Harvesting wild blackberries is a metaphor for research analysis.
Blackberries in the wild are abundant at this time of year. I always see them in mid-August when I am preoccupied with the academic “syllabus season” and their appearance is bittersweet. Blackberries are rather tough fruit. Even though they appear in late spring, they finally ripen after those heady days of July when I easily enjoyed sweet wild raspberries without a thought of summer’s end.
Blackberries grow in long fruit stems on prickly plants at the edge of the forest. But the clustered form is deceptive because individual berries ripen at their own pace and according to different microclimates. One day they are all red; then the next day some are black and ready for picking. You can’t harvest all at once.
Cascades of berries can be concealed by the plant’s prickly leaves. I often marvel that ripe berries are hidden from the sun, but unripe berries appear in full view. When searching, I have learned to carefully lift a thorny, unappealing stem to discover ripe fruit. It is also useful to look repeatedly at the same patch from perspectives both near and far, high and low, under different lighting conditions and different times of day, to get different sight lines. I locate perfect berries by changing my vantage point.
All this is welcome, thoughtful work that yields many lessons. It is not a stretch to see parallels with research analysis. After research results root and grow, it takes time to harvest insights. You need to move around your subject conceptually and return repeatedly under different conditions, taking note of potential bias or analytic habit that may cover up new ideas. Careful, patient effort yields welcome results that are worth the wait.