Speaking to My Peer Group #MyResearch

I crashed a gathering last week. I got annoyed. Then I wrote this.

The deadline for completing my pilot study looms. Every night I sit at my desk under the stairs, Potter-like, and peck at assessing and analysing the data I collected over a week ago. The visibility of some progress does not prevent me from the dread of having to sit down and look at the same numbers each night. When one of the residents at work complained that they were not getting as much work done as they wanted, I reminded them that they drive themselves a lot harder than others expect them to work, and that they should cut themselves a little slack. I’ve never been good at following my own advice. I have a personal goal of wanting to get my proposal finished this fall and to strike a committee to move to the next stage. In my head, I realize this is an artificial deadline, but I will disappoint myself if I don’t achieve it.

I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days, reading, sometimes posting, but mostly communicating with those I’ve met on Twitter, behind the scenes. Sometimes it’s easier to engage with people who get you. A verbal shorthand exists among people who are in similar situations and understand your context. Just saying “grant writing” draws groans from other grad students. Some words carry more meaning than others when you’re with your tribe. Saying “szalona” to a group of Polish people, even in the context of an English sentence, conjures up much more than the translation of “crazy.” If you’re Polish, you hear the words of the disco polo song and the bopping melody, and are enveloped by memories of dances, friends, and fun, even if you don’t like the genre. My third generation Canadian children get this. But I have to explain it to you to understand my context. And there is still so much you won’t understand, especially if you hear the song.

A friend, visiting from Montreal, invited me to spend time with some people that were connected to the Language Policy and Planning Conference. I talked with a group of graduate students at a pub; my “people”. No need to explain grad life or terms such as ethnography, epistemology or ELT- everyone gets it.

At this type of networking event, conversations about the type of research people are doing are common. Their reactions when they hear about social justice research:

“Oh, interesting. Tell me more.”

Or about plurilingualism:

“I loved that article about…”

When I mention social network analysis and hashtags:


Conversations can take this route:


Initial reaction: Why does everyone understand everyone else’s research contexts but I always get blank stares when I talk about mine?

I had no idea how much my children’s hyperbolic discourse had taken hold of my positionality in social situations.

Reset: Long ago, I learned about cognitive learning theory and looked at learning from an instructional design perspective, I recall the difference between declarative and procedural knowledge. I have forgotten how much information I have processed over the past two years and which I no longer have to think about.

Consider terminology:

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

While writing up my pilot study, I’ve had to backtrack more than I expected. These are things which are obvious to me but need explanation when I write about my research:

Twitter uses various methods for communication.

A retweet is when a tweet is reshared by someone else.

A mention will include the user name in a tweet to alert the person with said user name.

A reply is a public response to someone else.

A hashtag is a word or a series of unseparated words preceded by #. A hashtag denotes a topic.

Hashtags provide the opportunity to gather tweets together on the same topic by people who have no pre-existing connection (unlike a Twitter user’s followers or the accounts people follow). Unlike accounts, hashtags are not moderated, so anyone can create one and use it. Sometimes a certain hashtag begins to trend while others do not, even though both hashtags may be about the very same topic. This can be due to influencers (people who have a lot of followers and connections) or the unique spelling of a hashtag, or even what connections a hashtag evokes. In recent days, hashtags related to the United States president have been trending, such as: #Greenland #TrumpBedBugs #MelaniaLovesTrudeau

I also described how chats work and how they differ from hashtags. Oh, and I also had to define the following terms:

  • Eigenvalue
  • edges
  • nodes
  • vertices
  • in-degree
  • betweenness centrality
  • reciprocated vertex pair ratio
  • reciprocated edge ratio
  • graph density
  • geodesic distance
  • modularity
  • the Harel-Koren Fast Multiscale layout algorithm
  • the Clauset-Newman-Moore cluster algorithm

I realize it’s my job to inform others, not their job to already know. And so if social justice and plurilingualism require less explanation, then that is the way it is. It’s time to carve a place at the table for myself by making myself understood.



  1. An interesting post. After reading it, my response was ‘Say whaaat?!’ I’ve told you that your work these days is as foreign to me as Polish. By the way, while you’re carving up that table, and cutting yourself some slack, make sure not to knock over your glass of wine. 😊


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