Reflecting reflecting reflecting…

Reflecting back on the last 13 weeks of BCM212, I find myself continuously drifting back to week ones topic about curiosity and how it truly is the stem of great research. It is not often that I find myself genuinely intrigued by university assignments, however my topic about free range produce, specifically the free range egg industry, is something that I am curious about and as a result was eager to conduct my research project each week to find out more. Throughout this project I have learnt a lot about being both an efficient and ethical researcher, two traits that I now know to be fundamental aspects of great research. As we have progressed week by week I have learnt how to look at my research from a professional approach, and within this short reflection would like to outline the key topics that influenced my research project along the way.

The concept of ethical research was discussed in Tilley’s 1998 article, in which she outlines the significance of gaining informed consent and developing a trusted two way relationship between the researcher and any participants. These ideas directly influenced my study, where I ensured that all survey participants gave consent and remained anonymous as promised. The idea of ethics was predominantly mentioned in week 3, where we discussed socially responsible research. A quote from that class that stuck with me through my project was that “the social responsibility of researchers is where the balance between curiosity and reflexivity is held.”

A key lesson that I have learnt whilst conducting this research is the invaluable ability to Develop Critical Judgement. A great tool that was introduced to us was the CRAAP test.

The CRAAP test proved to be a simple yet effective way to determine what secondary sources I could trust. This was a big decision to make, as the secondary sources that I ended up using within my research project proved to be the foundation of my research overall.

The CRAAP test put simply involves looking at:

Currency: The timeliness of the information

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

Authority: The source of the information

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

One of my key findings that appeared in both my primary and secondary research was the fact that the multiple legislations surrounding the free range egg industry meant that consumers did not know what to think or who to believe. Because there are countless variations of the same law when it comes to defining acceptable living conditions for hens that produce free range eggs, I needed to ensure that the sources I did rely on for my report were genuine and trustworthy. Learning to develop critical judgement and putting the CRAAP test to action played major roles in assisting me in this part of my assessment.

As we were to use a lot of sources in this research project, both primary and secondary, it was imperative that we conduct our projects with integrity. In week 7 we looked at the concept of integrity, and how important it is in ethical research practices. The University of Duke Office of Research website that was introduced to us outlined the correct way to construct a consent form. Following De Vaus’ advice I had chosen to conduct a survey due to its many benefits, and the process of integrity and the Duke consent form aided me in ensuring that I gained informed consent from all of my research participants in the correct way. We also reviewed the UOW Academic Integrity Policy, which was something that I had not read before. The policy discussed the importance of honesty, fairness, trust and responsibility, factors that I ensured I had within my assessment along the way.

Lastly we looked at the importance of acknowledging the limitations of your study. Reflecting back on the last 13 weeks of research, I can definitely say there were many limitations. Obviously time was a big constraint, and doing 4 other uni subjects resulted in me having to delegate time for this select project to ensure I stayed on track. If I were to continue to research this project, I would like to be able to conduct focus groups and informal interviews to gain deeper insights and perspectives into my topic. And finally, I would be very interested to get the opinions and help of someone who has already conducted a study on my topic to gain a more mature evaluation of my research so far. I have learnt a lot about ethical research practices from BCM212, and feel that my confidence has dramatically grown in terms of conducting research projects. All that is left to say is bring on the next!

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My research project so far

Throughout the last 8 weeks of BCM212 I have been conducting a research project, satisfying my curiosity regarding the truth behind the free range egg industry. I have been analysing academic sources, reviewing previous studies and collecting my own data in an attempt to discover how much consumers really know when it comes to free range produce, and more importantly, how much they really care.

Whilst conducting this project it has been difficult to remain neutral, as my own moral and ethical beliefs lay in favour of true free range production. As a big animal lover, I find the current regulatory standards for minimum living conditions for hens to be extremely unacceptable. Last year, Australian consumer affairs ministers “signed off on a standard that allows producers to pack 10,000 hens on a hectare and still advertise eggs as ‘free range’.” (Ibrahim, Choice 2017) This new ruling is more than six times the CSIRO’s egg Model Code of Practice, which advocates a density of 1500 hens per hectare. (CSIRO) This means that not only are these animals living with an extremely poor quality of life, but that we, as consumers, are funding this cycle and supporting big corporations such as Pace Farm, Woolworths and Coles free range eggs that engage in this deceptive labelling. For the most part, consumers are unaware that even though they are paying a premium for these free range eggs, the hens are raised in similar if not identical conditions to battery cage hens. Throughout my research I hope to educate people on the truth behind the free range egg industry, and through the conduction of my survey hope to find out if people care enough to change their eating habits. The key to my research project will be providing information alongside asking participants to provide feedback, to ensure that I can get as many people as possible knowing about the big scam that is free range eggs.

If you are interested in my research project, stay up to date by participating in my survey, following my twitter and subscribing to my blog, where I will continue to update as I go!

Please find a link to my survey on twitter

EXTRA INFO!!
This article on SBS states 19 companies that falsely label their eggs as free range. Additionally, the iPhone app ‘CluckAR’ allows you to hold your phone over egg cartons, and will link you to information about where the eggs really came from.

The future of information

The future of information – Is what we’re eating really free-range? Can we trust the big corporations, or is it all one big scam?

After a blissful 4 month summer holiday, nothing smacks you back into the reality of Uni like an assessment that is due in your third week back… thank you #BCM. When first confronted with the task of preparing my research proposal by week 3, I immediately felt overwhelmed. A million ideas ran through my head, and I found that the more I thought about it the more confused I was getting. I wasn’t sure how I was possibly going to pick a topic and be happy with it in such a small about of time, when suddenly I realised I was going about this research project all wrong. Taking inspiration from week one’s topic, I realised that the key to doing this assignment and doing it right lay in choosing a topic that I was curious and passionate about.

Looking at my own world and what was important to me, I knew that my research topic should be about my passion for supporting and consuming free range ethically produced food. Growing up my mum has always believed in cooking us free range produce, so my curiosity for this topic really stems from her.

In todays age it is almost impossible to go to any supermarket, deli, café or restaurant without seeing food that is classified as free range or organic. Whilst it is great to see these terms wherever we go, eventually I started wondering how much legitimacy there actually is to them. For my research project, I will be exploring the legislation surrounding free range food, specifically eggs, finding out how loosely the term can be applied and most importantly how much truth we are actually told. I will be investigating to find out if people are aware that they are often deceived, and I will be analysing and evaluating if people would be in favour of supporting a proposition for laws to be changed so that consumers are told the truth about where their food comes from and to know what they are really putting into their bodies. Throughout my research I will be analysing case studies and academic references, be going into supermarkets and restaurants first hand to find out information and conducting surveys and interviews to gain a true perspective of how people feel about this issue. To avoid any ethical complications I won’t be interviewing anyone under the age of 18, and I will be ensuring that all participants are aware of the content I will be asking them before they complete any survey or interview.

I understand that I have my own strong opinions regarding this topic, so I will ensure that I don’t insert any subconscious bias along the way. I’m excited to begin my research project and can’t wait to see what the weeks ahead bring!

Connecting curiosity to research

When I read that this weeks task for BCM212 was to post about a personal experience where curiosity lead to research, I knew exactly what example I wanted to write about. Around two years ago I became quite invested in wanting to know more about where the food I was eating came from and how it ended up on my plate. I had never been a fussy eater and had always enjoyed all foods, but suddenly I felt the need to know what I was really eating. What started out as a small google search sparked an entire cascade of information. The more I read the more I wanted to know, and before I knew it I was reading article after article, watching documentaries on factory farming and live exporting and delving into the world of processed rubbish that we put in out bodies everyday. I found numerous Facebook pages, cookbooks and t.v. shows that provided me with alternatives, and since then my diet has definitely changed. Sometimes I wish that I hadn’t been curious in the first place because now I cant bring myself to eat a lot of things that I used to, however on the most part I am happy that my curiosity lead me to research because I am happier with my choices to support local farmers who grow organic produce and am happier knowing what I am putting in my body.

Curiosity is a funny thing because most of the time it sparks from something so small. Stanton Hunter writes about curiosity in a playful way that I think accurately depicts how it works. “Your own sense of curiosity, which you are born with, is nothing other than your very own GPS device. Following it daily is like tacking a sailboat. Interests seem to morph and deepen, then disappear and reappear somewhere else. They seem to speak in code, through feelings and nuance and intuition and qualities.” (Hunter 2017)

Following curiosity can lead you to places you never thought you would be, but that’s the beauty of it.

Resource: Hunter, S 2017, ‘Creativity through Curiosity’, Ceramics Monthly, 65, 1, p. 36, MasterFILE Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 6 March 2017 <http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=69b19b3a-1169-4b84-ad9a-3a4195bf46a4@sessionmgr4007&vid=3&hid=4202&gt;