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July 01, 2013

Methodology chapter excitement – Bernie Divall

this way to methodological happinessAlthough it's been a very difficult year, at the end of which I still appear to have some words to write, there is definitely something to be said for having had a little space away from the thesis. Coming back to it over the past couple of months, I can see the overall structure far more clearly than I could a year ago. Having said that, it's taken me a while to become properly re-acquainted with the work I've done over the past couple of years, and as for the literature review that I did three years ago - well, suffice to say, I'm marvelling at the fact that I even wrote those complex sentences!

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been constructing a final version of my methodology chapter. I say 'final version', because I've previously written two or three very different incarnations of things approximating a methodology chapter. These included copious notes on the methods (observation and interviews), a VERY dry chapter on the research design (Zzzzzzzz), and my personal favourite, a reflective version of the methodology - a sort of 'journey so far' approach. That last one was lovely to write, but my business school supervisor REALLY DIDN'T LIKE IT and gave me a very stern talking to when I sent it to him - experimental, reflective writing is not his thing!

So how's it going this time around? Well, firstly, I was pleasantly surprised, not to say hugely relieved, to discover that I had the chapter already constructed in some way, when I put together all those versions I just mentioned. What I didn't appear to have, however, was a proper framework to glue it all together. You know, the bit where I explain how being a social constructionist led me to a qualitative methodology, and how this links with the theoretical framework, the research questions and the data collection methods.

I got myself a lovely new notebook a while ago, and now it's full of random writings and intricate drawings, all of which are my way of unscrambling the mess in my head - and guess what! It turns out that the whole thing makes sense! You see, I've realised that the chapter I was dreading the most is turning out to be the one that makes me feel the thesis is nearly done. Because if I can tie together all these epistemological and methodological issues, then I must really know what I'm talking about!

What is it that I love about the methodology chapter? It's the combination of big, philosophical thinking (social constuctionism, narrative research, the voice in ethnography...) alongside the tiny, nitty gritty issues (why that leadership develpment programme? How many hours spent observing? How many interviews?..) It ties together what came before (literature review, theoretical framework) and what will come next (data chapters, discussion). And for me, with my messy head, that's a massive lead towards completion.

So onwards today and tomorrow in the chaos of writing, then two days in a research sandpit, and then a supervision meeting on Friday. Keep your fingers crossed that my business school supervisor likes the particular writing style I'll be employing this time around...


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