in order to get the information you need is not necessarily simple. You thought you could "just ask a question"?
Let me start with a story. When I started out on my post-graduate work I had what my supervisor and I thought was a simple plan for the preliminary work. It involved testing children to find three different groups with which to work.
There was a large body of knowledge surrounding the sort of testing I was required to do. There were also set procedures for doing the testing. A great deal had been written about all this. It was so standard that it formed part of the undergraduate work for all students. It was accepted. This was right. It was not something you questioned. You could safely cite it and base more work on it.
Once you knew the results then you could move on to the next step. What is more you knew the results were going to be within certain parameters. All past testing had shown this.
Things started to go wrong when I realised that I could not test some of my target group. They had always been excluded from previous studies but assumptions had been made about them. It all seemed perfectly reasonable when you considered the problems they seemed to have.
I needed to include them now. It also meant I needed to conduct the test in a way which would allow them to participate. If I could not do this then the whole project would need to be abandoned. We "knew" that my target group was going to have the most problems.
After a lot of thought and a couple of experiments on "normal" subjects I came up with a means my supervisor approved of because the "normal" subjects had the expected results. I then went ahead and tested my subjects.
The results I came up with were so unexpected that nobody believed me. I had to be wrong. I had not conducted the test properly. Doing it "like that" was the wrong way. There was an uproar. I was told to keep my mouth shut while things were sorted out. I was told I might have to start again. The subjects were now contaminated. I might need to find new subjects. Oh the fuss.
In the end I was proved right. It was an accident. It was not something I had set out to find. It made me highly unpopular. I had ruined years of research, risked the reputations of well respected academics, and put all sorts of projects (and funding) at risk. I was very unpopular indeed.
Now my point here is that I had asked a question. I had asked a question to which we all thought we knew the answer. What had happened however was that I had asked the question in a different way - and I came up with a slightly different answer. It had unexpected results.
If you are going to be an activist how you ask the question can be as important as which question you ask. The answer can also have unexpected results.
Tomorrow we will look at some ways to ask a question.