Shaun Hides Talk – Research Methodology

Perhaps the defining part of this module was that we as the group could shape our own timetable and decide what lectures would benefit us in relation to writing our research papers. One of the areas the group identified as a weak point was how to structure the research paper, so Anthony arranged Shaun Hides to give us a lecture on research papers and the process behind creating them. The notes from this session can be seen below:


  • In order to feel confident with writing research papers we would need to feel comfortable with the language associated with them.
  • Writing a research paper is an iterative process: each redraft is a progression
  • Different from usual photography projects, there is no ‘inspiration’ without the hard work and research first
  • Feedback is an essential part of the process, your work will never be perfect so don’t hold back from showing it to people and finding out where to improve

The Question:

  • In a research project you should always ask an answerable question that avoids being opinionated, for example: where is photography going?
  • You can’t base a research project on an opinionated statement as there is no way to prove or disprove an opinion
  • When deciding the question we should constantly consider whether it is opinionated and open ended and if it is then it needs to be changed
  • The question must have the capacity to be concluded, however there will be parameters as to how finite the conclusion will be
  • In conclusion the question needs to be specific, defined and answerable


  • What counts as evidence?
  • How do we evaluate evidence?
  • You have to think about the mode of address
  • Make sure you can use it in a coherent, rigorous, persuasive, well-argued and thoughtful manner
  • Don’t aim to be ‘academic’, just aim to argue your point coherently
  • When it comes to primary against secondary sources, you need to consider which approach will be the most effective in relation to your question
  • When it comes to the individual sources, you should trust independent, regulatory organisations, not commercial sources as they will always be trying to sell you something with their results
  • Academic writing should also be considered as the writer could have been funded by a particular organisation to write about associated subject matter (a writer funded by Canon writing about Canon perhaps shouldn’t be trusted as much)

The Recipe for Success:

  • The question: is it specific and answerable, does it matter to you, is it a point you can build on and conclude
  • Use appropriate sources and use them effectively, if you don’t understand a piece of writing talk to someone who has or find an article written on it and use that initial interpretation as an entry point; scale your approach
  • Your concept should be something original, even if the subject matter has been covered before, take it and interpret it with your own understanding
  • Decide which stance to take and base your ideology on the frame work of another practitioner/writer, follow a framework as there isn’t enough time to form your own fully comprehensive view
  • We need to ask ‘what do I want to know’ and ‘what is the most efficient way to get the answer’
  • Primary research is perhaps not the most effective option as it takes a lot of work and to get an accurate result there needs to be as many participants as possible
  • Using a defined concept and framework we should ask questions that we can answer
  • Use this concept and framework to interpret the resources and the define the nature of them


  • Answer the question, using the concept and framework to present the answer
  • Use case studies and evidence to support your answer to the questions


This talk raised some questions for me in relation to my symposium proposal, the main question was whether I could use the opposition between Fred Ritchin and Stephen Mayes established in the Phonar lectures as a framework for my symposium paper. The response was positive, this would be a suitable structure for my symposium however I would need a third viewpoint to make links and contrast the other two; Anthony identified in a later apt that this person could easily be me. With a framework identified I felt confident in going forward and writing a draft to be ready in time for the first practice run.




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