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The Value and Limitations of Using Metaphors in Research

Lewin-Jones, Jenny (2017) The Value and Limitations of Using Metaphors in Research. In: The 16th annual School of Education Doctoral Research Conference, 25 November 2017, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

This paper shows how helpful metaphors can be in thinking about research, considering a research approach, and writing about research. Everyday language is rich in metaphor so it can also help the researcher to spot what metaphors are prevalent in the field they are investigating. The paper analyses the metaphors used in a dozen books on research methodology in order to explore how metaphors can reveal perceptions of research and the role of the researcher. For example, research can be seen as “mining information”, “designing a building”, “travelling on a journey”, or “being a detective”. Writers make use of explicit metaphors, contrasting metaphors, multiple metaphors and hidden/dead metaphors, but we also need to consider whether such metaphors can be misleading or inappropriate. Whatever field of education is being studied, the researcher will also find that metaphors are commonplace in written and spoken language. Because they are so frequent, they often go unchallenged and contribute to taken-for-granted assumptions which should be questioned. Reflecting on the metaphors has been helpful to me so far in my EdD research on language learning policy in Higher Education, but I feel that considering metaphors would also be useful for researchers who are not explicitly studying language. [With thanks to Professor Gary Thomas for sparking the idea for this paper via the 2017 edition of his book “How to do your research project” and its mountaineering cover illustration].

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Uncontrolled Keywords: research, research approach, language learning, Higher Education
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts
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Depositing User: Jenny Lewin-Jones
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2017 15:46
Last Modified: 28 Nov 2017 15:46
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/6157

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