Even though we are collectively going through a pandemic, we are not going through the same pandemic. The situation in different countries and cities is unique, each leader is handling it in their own unique way.

I know here in Melbourne, we had relatively low numbers to start, lockdown ended after six weeks, things were starting to open up again, but the numbers spiked, and we are back in lockdown with very tight restrictions. Other parts of Australia opened up and have remained open.

I think it is a relatively safe assumption that most examiners understand that research will be affected by the pandemic. What may not be understood is the reason behind certain choices. I’ve spoken to students who have had other things beyond Covid-19 going on right now, and I think recording that is important and useful. As an example, each university has handled lab work differently. Some students been allowed to go back while other’s have not. Our unique personal have also influenced our ability to work (for example, providing care at home, living alone or living in shared accommodation, your health situation and so on).

So how can keeping a journal help right now? If we are able to record our experiences and capture the thought process behind the decisions we are making, it makes it easier for us when it is time to explain and justify those choices. It also means that we are better able to bring reflexivity into our research, and keeping a journal is a very useful way to do this.

 I think this tweet by Trisha Greenhalgh… highlights the power of reflexivity in research.

She goes on to say that the thesis won the prize for the best thesis that year.

If we capture what is happening in our world right now, reasons behind certain decisions and choices, as well as our thoughts and feelings, it can help us understand our relationship with the research process and provide greater reflexivity. We can document this any number of ways, it doesn’t always need to be written. We can audio record our thoughts, draw them or even do a mind map as some examples.

A research journal does not have to be shared with anyone else, not even your supervisor, though you will likely end up sharing relevant sections of it. It is meant as a way for you to keep a log of things that have an impact on the research process. It is better to capture more rather than less. If you are not sure if it relates to your research, document it anyway. You never know what might be useful for you. Whatever you capture now, can help.

Some of you may be nervous about writing these things down or even audio recording them. It might seem like there has been no logic behind this, or you may not be able to pinpoint why you have made certain decisions. That’s okay, I suggest you still keep going with it. You see, you might not be able to filter out all the noise from the relevant bits right now. If you keep a journal though, you have the jargon as well as the other stuff written, it gives you an opportunity to filter it out later on.

When it comes time to writing up your research further down the track, you will likely have forgotten about some of the nuances behind certain choices, around particular interactions. If you don’t have it recorded in some way, you can’t use it. You don’t lose anything by documenting this information, but you have a lot to gain. You might just gain some clarity and insights into the choices you are making now.

Be as open and honest as you want and as open and honest as you can be. Be reflexive, thoughtful, but above all else, be honest.

One thought on “It’s a pandemic, but it’s different for each of us: This is why a research journal is so important right now.

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