When your research expectations don’t match what’s out there

Over the last ten days, I have begun thinking more seriously about my Capstone Project. After creating my production plan, the logical step was to begin research for the content of the project. Unfortunately, all of the information I anticipated finding is nowhere to be found anywhere on the internet or in a scholarly journal. My search terms all yield millions of results, but none of them are quite what I am looking for.

Specifically, my project has to do with the discrepancies between gender roles and gendered characteristics when it comes to living arrangements. As per my production plan, my tasks this week included psychological, historical, and interview-based research about the ways people develop gender attitudes and the reasons they hold the attitudes that they do. However, almost all of the information out there, including housing policies, blogs, articles, etc., are about housing that is designed to or should accommodate those who have some kind of gender identification issue, or a housing concern related to sexual orientation and similar issues. These are not areas I am intending to cover, as my project is centered on those who choose to live with those of another gender for social, economic, convenience, or other practical concerns. I am not looking at all at groups who are marginalized, and I definitely don’t want to approach this from a civil rights perspective. As far as media research, I was able to find only one TV show about my type of living arrangement, no movies, and no books.

My professor, Ray, has suggested that I widen my research to include these other aspects of gender and cohabitation, while at the same time narrowing my research to include only one perspective, such as media representations, that consider scenarios different from my own.
This week, I am hoping to make more progress on this front. While the holdup has derailed my production plan a bit, I plan to spend the week working from this changed perspective and catching up in time for our next workshop session.

3 thoughts to “When your research expectations don’t match what’s out there”

  1. Hi Maya,

    Thanks for sharing this. You are definitely not alone in the process of unexpected research results. I have definitely encountered this issue with projects I have done in the past and with this one in certain ways. I agree with Ray that it may help to tackle this issue from other angles perhaps. I think this will only help rather than hinder your project. Consider the fact that there even is a need for ‘gender inclusive’ housing- doesn’t this mean that other housing is gender exclusive? I’m just playing devil’s advocate but questions such as those could certainly provoke interesting thought about your topic.

    Also, I wouldn’t shy away from research that doesn’t fit exactly with your topics. I found that many articles weren’t exactly in line with what I was doing my project yet they proved immensely helpful in moving me forward and generating content. Even if that content doesn’t make it into the final rendition of my project, it kept me moving towards the direction of that final iteration. As Ray stressed, the creation of content consistently has been immensely important. In the past I often found myself holding back from generating content every week in light of the fear that it might not be good enough for the final version yet I’ve found that mentality seldom leads to productivity. Building upon what you already have at hand almost always helps you work through to better revelations and research analysis.

    Sounds like you are on your way though and your topic is definitely interesting so don’t get discouraged! I look forward to reading more about your project as it comes along.


  2. Thanks for sharing, Maya. I definitely feel you with the frustrations that research comes with this project. I am anxious to see what you end up choosing in the end. I think that if you were to look more into cohabitation that it might allow you to get an idea of what your original idea was. Immediately I had thought about cohabitation before you even brought it up because that is what I had understand from your first section.

    I do feel like that this project prompt will prepare us in the long run because of all of the unforeseen obstacles that are thrown in our way in this class. We have been use to receiving a topic in our classes that sets us smooth sailing (well for the most part) and now we are given the freedom for what interests us. (Thus the obstacles). I do think that whatever aspect you do choose you will be satisfied in the end.

    Good luck!

  3. Hi Maya,

    I’m glad you decided to share this with the rest of the writing minors, as it is always helpful to gather some new perspectives, especially when you are stuck. I think that the lack of relevant results that your search has provided, can be telling on its own. Perhaps take a step back to first analyze why you had certain expectations, and why perhaps those expectations were not met.

    If you remember, while we were writing our Writer’s Evolution essays, Ray encouraged us to consider what we weren’t including in the essay. Were we excluding these things because they were irrelevant, or were we excluding them because they provided contradictory evidence? I would encourage you to use this same process when approaching the results of your search for information. Are you not using these results because they are irrelevant, or are they perhaps portraying a perspective that is different from the perspective that you are hoping to take? If these results are providing contradictory arguments, it is important you make yourself knowledgeable in what those arguments are, and make sure that your project addresses them. Maybe these results are in fact helpful in setting up the misconceptions of the gender related issues that you are discussing.

    Lastly, perhaps your disappointing results are pointing you towards the need to place a greater emphasis on interview-based research for your project. It sounds like you are writing about something from a perspective that not many people have addressed before, and through interviews you can bring this new perspective to light.

    Thank you for sharing – I’m excited to learn more as you continue to write!


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