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Knowledge production and disciplinary practices in a British University: A qualitative cross-disciplinary case study

Woods, Helen Buckley (2018) Knowledge production and disciplinary practices in a British University: A qualitative cross-disciplinary case study. EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Knowledge is a controversial matter in UK Higher Education (HE). The increasing regulation of universities’ research focus and outputs, and the balance of applied and pure research are highly contested. Funders and government call increasingly for research that is co-produced with non-academic partners, and that demonstrates impact beyond HE. Many academics also support these calls. Yet at grass-roots level, there are epistemological tensions such as researchers’ rights to academic freedom. Moreover, there is a lack of literature exploring current research practices from a cross-disciplinary perspective. This cross-sectional, qualitative case study aimed to explore researchers’ experiences to understand if, why and how, these pressures have changed disciplinary working practices and knowledge types, and what researchers think of these changes. The study took place in one research-intensive UK University using group interviews in four disciplinary areas. Data was analysed at a semantic level, using thematic analysis. The theoretical lens of “social realism” provided a philosophical basis to the research and aided understanding of the data. Researchers reported changes to working practices because of emphasis on research relevance, technological advances and pressures to work across disciplines. There was a broadening of knowledge types and a simultaneous narrowing of research topics in some disciplinary areas. Depending on the types of knowledge they worked with, researchers had different perspectives on peer-review, the right to absolute academic freedom and newer forms of research evaluation. There were differences in the data relating to discipline and academic rank. The conclusions advocate a social realist position, with four recommendations: maintenance of impact in the REF and the introduction and monitoring of the effect of “responsible metrics” to protect disciplinary research; the tailoring of professional learning opportunities regarding research practice to disciplinary contexts; future research in relation to Basil Bernstein’s work on the trajectory of singular and regional knowledge forms.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Helen Buckley Woods
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2019 09:27
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2019 14:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22967

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