Some reflections on research work

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Kedua-dua subjek yang diambil dalam semester pendek ini bukannya subjek sejarah. Tapi untuk English for Academic Writing (EAW/LE 4000), setiap pelajar diwajibkan membuat research pendek/term paper yang berkait dengan major/department masing-masing. Tak cukup dengan itu, ada pula tema yang ditetapkan (section dia boleh pilih antara dua tema: social networking atau career). Memandangkan metodologi kajian yang ditetapkan agak terhad -- survey questionnaires dan interview (yang tak berapa digalakkan kerana semester pendek terlalu singkat untuk mengatur interview appointments, membuat transkrip dan sebagainya) -- dan cukup berbeza dengan gaya normal kajian pelajar Sejarah* (look up narratives and artifacts, interpret, compare with other evidences to determine the "truth", and on and on and on), maka dia memutuskan empat perkara:

1) Kajian yang lebih sesuai tentunya kajian yang melibatkan orang awam (as opposed to interviewing historians and "the history of such-and-such" topics).

2) This is not exactly the kind of research I prefer, but it's still enjoyable. Biasanya sebagai pelajar sejarah, kerja kami adalah menyelidik kejadian-kejadian sejarah, bukan memikirkan metahistorical questions (persoalan-persoalan tentang the discipline of history itu sendiri). Walau bagaimanapun,

3) Dia tak mahu membuat research yang berkait dengan career. Kemungkinan untuk menimbulkan worthwhile research questions memang ada, tapi bagi dia jawapannya sudah nyata. Kalau anda belajar sejarah, anda akan memilih salah satu daripada jalan-jalan ini:

  1. Jadi ahli akademik atau sejarawan profesional;
  2. Kerja dalam bidang yang berkait dengan sejarah (muzium, arkib, penulis novel sejarah?);
  3. Terlibat dengan history education (jadi guru atau pensyarah sejarah);
  4. Sambung pengajian dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  5. Kerja dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  6. Tak perlu kerja (Everyone repeat after me: I don't want a job, I just want money). 
Dan tak kiralah mana-manapun jalan yang dipilih, insha Allah, the training that you had acquired in (studying) History will give you many benefits in life. Jadi, perlukah bersusah-payah menulis term paper mengenai "isu-isu" yang berkait dengan kerjaya dan bidang Sejarah? Seperti membosankan. Metahistory pun lebih mengujakan.

4) Maksudnya dia mesti merangka kajian yang bertemakan social networking. Untuk mempermudah kerja, dia pilih medium yang laju (online social networking) dan yang popular serta pervasive (Facebook. Duhhh.).

Setelah membuat sedikit preliminary reading dan menimbang-nimbang beberapa tajuk yang mungkin (dengan cara berangan-angan ketika majlis makan-makan kelas tahfiz Al-Amin), dia memilih topik "historical consciousness" sebagai subjek kajian. Tak lama lagi, Facebook friends dia akan diganggu dengan survey questionnaire-nya. Tak kiralah mereka/anda suka sejarah, benci sejarah, ataupun don't give a damn about history. This is exactly what historical consciousness is about.

_______________________________

*Like last sem, we had to compile data about certain people or things related to the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. I had to put together information (essay form, but 5 pages max! I suffocated.) on the emirs of Homs (and Hamah, too, actually, but the 5-page limit forced me to choose just one) -- okay my room mate just popped in to give me a steaming bowl of tomato soup ooh. Just the thing for this awfully cold weather. I'm not a polar bear, I hate cold weather. It rained cats and dogs before Maghrib, and the wind was so chilly [it was blowing in through the air vents] I didn't even want to get off the bed and out of the blanket, let alone step outside my room!) -- right. What was I saying?

Oh finding out facts about the Ayyubid emirs of Homs. So, I was looking up the death of one of them, Nasiruddin Muhammad. 

Humphreys says this:

 

Al-Maqrizi says this:


Hello no mention of alcohol here. Humphreys' "apparently from an excess of wine" doesn't seem so apparent now (well he didn't even mention where he got that information from. Or I was the one who couldn't see where his references were) So did he die of alcohol poisoning or not? I mean, it matters. If you die of too much wine, that's bad enough. If you're a ruler/governor/statesman of some kind and you die of too much wine, that's really bad. Even if you're a non-Muslim. And this man was a Muslim, one of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi's foremost lieutenants, and a relative of his (the Ayyubid dynasty was formed upon a system of confederate "iqta's"/roughly, "estates", with the power of governance divided among the Sultan's brothers or cousins). But then again, drinking alcohol is not that alien for *some* Muslim rulers of the past... Plus, keeping an open mind (because sometimes being objective is really difficult. History student or not, you take sides. So the least you can do is be open to possibilities) is like, a huge part of doing research.

But I couldn't find any other references about his cause of death anywhere else (I was compiling this paper the night before the submission deadline -- surprise, surprise -- so there was no time to look elsewhere anyway!)...so I had to settle for only putting in the date of his death, about which Humphreys agreed with al-Maqrizi.

Until today, I haven't been able to resolve this question (dare I say "sebab tak sempat cari"?) And no, Google doesn't know everything (I found this out when doing library research for my history assignments, and I find it so...comforting. As if Google's "ignorance" allows my pursuit of a university education to still be relevant).

Do you also geek out over long-dead people's lives [and deaths]? (It's alright, you don't have to.)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some reflections on research work

Kedua-dua subjek yang diambil dalam semester pendek ini bukannya subjek sejarah. Tapi untuk English for Academic Writing (EAW/LE 4000), setiap pelajar diwajibkan membuat research pendek/term paper yang berkait dengan major/department masing-masing. Tak cukup dengan itu, ada pula tema yang ditetapkan (section dia boleh pilih antara dua tema: social networking atau career). Memandangkan metodologi kajian yang ditetapkan agak terhad -- survey questionnaires dan interview (yang tak berapa digalakkan kerana semester pendek terlalu singkat untuk mengatur interview appointments, membuat transkrip dan sebagainya) -- dan cukup berbeza dengan gaya normal kajian pelajar Sejarah* (look up narratives and artifacts, interpret, compare with other evidences to determine the "truth", and on and on and on), maka dia memutuskan empat perkara:

1) Kajian yang lebih sesuai tentunya kajian yang melibatkan orang awam (as opposed to interviewing historians and "the history of such-and-such" topics).

2) This is not exactly the kind of research I prefer, but it's still enjoyable. Biasanya sebagai pelajar sejarah, kerja kami adalah menyelidik kejadian-kejadian sejarah, bukan memikirkan metahistorical questions (persoalan-persoalan tentang the discipline of history itu sendiri). Walau bagaimanapun,

3) Dia tak mahu membuat research yang berkait dengan career. Kemungkinan untuk menimbulkan worthwhile research questions memang ada, tapi bagi dia jawapannya sudah nyata. Kalau anda belajar sejarah, anda akan memilih salah satu daripada jalan-jalan ini:

  1. Jadi ahli akademik atau sejarawan profesional;
  2. Kerja dalam bidang yang berkait dengan sejarah (muzium, arkib, penulis novel sejarah?);
  3. Terlibat dengan history education (jadi guru atau pensyarah sejarah);
  4. Sambung pengajian dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  5. Kerja dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  6. Tak perlu kerja (Everyone repeat after me: I don't want a job, I just want money). 
Dan tak kiralah mana-manapun jalan yang dipilih, insha Allah, the training that you had acquired in (studying) History will give you many benefits in life. Jadi, perlukah bersusah-payah menulis term paper mengenai "isu-isu" yang berkait dengan kerjaya dan bidang Sejarah? Seperti membosankan. Metahistory pun lebih mengujakan.

4) Maksudnya dia mesti merangka kajian yang bertemakan social networking. Untuk mempermudah kerja, dia pilih medium yang laju (online social networking) dan yang popular serta pervasive (Facebook. Duhhh.).

Setelah membuat sedikit preliminary reading dan menimbang-nimbang beberapa tajuk yang mungkin (dengan cara berangan-angan ketika majlis makan-makan kelas tahfiz Al-Amin), dia memilih topik "historical consciousness" sebagai subjek kajian. Tak lama lagi, Facebook friends dia akan diganggu dengan survey questionnaire-nya. Tak kiralah mereka/anda suka sejarah, benci sejarah, ataupun don't give a damn about history. This is exactly what historical consciousness is about.

_______________________________

*Like last sem, we had to compile data about certain people or things related to the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. I had to put together information (essay form, but 5 pages max! I suffocated.) on the emirs of Homs (and Hamah, too, actually, but the 5-page limit forced me to choose just one) -- okay my room mate just popped in to give me a steaming bowl of tomato soup ooh. Just the thing for this awfully cold weather. I'm not a polar bear, I hate cold weather. It rained cats and dogs before Maghrib, and the wind was so chilly [it was blowing in through the air vents] I didn't even want to get off the bed and out of the blanket, let alone step outside my room!) -- right. What was I saying?

Oh finding out facts about the Ayyubid emirs of Homs. So, I was looking up the death of one of them, Nasiruddin Muhammad. 

Humphreys says this:

 

Al-Maqrizi says this:


Hello no mention of alcohol here. Humphreys' "apparently from an excess of wine" doesn't seem so apparent now (well he didn't even mention where he got that information from. Or I was the one who couldn't see where his references were) So did he die of alcohol poisoning or not? I mean, it matters. If you die of too much wine, that's bad enough. If you're a ruler/governor/statesman of some kind and you die of too much wine, that's really bad. Even if you're a non-Muslim. And this man was a Muslim, one of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi's foremost lieutenants, and a relative of his (the Ayyubid dynasty was formed upon a system of confederate "iqta's"/roughly, "estates", with the power of governance divided among the Sultan's brothers or cousins). But then again, drinking alcohol is not that alien for *some* Muslim rulers of the past... Plus, keeping an open mind (because sometimes being objective is really difficult. History student or not, you take sides. So the least you can do is be open to possibilities) is like, a huge part of doing research.

But I couldn't find any other references about his cause of death anywhere else (I was compiling this paper the night before the submission deadline -- surprise, surprise -- so there was no time to look elsewhere anyway!)...so I had to settle for only putting in the date of his death, about which Humphreys agreed with al-Maqrizi.

Until today, I haven't been able to resolve this question (dare I say "sebab tak sempat cari"?) And no, Google doesn't know everything (I found this out when doing library research for my history assignments, and I find it so...comforting. As if Google's "ignorance" allows my pursuit of a university education to still be relevant).

Do you also geek out over long-dead people's lives [and deaths]? (It's alright, you don't have to.)