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Research we’re reading – May 2017

Research we’re reading is a regular series written by Taylor & Francis employees, taking a look at recent research that has caught our attention and got us thinking.

Rosalind Davies, Editorial Assistant

Doctoral Dissertation Defenses: Performing Ambiguity Between Ceremony and Assessment by Arjen van der Heide, Alix Rufas & Alexandra Supper

Published in Science as Culture

“I completed my PhD, and viva voce (or defense), last year, and this article stood out for me as very much describing my own experience. Beforehand, I knew that the process was ceremonial, and that my thesis had met the criteria for me to be awarded my PhD. Despite this, I never felt completely certain and was overcome by nerves, terrified by the prospect of being questioned on my work.

This article finds that I was not alone in feeling like this. By studying Dutch researchers during their dissertation defenses, the authors found that the process is designed to make the researchers feel uncertain. The examiners, researcher, and audience act as if they’re taking part in a performance. To maintain a feeling of uncertainty, even when the pass/fail decision has already been made, the examiners used both serious language and humor. They even corrected each other if they were too positive about the research, or too strict.

Although I wished for more certainty, I agree with the authors’ conclusion that the ambiguity surrounding the defense is crucial to its importance in marking the transition to becoming ‘a fully licensed member of an academic community’.”

Daniel Pullin, Content Coordinator

Impact of stretching on the performance and injury risk of long-distance runners by Claire Baxter, Lars R. Mc Naughton, Andy Sparks, Lynda Norton & David Bentley

Published in Research in Sports Medicine

“As a sometimes-runner, I couldn’t wait to delve in and see what had been found in this article. Could it mean the end of lengthy pre-run stretching routines (and the agony of the ‘bend down and touch your toes’ hamstring one)? In short, yes! The authors surveyed the literature investigating the link between stretching and running economy, concluding that ‘stretching does not possess properties that warrant it a useful or effective tool in the warm-up regime of long-distance runners’. The main reason for this is a reduction in stability and force production caused by a decrease in muscular stiffness. The full article then considers the influence of stretching on DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), and injury prevention. If, like me, you’re tired of contorting yourself in uncomfortable positions to feel the stretch, this could be just the evidence you need to drop it!”

Heather St Pierre, Head of Product

Growing Together: Emancipatory lessons from North Korean defectors’ art education in South Korea by Shin Eun Kyoung

Published in Performance Research

“I am riveted by North Korea, whether it’s reading various auto-biographies of defectors, articles on China’s influence, or listening cautiously to Mr Trump. Or more recently watching Prof. Robert Kelly’s BBC interview on YouTube, featuring the hilarious interruption by his two cute kids.

Many North Korean defectors suffer from PTSD, and I was really interested to find this article about how South Korea is helping them successfully adapt to their new surroundings. Art education is being used as a means of therapy for defectors, helping them express themselves and heal some of the wounds of years of oppression. The article also talks about how North Korea views art and compares it to South Korea; it’s always fascinating for me to get more insight into the secretive North Korean regime.”

Read the previous Research we’re reading post.