am having to do a lot more historical research than I originally intended. I am linking together the views of black women in business from the past and how that unconsciously influences the way the women in business today operate. In the end I would like to show a flow in ideologies overtime and how it’s hard to shake dominant ideologies, especially those tied to racial and gendered identities.