An Investigation into Chinese University-based EFL Scholars’ Perceptions of Quality of Research
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I intend to publish 3 research papers
This empirical study explores Chinese scholars’ conceptions of the characteristics of quality in research. It follows a phenomenology approach and uses four mixed qualitative methods (online survey, interview, focus groups and document analysis). Phenomenological coding strategies and Pierre Bourdieu’s field and cultural theory are utilised to analyse the data and achieve a theoretical understanding of the findings. It is found that the participants viewed quality via multifarious lenses and identified diverse actual criteria. They nominated many ‘normal’ criteria that were similar to the western standards of research quality, especially the methodological ones, and some ‘abnormal’ ones which were indigenous and contextual in nature (i.e., related to the particular context of educational research in China). The participants elaborated their criteria through 3 layers: methodology (technical quality criteria), contextualisation (i.e., criteria that were about the relationship between the research and the context), and criteria related to the impact of research. The contextual issues (e.g., job title evaluation system, research policy and administrative interference) generated “unscholarly” criteria, and hindered the academics’ good intention to consider and follow the conventional criteria in action. They influenced the academics’ opinions of quality and their ways of conducting research. In the participants’ eyes, doing research in China was tantamount to writing papers, and it was not about assuring quality but reflected the academics’ struggles to meet all sorts of requests at institutional and national levels. The participants looked for an impact of research at the practical level (e.g., teaching and learning), and suggested a combination of both theoretical and practical significance of research. Powerful academics have not created cultural and scholarly debates to consider and select the criteria nominated by other academics, and have not used them in the government and institutional documents. In Bourdieusian terms, quality as reflected in some aspects of the habitus of participants has been greatly influenced by the field, the capital and the symbolic power; but the habitus of most scholars has not yet managed to affect the field. There is much in the field that could be altered to enable the habitus to affect and develop the quality of educational research. This current study provides recommendations for educational research, university-teachers’ research and practice, researcher development, as well as research policy and management in the Chinese context, and/or abroad.
PhD in Education