Personal Research: Keeping CRMers Sane Since 1966

The explosion of cultural resource management, heritage conservation, and historic preservation since the 1960s has resulted in a deluge of information on human pasts. Much of this information lies in the various technical reports written by companies around the world. This “grey literature” represents a database much larger than the data that is used to teach us in the university setting.

I’ll be one of the first to admit that most CRM reports aren’t too scholarly. Despite the fact that CRM firms easily have access to more than 10 times the money that academics have, we frequently use our cash to make boring, bare-minimum documents that can barely be considered archaeology. Conversely, the best CRM projects result in reports that are better than the best dissertation or university research project.

The question is: how can we turn CRM into multiple scholarly research projects that further our field?

I believe we do this by publishing our own personal research.

Here’s an excerpt from my upcoming book Small Archaeology Project Management that explains my philosophy on how personal research based on CRM projects can be used to enrich our careers and further archaeology.

The first thing I think of after a project goes out the door is whether or not I want to pursue aspects of this project for my own personal research. I’m always looking for interesting topics to research further, write on in my own time, and use for presentations. At least once a year, I choose an interesting topic to investigate further and spread that information to my peers or local communities. These subjects usually turn into conference presentations or articles and are pretty much never part of the project’s contract.

I can’t stress how important it is to pursue your own personal research, even if you don’t get paid to do so. Most companies can’t afford to pay you to do research, but you probably didn’t go into this field for the money. You probably do CRM for the same reason I do­ because you are smart, inquisitive, and naturally curious about the past. Most of us can’t earn a living solely researching, thinking, and writing about our research interests, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing as much research as we can. In CRM, we need to do interesting research as a way to mitigate feelings that could turn into disappointment and despair. Many of us wanted to do research for a living, but not necessarily on stuff we aren’t that interested in. You need to look at the opportunities all around that are inherent in every project and find a way to make it into your own. I’ve found something interesting about every project I’ve ever gone out on, even the dozens of projects that I initially didn’t really care about.

For every project, as I get started researching, digging, and writing, I always come up with an interesting topic that I’d love to explore further. Other archaeologists may do it for the paycheck, but I do archaeology because I enjoy it and love researching. I used to read and research for free before I became an archaeologist. I would keep doing the same thing even if I got paid to research all the time. Because I have developed decent writing skills, I also write about the stuff I research, even when I don’t get paid. For instance, I wrote this eBook in my own time because I wanted to help other CRMers and was tired of looking at weak cultural resources reports that were written poorly because the author didn’t think they could do more with the resources they had. I want to help change our profession so that the quality of our products retain high academic standards, fulfill clients’ needs, and make our companies profitable so we don’t get laid off.

Our personal research is what keeps us going. It keeps us sane. It’s the chain that links corporate compliance and academic research. Spreading the word about CRM projects also keeps us respected amongst the academics that tend to thumb their noses at our work. It’s important that you pursue your personal research for the good of yourself, your craft, and your discipline.

I would really love to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments, write below or send me an email.

Keep reading the Succinct Research blog for information on my upcoming book on Small Cultural Resource Management Project Success.

Learn how my résumé-writing knowledge helped four of my fellow archaeologists land cultural resources jobs in a single week!

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