Research – exciting but terrifying

Posted on April 18, 2010

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I am giving serious thought to returning to university from the second half of this year to undertake a Masters by Research.

It was one of the profs from the uni who put the idea into my head several months ago. At first I thought she meant returning to do the Masters in Creative Writing by course work. But my last lot of studies did roughly half the syllabus for that, only leaving what I thought was boring stuff still to be done. But no, she meant doing it by research.

Research is one of those things that I have a love-hate relationship with. If it is something interesting, I love getting buried in research, finding out ever so many fascinating and useful or even useless things. But then the research itself can take over from what I was originally intending. “Gosh, that’s fascinating – I’ll go read a bit more about that.” Before you know it, you have wandered entirely away from where you were supposed to be going. Fascinating, interesting and entertaining, but far from a good use of my time if I am supposed to be doing something quite specific.

At present, my research project is going to be centreing on the Battle of Fromelles from World War 1. This first engagement of Australia troops on the Western Front in July, 1916, was practically forgotten until quite recent years. Yet in many respects, it was a far bigger disaster than the Gallipoli landings that every Australian schoolchild knows about. Fifteen months on from the original landings at Gallipoli, what did this combination of survivors from the Dardenelles and new recruits, think about going into action in France only days after their arrival at the front? Were they thinking about nationhood and all the rest of the mythology that has grown up around the Anzacs?

There is a staggering wealth of original material in the archives of the Australian War Memorial, that fortunately I live quite close to. The prospect of all the reading I have to do in histories, biographies, diaries, letters and more that faces me, is quite daunting.

The anticipated project would result in a large research paper that addresses my research question and a large piece of creative writing that further addresses the subject.

For now I have to focus on determining exactly what my precise research question will be as part of my research proposal. Already the reading in support of that is proving a combination of fascinating, thought provoking and challenging. And that is just fine tuning the actual point to be researched.

With all that in my head, I suspect that marching in this year’s Anzac Day remembrances will be particularly poignant for me.

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