Brenda Knights Narrative

The level of effort I put into research depends on how important the decision is. If it’s something that has a major financial impact to the organization, I will spend more time using academic research to back up what I’m saying. If there’s some resistance to the idea, I’ll take a research-based approach as opposed to a top-down approach. Time is the biggest challenge. We may not have the time and the research may not be available.

In my own Masters program, I’m finding that in Indigenous Studies, there’s not a lot of research and you’re often having to draw on information from around the world. I’ll read research from Australia or New Zealand and it’s often focused on tourism. In the US, it’s focused on casinos. Within Canada, it can be challenging because some of the research is around nations who have incredible land value, and it’s hard to relate it back to my own community.

But I think within those projects, there’s value because even though they’re different, those nations often started from the place my community is currently in. How did they get there? I can recall a report on tourism in Canada in Indigenous communities. I was able to look at the report and see where they got their information, and find older research reports that were more in line with where my community was at. Sometimes I’ll even use those reports to draw out questions I might want to do my own research around. What’s missing here? I’ll look up the names of people who might have been involved, and I’ll go cold-calling. I’ve found that people are really receptive, especially if you’re a student and you’re doing a project. People are happy to talk. That’s often a great way to get new information.

Sometimes you need to do your own digging to find information that’s at the right scale for you. For example, the Maori have amazing tourism programs in New Zealand. We’re not at the stage they’re at, but there are similarities in terms of how they carry it out in an authentic way and what cultural traditions they bring into that environment. Having an inquisitive mind when you’re reading the source, then jotting down questions you might need more information about helps to make the source more relevant. It’s a place to start. It’s not always easy, but I find that in every paper I read, there’s something new, something valuable that I can take and use. You just have to dig through it and find it. Also, it’s okay if the research doesn’t support you.  You don’t want to ignore that. Paying attention to research that doesn’t support you will prevent you from going down the wrong path.

I also find that often people’s research questions are too challenging. Research grows over time. Sometimes we want to reach this grandiose conclusion and produce this amazing report, so we come up with a big question, but the information isn’t available yet. Often, we need to back it up a bit. Is it too complex? What research is available, how can we grow this research a little bit, what new question hasn’t been answered? You may have a big idea, but the research isn’t there yet, it may not be our time for the answer to be revealed. So, don’t make it too difficult on yourself.


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