A Reflection Statement of My Research in Tanzania
When I was reviewing the process of my research: How I chose the research question; How I struggled with the research proposal; Contradictions I was facing during the research; Being puzzled with what methodologies to take; Getting no clues from a mess of data … I finally found that: My way to research is a fight against my stubborn thoughts.
In my end product (view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44otR5q0a4A ), I divided my process of research into FOUR steps, which are:
- STEP 1: Economic or Language? (Finding a Research Question)
- STEP 2: Different views about Confucius Institutes? (Finding a Research Question)
- STEP 3: Browsing reports and posts online; (Choosing the Research Object)
- STEP 4: Data Processing / Visualization. (Settling Down the Methodology, Theory Framework, and Research Tools)
STEP 1 and STEP 2 are more related to Finding a Research Question, STEP 3 is about Choosing the Research Object, while STEP 4 is about Settling Down the Methodology, Theory Framework, and Research Tools.
I finally decided to make a video for my end product as I think my research process is a continuous exploration process. I hope the audience could feel my emotional changes through the video I made.
1.1 A stubborn beginning: Economic or Language ?
Before leaving for Tanzania, my research question was about “The economic effects brought by Tanzania’s Confucius Institutes”. When I was presenting my research plan, I was questioned by the audience: “Why do you choose a topic not so related to the things you were doing?”; “How will you get the confidential data to support your research?”; “Why not make full use of your language advantages?”
In fact, the research directions and research questions I chose at the beginning were more based on my interests during that time, I didn’t fully consider the process of research conducting. The reason why I didn’t choose a topic related to language was that I thought “language is something I’ve been doing for such a long time! I want to try something new and interesting!” It turns out that, what I thought was so stubborn and immature! The research direction could be a combination of both Economy and Language. Besides personal interest, there are so many things to be considered, especially how to conduct the research.
1.2 A contradictory situation: Different views about Confucius Institutes?
It was a few days after my arriving in Tanzania, I met a lady in a local bar, she told me that the Tanzanian government is going to start their own Chinese teaching school, as they think China has gained too many profits from Confucius Institutes, the local government should take over the business to make more contributions to native people.
That was totally different from what I heard from the local students, almost all of them were quite POSITIVE about the contributions Confucius Institutes have made. As non-profit organizations, how could Confucius Institutes gain profits? The contradiction aroused my interest, then I decided to do some research on “The Image of Confucius Institutes in Tanzania”.
1.3 Desperate to find the answer: Browsing reports and posts online?
As the contradiction had aroused my interest, I was so desperate to find out local people’s true attitudes towards Confucius Institutes. So I started browsing related reports and related posts / comments on local social media. It turns out that the remarks on internet are more critical with the authors or posters not considering about my ethnicity and the potential results their remarks might withdraw. So after browsing information online, I decided to choose online texts as my research object.
1.4 To be more organized: Data Processing / Visualization
After settling down my research question and research object, I read a few literature works and talked with my supervisor. He was quite supportive and advised me to refer to Helsinki Corpus to get more information. Unfortunately, there were few related texts in Helsinki Corpus, but his suggestion motivated me to learn more about the functions of Corpus tools. After realizing how helpful they were to discourse analysis, I eventually chose AntConc to support my research.
When preparing for Assignment 3.2 in Block 3 (Data Visualization), I approached to Wordcloud ( https://www.wordclouds.com/ ) to assist my analysis. The word cloud generated gives an overview of the keywords in the texts, which helps a lot to lead to the findings of the research.
Thanks to the lectures and assignments in block 3, the well-designed themes helped us to sort out the whole research process and to sum up our own empirical experience.
There were several moments when I felt upset and anxious without knowing what to do. What I’ve learned from my own experience is that: Do not stay where you are without moving. Discovery，such as reading, watching, talking or experiencing, is much more useful than “academic fantasy”. Always be flexible to abandon your stubborn thoughts, embrace your own serendipity on your way of explorations!