An Expedition into challenging and unknown territory, such as the past, requires explorers to be alert. Being alert is not one thing, but a combination of many mental processes. These processes help us to stay aware of where we are, what is happening, what we can do next, and what it all means. As you work at the ALERT processes, you will find you are experiencing things more vividly and more deeply.
You might start anywhere. Maybe you have an idea for a final product--you know you want to create a web page or a museum exhibit that deals with your topic. Or maybe you've stumbled onto an interesting fact--one of those fabulous realities that makes you want to know more. Maybe you have a particular method of gathering data or experimenting that you want to practice. Maybe you know of a good interview subject but aren't sure yet what would be the best questions to ask.
Exploration may start with any of the processes but good explorers use all 5 of the ALERT processes to complete successful expeditions.Asking authentic questions that help them bring the big ideas into focus, Listening to what is already available on the historical record, Exploring the topic to discover and construct knowledge that is not yet in the historical record, Reflecting on what you are finding, facts that do not seem to fit what you thought was true, and how things you learn affect your viewpoints, and Transforming your work into an original contribution to the historical record--adding your personal legacy to the great project of human knowledge.
At any time in the process, you can consider the other processes to see if it might be useful to do additional library research, or form new or more focused questions, or to made observations in the field, or to discuss your work with a friend or mentor.
Reviewing the whole process can be especially useful when you are trying to get started or when you become unsure what to try next.
© 2000 Michael Umphrey