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Brown Bambi Group

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Nikifor Seliverstov
Nikifor Seliverstov

Masters Of Puzzle PORTABLE

Greetings traveler, you are invited to the grand opening of Aenigma's premiere puzzle dungeon! Congratulations on receiving this illustrious invitation! You'd best be on your way. Dragons don't like to be kept waiting.

Masters of Puzzle

Challenge and delight your players with the premiere issue of Puzzle Master! Inside this supplement, you will find ten puzzles suitable for every level of play, accompanied by beautifully rendered handouts.

The main problem with the preoccupation with gaps is arguably that it focuses on mere inclusion/exclusion, rather than on why a certain gap is problematic and should be filled. Hence, gap filling under-problematizes the relationship to previous research. By failing to challenge assumptions in the existing literature, it risks reinforcing dominant theories (Alvesson and Sandberg, 2013). While we consider a gap to be insufficient reason for undertaking a study (Schmitter, 2008: 267; Alvesson and Sandberg, 2013: chapter 4), it is potentially a useful starting point, from which to proceed towards a research puzzle.

Norman Blaikie defines a social problem as a state of affairs in society which policymakers, pundits and sociologists deem inadequate, and therefore in need of attention or a solution. A sociological problem, by contrast, is one that sociologists consider in need of a better explanation or enhanced understanding (Blaikie, 2010: 45). While scholars can pay attention to, and propose solutions for, social and political problems, we believe they need to frame their research differently from for example the media or the government. Hence, while political problems involve phenomena in need of political attention and resolution, research puzzles pinpoint issues in previous research in need of scholarly attention and resolution. This does not mean that research puzzles cannot have real-world significance, or that researchers should shun political problems. On the contrary, compelling research puzzles often have political significance (Mosser, 2010). A real-world problem might be the starting point for a research project, but is in itself insufficient as a justification for new research without an explanation of what makes the existing academic knowledge pertaining to it inadequate.

Both gaps and real-world problems can be used as starting points when developing research puzzles, and methodological rigour is important in all research projects, but none of these propositions sufficiently motivate new research. This section clarifies what a research puzzle is, why it is useful, and how one can be conceived.

Finally, we believe scholars must continue to problematize and reflect critically not only on previous research, but also on their own assumptions, concepts, theories, methods and conclusions. Since analysis, and the choices it is premised on always serves some interests, the distinction between political problems and political science puzzles may appear to get blurred. Indeed, by making knowledge claims, research inevitably projects power (Ackerly and True, 2008; Dauphinee, 2010). However, acknowledging the inevitably political nature of research is not equivalent to saying that political problems are sufficient motivation. It is rather a reminder that problematization must be premised on continued reflexivity (e.g. Amoureux and Steele, 2016).

Our experience is that graduate students and scholars take interest in phenomena and ask questions for very good reasons, but often fail to justify new research in a way that is sufficiently persuasive to others. Therefore, we believe it is useful to articulate an explicit research puzzle as early as possible in the research process (Rosenau, 1980: 34). Using problematization as a strategy helps justifying why an issue one has already decided to analyse deserves attention, but more fundamentally it helps improving the initial questions and alternative interpretations that one might bring to the table. Once established, the puzzle provides both a rationale and direction for the research process. The choices of aim, research questions, theory and, to some extent, methods and materials all tend to follow. In our experience, the careful construction of a research puzzle amounts to about half the job, especially when writing a thesis or journal article. Sufficient time should thus be allocated to it. Conversely, the absence of a research puzzle risks inviting inconsistencies into the research, some of which may be irreconcilable.

B: Since this is just a topic, I will ask questions to help you make necessary distinctions and construct a research puzzle. First, what power shift? [Make distinctions to narrow down your interest from a topic to an approximation of a research puzzle]

B: This gets you close to a research puzzle, but a different one than you envisaged: Why has Japan been attributed so much agenda-setting power despite limited empirical evidence? [As your understanding deepens, be prepared to tweak your research puzzle accordingly]

One of the greatest challenges for graduate students is how to come up with a clear rationale for their dissertations and theses. This article has argued that research puzzles are more useful for that endeavour than the most common propositions in the existing methods literature: that new research should fill gaps, address important real-world problems and/or be methodologically rigorous. In contrast, a research puzzle often provides a sufficient justification. Research puzzles are different from societal or political problems, primarily because they are explicitly contextualized in relation to previous knowledge and research. Good research puzzles have in common that they problematize something in existing research. A well-formulated research puzzle provides direction and coherence to the research process and governs all other key choices, such as the aim, research questions, material and method. Our argument should not be misinterpreted as suggesting that research puzzles are the only way for providing new research with a rationale. Future research should identify and develop ways for constructing other types of justifications. 041b061a72


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