November 01, 2015

Grounded in theories; surrounded by literature!

Have now recovered from yesterday’s drinking shenanigans and from the Zombie infestation of my local town (not just your typical Saturday night crowd!) though I did managed to escape the housing area without being mauled by little zombies and werewolves! Did I dress up for Halloween? Nope, but I went as myself: the Hairy Cornishman, and after receiving a couple of compliments from women I was beginning to believe it was my birthday, not Halloween! Anyway, that was yesterday: it’s now time to get back to more serious things such as my work. Grounded in theories; surrounded by literature? Absolutely!

Progress on Grounded Theory

Until very recently I have held the belief that Grounded Theory is a qualitative only research method; that theory could only be developed through developing categories and codes based on text based data. I have since come across a couple of research papers that states that Grounded Theory doesn’t just work with qualitative data as it can also work with quantitative data. This took me by surprise, so after more reading into the subject I found that Grounded Theory had been originally defined as being compatible with both quantitative and qualitative data. I then sent an email to my supervisor about this and he said that it was an excellent observation that I made with regards to Grounded Theory being compatible with both data types therefore I am guessing from this that there is a fair percentage of Ph.D. candidates who use Grounded Theory that are not aware of the fact that it is compatible with both qualitative and quantitative data.

It makes you realise that there are authors and academics that use terms interchangeably and apply different meanings to these terms depending on contexts. As an example of this, particular learning models that explore certain aspects of learning can be defined as exploring another aspect of learning such as critical thinking models have been defined by some authors as models of interaction. Another example is where a theory has been incorrectly defined as a framework, and a framework has been incorrectly defined as a theory. Perhaps there needs to be more standardisation in the meanings of what exactly a framework is or what exactly a theory is because this apparent lack of standards and definitions and the apparent interchangeable terminology could easily confuse those who do not have their wits about them.

Surrounded by literature!

Lots of it, lots and lots and lots and lots and you get the picture (or the book, or research paper!). The main reading activities at the moment involve empirical papers that are most likely going to have a role in the development of the literature review and the methodology chapters. These are papers that describe the development of particular analytical models, and papers that describe the implementation of these models across varying learning contexts and environments in relation to the use of certain technology to support particular learning processes. I have written extensive notes (pages and pages) and continue to do this with regards to the methodologies and methods that have been used to explore online learning processes in terms of their usefulness, the uses, and limitations of these methodologies and methods, and what other methods and methodologies could be used to enhance existing research. Similarly I have made extensive notes on the way that various analytical models have been implemented and used across various subjects and contexts. These contexts have included different instructional tasks and their design, and different subjects, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level although focussing on exploring literature based on postgraduates first as these shall be the focus of the Ph.D. research.

The aim is to provide a full comparison, contrast, analysis and synthesis of all these different models that explore different aspects of particular learning processes and give reasoning as to why existing models are not totally accurate or comprehensive enough, and to therefore provide reasoning as to why a new model or theory needs to be developed.

An important aspect of all this is to keep documenting ideas: for an average empirical paper, I can write on average a couple of pages of notes but I can write much more than I do. At the moment I am just documenting ideas as they come to me as I read but eventually when the reading of empirical papers has gone beyond a particular point (can’t read forever!) I shall then go through the notes and expand upon the ideas. Eventually after analysing and synthesising ideas that have been documented I can then begin forming a proper structure to the literature review and the methodology chapters.

So, not much to do then! It’s all fun, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment when you have come out with even just an idea. The trick (or treat) is not to worry about quantity but think about the quality. It is much better to write less and have more quality ideas than have pages and pages of what could prove to be meaningless dribble, but at this stage this is not of a concern: the idea is to document every idea and thought, and either remove them or expand upon them when I go through the notes. It is a carefully constructed process, and no step can be missed else mistakes shall happen. It can feel a little chaotic as you have pages of ideas around in what appears not to be very cohesive or consistent ordering, but that’s the way all learning journeys begin and progress: it is only later in any learning process that you begin to make sense of everything.

Keep going, and never give up!

‘till next time: trrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrick or trrrrreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaat!

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