The Research Process
The book “Aging with Grace” by David Snowdon regards a study based on the religious lifestyles of nuns in Good Counsel Hill convent. The research study or rather the nun study seeks to provide insight on leading healthier, longer, and more meaningful lives. The book describes the process and context of setting up and conducting a scientific study involving human subjects.
It offers a description of the scientist’s previous studies in epidemiology, which are different from the nun study experience. In the latter study, the study evolved over time with essential input from the nuns as “a way to continue helping and educating others” (Snowdon, 2001, p. 256). Essentially, the nun study maps the research study as a process limited in scope at the beginning, which later evolves to a more detailed study.
The book raises several important issues on how a research study involving closed communities should proceed. Initially, the researcher had a limited understanding of the religious order of the nuns or the history of Notre Dames, his intended study subjects. He, however, gathered preliminary information before embarking on the study.
The first step in research is gaining the approval of relevant authorities after proposing the study idea. In the research, identification of the research idea followed by preliminary investigation or background search is core to a later detailed research (Holliday, 2007, p. 141). Later, the nun study gains the approval of Sister Carmen, after agreeing to treat the subjects with “respect and care” (Snowdon, 2001, p. 257).
In longitudinal studies involving closed communities, positive relationships between the researcher and the researcher are fundamental and have an impact on the findings.
The researcher had to visit the Good Counsel Hill convent to understand the connection between the nun’s religious lifestyles and their longer and healthier living. This shows the importance of interaction between the researcher and the subjects in qualitative research design.
Aspects of the Investigator’s Experience
In research, particularly in epidemiological studies, the participants are many. As a result, relationships between the researcher and the participants are hard to establish, which is vital in maintaining scientific objectivity.
However, in the nun study, the researcher was able to establish relationships with the participants. This, to me, is important particularly in studies involving qualitative data. The participants are able to reveal essential information based on these relationships.
In gaining the approval of Sister Carmen, the researcher explained the significance of his research and the contribution of previous nun studies to medicine. Personally, I would like to have an opportunity to discuss my research idea with the authorities and professionals.
In this way, I would gain expert advice that has potential implications on the research process and findings. The researcher in the nun study did a background search including consulting a Notre Dame, Nora Keenan. To me, literature review is essential in refining the statement problem and in refining the objectives of the study. It also provides information to support the need for the study.
The researcher was passionate about his investigation. He had an earlier relevant experience when he used keep poultry. In fact, his passion for epidemiology stems from his experience with chicken and poultry diseases. Additionally, in the nun study, he was able to visit his study subjects, the nuns, at the convent.
I would like to have a direct contact or interviews with the participants in my research as opposed to using questionnaires to collect data.
Holliday, A. (2007). Doing and Writing Qualitative Research. London: Sage Publications.
Snowdon, D. (2001). Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier and More Meaningful Lives. New York: Bantam Press. p. 256-257