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Elements of Inquiry: An Introduction

 Talking informally about their research, many scholars can identify a personal connection to the work they do in their professional roles as teachers and researchers. That connection might be grounded in a sense of social responsibility, that is, some drive to create change in the world or it might be because the research connects meaningfully with a scholar’s personal, family, or community history. It may also be that a scholar pursues a particular research topic because he or she finds the subject intriguing and is intellectually curious and driven to know more for no obvious reason at all beyond fascination.

Far from secondary or extracurricular interests, a personal connection to research can be a powerful pathway for learning and gaining knowledge. As you make your way through this course, we ask that you pursue twin paths of inquiry: a path of reflection and a path of research. Both actions will take you on a search for information and knowledge. 

When we reflect on issues or ideas, we let our mind turn things over and over, taking time to consider and reconsider many perspectives. To reflect means to think carefully about our own experience, both current and past, as we take stock of what we know about a particular issue. Reflection recalls what we have thought and felt about that issue as we open ourselves to new ways of understanding our experience.

Research is likely the more familiar pathway of learning in the university. Going to the library, searching for books and articles, running experiments, gathering a body of scholarship on a particular issue or topic—these are among the traditional activities of researchers.

We hope you will see that these twin paths of reflection and research ultimately intersect as you reflect on your own experience and growing knowledge, and consult the work of researchers who have come before you. The direction you take will ultimately be up to you, and based on this intertwining of reflection and new information. To get you thinking about what you already know and the ways you’ve already been successful in this pursuit of information and knowledge, please open the Assignments Link and read the directions for the Reflective Essay Assignment: Literacy Narrative.

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