Why do I do research? Mama Ph D answers!

In a must read piece at InsideHigherEd, Libby Gruner writes about research, teaching and publishing; here are some of the highlights:

As I do every May, I asked myself, “why do I do research?” The rewards, at this stage in my career, are small; the costs, in terms of time spent with family or time spent directly on teaching, can at times be high. And yet this week, as more reading has breathed life into the abstract and I’ve generated more text, more ideas, more notes, I think I know: I do research because it’s how I stay involved in my field. The next time I teach the books I’m writing about I’ll have new things to say about them, new questions to ask.The reverse is true as well: my current research project on literature and education came directly out of my teaching. In my current work, I’m writing about three novels, one of which I’ve taught several times. Each time I teach it I learn something new; the result of several years’ teaching experience with this text is about to find its way into print, and I’m now exploring a new approach to it.

I may not, then, publish my research in a top journal (though I may). If I don’t, I won’t reap the most obvious rewards of research: public recognition by my peers and advancement in the academic hierarchy. But I’ll still have achieved my own main goal for research, which is to reinvigorate my teaching and expand my knowledge of my field. Is it naïve to think I’m not alone in this? I don’t think so. But I do find myself agreeing with the commenters on last week’s article, that we need to rethink how we measure and name research as we continue to think about how and why we reward it. I’ll keep doing what I do because it makes me better at my job—or so I like to think. I’d like to be part of a system that recognizes and rewards that improvement, too.


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