All entries for Monday 09 May 2016

May 09, 2016

Update on recent Ph.D. activities

Initial stage of the first research trial a success!


The first part of the trial study, a social learning activity, has just been completed and thankfully there is enough data generated to achieve the aims and objectives of this first part. The objective of this part of the trial was simple: get data! There is enough data now to help with testing a grounded theory method being developed to analyse that particular type of data, and after having a quick read through the data there is enough there to make me think about other possibilities and challenges that the particular type of task shall bring when implemented in the full study. Also, the data will help me with further developments to that particular task.


Realising these possibilities and challenges are all a part of this stage of not only the trail study but the Ph.D. research in general, and I am pleased that I have been able to identify these possibilities and challenges as I can demonstrate in the upgrade paper that I have been really thinking about the research and the implications of the research design.


I shall be focussing on developing the grounded theory method and thinking more about the design of the task itself in the near future.



Next stage of trial study


The next stage in the trial study is to complete the development of the questionnaire and then launch that in a trial study. I have redeveloped it from the previous trial study and I have the belief that it is more effective now and is closer to the objectives of the research. I am also continuing to search for literature that attempts to explore the phenomenon of interest using the questionnaire method in the same or similar way, but have not found such literature so far. I have found literature that assists with justifying the development of the questionnaire, and that is just as important as I shall more than likely be asked in the Upgrade presentation questions referring to the questionnaire’s genesis.


The Upgrade Paper


The findings of the trial study shall be reported in the Upgrade paper, which shall be about four thousand words in length and it shall be a challenge in itself to try to get everything into that word count, hence a reason I started writing it earlier this year even though it’s due in September. The idea though is not to slot everything into four thousand words as that would be impossible, but the objective is to try to explain the key ideas and key directions of the research. A part of the Upgrade paper shall be used to explain the context and findings of the trial study and this includes assessing the reliability, workability, feasibility, soundness, design, and implementation of developing methodologies and data collection and data analysis methods.


The Upgrade paper shall also report on the soundness and depth of the Philosophical orientation of the research and its connection to the research problem, and the way in which the research questions shall be answered. Additionally my ability to argue certain points and evaluation other Philosophical and methodological positions within the upgrade paper shall also be assessed. I have completed the second (or third, or fourth, I’ve lost count!) draft of the earlier sections (Introduction, problem background and rationale, and the literature review) and have begun first drafts of the later chapters (particularly the methodology chapter and the writing of the trial study)


Beyond the upgrade paper


Beyond the upgrade paper, due in September, and the upgrade process presentation and assessment, due to be done around October or November time, is carrying out the full study, and start writing the first draft of the thesis. I have lots of notes for the earlier background, literature review and methodology chapters (though ideas are constantly being generated so note making is continuous) but haven’t put it all into a draft format yet.


A reason for this is because I had to be sure that I have chosen the right research design first, because the research design can influence the way in which a thesis and therefore each chapter is written. The thesis is you could say the product or is highly influenced by the research design: a thesis is written and presented differently with a mixed methods methodology than for example just a qualitative methodology. This is reflected all the way through the thesis and with the literature review in particular I have to be careful with the way I write that chapter as I shall be analysing and writing about both existing quantitative and qualitative literature, and both are obviously very different types of literature that entail different ways of thinking about their findings and their general context. That is going to be an interesting chapter to write and something that I shall have to consider more in the future.

Phew! Lots to do then!


Yes, absolutely, but what I am happy with is that I have my assumptions about reality (based on critical realism, but developing arguments of critical realism: more on this soon), I have my methodology selected (mixed methods) and the methods of data collection (questionnaire, grounded theory, and possibly others if time and opportunity allows) and analysis (descriptive and inferential statistics, and categorical, open and possible axial coding) although with the quantitative analysis these methods need to be contemplated upon and considered more carefully to develop a possible framework of quantitative analysis, but bearing in mind that I won’t really know for sure what specific analytical techniques shall be needed till I obtain the actual data. Categorical, open and axial coding are analytical methods used with Grounded Theory, though there is an element of uncertainty with axial coding because there is debate as to whether or not this should always be used, so shall need to explore that further and find out if I really need to use it in the context of my research.


What I am focussed on at the moment is getting this trial study completed as well as the upgrade paper whilst also locating and analysing more literature (but this is an ongoing task anyway as part of a researcher), so that is enough to get on with for the time being otherwise if I try to do everything I’ll just feel completely and utterly overwhelmed!


All a bit scary, but also quite exciting!


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