Research Reasoning and Analysis

Advice on research usually covers 'physical' issues such as finding books, conducting experiments, and searching computer databases. Such advice does not, however, address the key point that, since knowledge and reasoning are intimately connected, then searching for knowledge is a part of reasoning. The common thread between research and reasoning is that they both involve analysis: the thinking through of the connections between claims (or information). If we cannot consciously control our analysis (our 'thinking moves'), then our research will fail to address the particular needs of the argument or explanation that we develop on the basis of what we discover. Furthermore, there is an easy way to conceptualise what we mean by analysis: it simply involves a constant process of asking questions. Questioning and testing possibilities are the most important 'thinking moves'.

Four aspects of research, reasoning, and analysis will be discussed in this chapter:

1 We will look at knowledge in more detail. Reasoning depends absolutely on knowledge; knowledge is the way that innumerable little pieces of information about the world are linked. Questions are a way of expressing and testing these links and, hence, are the crucial component of analysis.

2 We will then look at four perspectives on the process of finding information (what some might call doing research) as a reasoning process. We will look at:

• Information understood by where we find it.

• Information as it relates to other information.

• Information classified by the topic under investigation.

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• Information as it relates to how we are using it.

3 We will examine some general issues to do with sources. Sources can only be used effectively if we understand that the context in which the source was created is different from the context in which we are using the information from that source. If we do not recognise this change in context, we are not properly analysing that information.

4 We will look at how questions can guide our search, and at how we can take information away from our sources, not just as 'information', but in a form that can easily be inserted into our arguments and explanations.

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