Define Research: “It’s Complicated”

Define Research: “It’s Complicated”

Research QuestionsMark Kunkel

Meet Brother Mark Kunkel.  You can review his UWG profile through the link I have provided.

Brother Mark has a Ph.D. in Psychology and is an Associate Professor at UWG.  I chose Brother Mark to interview because he is unique and interesting.  His answers to the questions are not traditional.

How does research factor into your work?

“It depends on how “research” is defined. It’s complicated.  I rarely “do” research, scholarship (learning) is an essential element of my work.”

Dr. Kunkel referenced his preferences to be “scholarship, critical thinking, curiosity, informed, and conceptual rather than anecdotal, personal perspectives.”

“…factor into is worth being curious about.  Does the person asking the question know about Eigenvalues (each of a set of values of a parameter for which a differential equation has a nonzero solution (an eigenfunction) under given conditions) (, and factor loadings (Factor analysis attempts to explain the correlations between the observations in terms of the underlying factors, which are not directly observable.) (, and orthogonality (in general use, relevant to something else?)  What’s up with asking the question this way?  Isn’t that already sublimely interesting?

The heart of research is precisely THIS sort of activity: to be curious and careful about what is otherwise taken for granted.  That process, of looking again with wonder and awe and in companionship with theoretical and conceptual colleagues, matters hugely to me.”

How is that different from non-faculty jobs in this field?  What types of research do jobs in the field normally involve?

How is that (the referrant for “that” is research..) different?  My bet is that faculty members who are psychologists “do” more research than psychologists who aren’t faculty members.  The modal number of life-time research projects for practicing Ph.D. psychologists is (yes) one, a dissertation.  Why is that?  My guess is that it has to do with an artificial and unhelpful separation of research (as activity) from practice (as applied scholarship).  Too bad.

Do you conduct research (yes, all the time)  and publish articles, (not much) or present at conferences (no)?  Is research and publication required to advance in your field (yes!)? 

“We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy, in my view, crafting self-serving and self-referential unsituated little studies that only other psychologists will read, so as to be tenured and promoted.  We could be “giving psychology away” in ways that matter.”

As far as research tools, magazines, blogs, etc.., Dr. Kunkel left it as an exercise for me.  The APA is the most commonly used tool in psychology.

He did say that he “reads like crazy, everything he can get his hands on regarding the human condition and psychology and hope and faith and all the rest.  I find most “professional” journals and virtually all blogs to be irrelevant to my scholarship-practice.”

Do you belong to any professional organizations, attend conferences, or professional learning events?

“I used to belong to APA, but resigned several years ago in large measure because of the complicity of my profession in torture and PTSD disability determination, among other things.  I attend conferences on neurobiology, mind, culture, and folk music.  I sponsor a yearly colloquium series that is poorly attended.”

You may read his response to why he believes the colloquium is poorly attended as well  his recommendations for professional groups, websites, or conferences for students in my original interview. (Click the link at the top Research Questions)

When you grade, what distinguishes an A research project from a B or C project?

“Grading is a piece of research leading to be reliable and valid…” So, “A” grades reflect responses following the rubric in an exceptional way rather than merely adequate.  The trick with grading is to achieve reliability (consistently across things graded, and time grading) and validity (faithfulness to what is being measured, in a way that relates learning more broadly defined, distinguishes people who demonstrate learning from those who do not, and correlates meaningfully to other measures of learning and achievement…)  We call these construct validity, concurrent validity, discriminant validity, and predictive validity, in the research and science biz.”

If you managed to stay with us to the end, you will agree that this was a very interesting and unique interview just like Brother Mark himself.





8 thoughts on “Define Research: “It’s Complicated”

  1. When I saw that you interviewed Brother Mark I knew I was in for a fun ride. His answers are more than just answers he actually makes you think and comprehend what he’s saying rather than just agreeing with him. He allows you to be more engaged and eager to hear the rest of his claim.


  2. He says he rarely does research but then says he reads a lot? Isn’t reading in a way “doing research”? Brother Mark confuses me and i’m glad I did’t have him as a teacher. But I do like the choice of cardigan in his picture.


  3. I really like Brother Mark’s interview. I do not know him personally, but I have heard a lot of good things about him. I like the way he answers his questions because he answers the question but leaves you thinking after almost every question. This could be why he is a Ph.D in psychology.


  4. Susan I really think you did a great job on this assignment. I love that you chose Brother Mark, I do not know him personally but I already knew that this interview was going to be far from ordinary. I like how he answered your question and then questions you a sense. Thus making you think and your readers as well. When I started reading your blog post I was concerned that he would use vocabulary in which I would not know the context in Psychology. This is when you defined his context in parenthesis, which was excellent. The only think that I would have liked to see would be a little blurb of how this department applies to your future. Overall great job and I love reviewing your posts!


  5. You were right, he does sound like a character!

    As for his comment about non-faculty research – “Why is that? My guess is that it has to do with an artificial and unhelpful separation of research (as activity) from practice (as applied scholarship). Too bad.”

    I was really hoping to see more people break down that separation. How can you be a successful practicing psychologist without keeping up with the current research in the field? And isn’t that a type of research? Sure, a psychologist my never run a controlled experiment again after completing a dissertation, but there is a whole range of activities that can be considered research… A lot of students think they won’t have to do research after they graduate, since they will no longer have to write research papers, but that’s not true. Research just takes a different form and leads to different types of outputs after graduation!


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