"I search, you search, . . . research"

The University of Missouri – Rolla is a technological research university. Does that mean that all research done at UMR is technological? Of course not. One immediately thinks of the sciences here and their vigorous research programs. Are there areas at UMR which don’t do research? What about the humanities and the social sciences?
This post will stick with the humanities and, specifically, with the Department of English and Technical Communication. Do members of this department’s faculty do research? Yes, of course. And what kind of research do we do? Even though the department has two disciplines — English, especially literary studies, and technical communication — the research techniques are very similar. For both literary studies and technical communication, research istext-based, especially if one defines "text" to include audio, visual, and electronic media.
As does scientific research, our research involves forming hypotheses that are investigated, tested, and applied with research. However, scientific and technical research occurs in very obvious laboratories or in specific sites. Where is research in English and Tech Comm disciplines sited? In libraries, on the Internet, and also in specific locations. We make use not only of traditional printed texts but of texts in other media, of observations and of firsthand explorations such as interviews.
Since we don’t have laboratories full of high-tech equipment, some folks assume our research doesn’t require much support. But we do need support for our research: funds for library purchases, for travel to specialized libraries (two of us have gone to England for research), for software, for the time needed to explore and complete a research project. Like other researchers, we also require support for travel to professional conferences and gatherings where we share and discuss our research.
It may not seem obvious, but even poets and fiction writers do research. The research done by creative writers needs much the same kind of support as literary or technical communication research.
My purpose in this post is not to discuss the value of research in our disciplines, but I will say that literary research and technical communication research add to our culture’s knowledge of human experience and its meanings. Trent Watts’ work on images of manhood in the southern USA, Kate Drowne’s discussion of the relationship between the social and literary experience of Prohibition in the 1920s, Jack Morgan’s account of Thomas Sweeney, the 19th Century Irish-American general, David Wright’s investigation of the diffusion of technology in the cattle industry — these examples come from half of the department but indicate the range of our explorations.