While researchers (both positivists and postpositivists) look outward for evidence from which to make knowledge, scholars look inward to the power of logic and rational thinking. They depend upon dialectic—the process of reasoning correctly—to generate, test, and defend the knowledge they generate.
The knowledge scholars generate is often about the meaning of texts, derived from the act of reading, articulated as critical analysis, and refined by dialectic. For example, in the humanities
- historians argue about the best ways to interpret a body of texts.
- critics argue about which theory provides the most worthwhile reading of the canon—that is, a privileged set of texts.
- philosophers argue about a philosopher’s ideas or about a body of texts that advocate a particular philosophical position.
Who are The Scholars?
Scholars trace their methodological roots back to the origins of Western civilization. Like Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and other thinkers of the Classical age, modern scholars engage in the intellectual processes of speculation, reflection, and textual research to generate knowledge.
For contemporary scholars, just about anything in the world is a text: Anything that can be read or analyzed is a text. Scholars are concerned with texts and with dialectic—the process of reasoning correctly—to generate, test, and defend the knowledge they generate. Rather than looking outward for evidence from which to make knowledge, scholars look inward to the power of critical interpretation, logic and rational thinking.
Because scholars use the term text in very broad ways anything that can be read or analyzed is a text, including movies, stock tickers, maps, etc. Thus, scholars address topics that emerge from their everyday experiences as a member of a culture. It’s is commonplace for scholars to read a text from a particular theoretical perspective, such as Capitalism, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Behaviorism, Deconstruction, Modernism, Postmodernism.
How are the Works of Scholars Distinct from the Works of Scientists?
Unlike the methodologies informed by positivism, scholars lack a way to prove or disprove their positions. Ultimately, scholars are more concerned with participating in the great debate, the scholarly exchange of ideas, as opposed to presuming that truth will one day be found so the debate will need to come to an end. Scholars make meaning by discussing texts and by applying theories to create new readings of texts.
What Methods Do Scholars Use to Generate Knowledge?
Just like a treasure hunt, scholarship requires patience, curiosity, and determination. It’s a challenging and rewarding endeavor that requires a growth mindset, intellectual openness, professionalism & work ethic, resilience, and self-regulation.
- Dialectic. Since the dialectic process — the process of reasoning correctly — derives its authority from the deliberate confrontation of opposing views, scholars are engaged in an endless, on-going “great debate,” a cycle of interpretation, critique, and reinterpretation. In this dialectic system, no idea is unassailable and nothing is ever settled once and for all. Whatever texts they are focused on discussing, scholars seek knowledge via the deliberate confrontation of opposing viewpoints. Scholars are engaged in establishing the authenticity or significance of a set of texts and in devising theories of interpretation that can be applied to those texts.
- Research: In practice, scholars do not create knowledge from intellectual thin air. Rather, scholarly inquiry is essentially text-based. Scholars conduct strategic research to explore new areas of study, uncover new information, or verify existing knowledge. Research may involve anecdotal observation or analysis of existing literature.
- Analysis: Scholars analyze existing data or information to draw new insights or conclusions.
- Synthesis: Scholars synthesize information from multiple sources to create new ideas or frameworks. This may involve comparing and contrasting different theories or ideas, identifying patterns, or developing new conceptual models. Scholars can also make meaning by applying critical, political, or social theories—such as Feminism, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Behaviorism—to interpret events or ideas.
- Collaboration: Scholars often collaborate with other scholars to create new knowledge. Collaboration may involve sharing data, ideas, or resources, or working together on research projects.
- Critical thinking: Scholars engage in critical thinking to evaluate existing knowledge and identify areas for further exploration. This may involve questioning assumptions, challenging established theories, or identifying gaps in the literature. When engaged in textual research, scholars are careful to critique sources for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.
- Citation: Scholars are careful to attribute sources using the citation style their audience expects them to use–such as MLA or APA.