April 25, 2016

Rambling Update On Progress!

The Trial Study Up And Running!


After gaining permissions from my supervisor and the admin of an online discussion forum, the discussion forum aspect of the trial study has begun! The aim of this aspect of the trial study is to determine the most suitable discussion activities for the main study and this is being determined through quantity of replies and extent to which the participants are taking part in the activities. The trial study has already indicated the topics that are worthy of pursuing further with the main study and also the topics that are not quite as popular and therefore not worth pursuing further, but even then this aspect is making an important contribution to the trial study.


What is most important is that I already have enough qualitative data for analysis and therefore to experiment with the developing Grounded Theory method. The qualitative data shall be used to experiment with this Grounded Theory method in order to assist with further developing the method ideas and to propose a Grounded Theory approach that is appropriate for the type of qualitative data being analysed. It shall no doubt be proven that you can read as many textbooks and papers on Grounded Theory as you desire, but you cannot actually beat being hands on with a method and really putting it through its paces with real, workable data. That is not to say that textbook reading is not important: this needs to be done in order to understand Grounded Theory at the Philosophical level, its place in the wider context of research methods, to understand its history and reasons of use, understand the processes and activities, and to understand its many critiques and debate points, but actually using it is just as important to your learning of Grounded Theory and any other research method.


The discussion trial is going well, and is due to carry on for a little while though since I already have the required data for the trial study I am likely to shut the trial down soon enough after finding out the results of interventions that I have made to spice up the activities that are lacking in use. Needless to say that I am pleased that it appears that the discussion trial’s aims and objectives so far is on track to being achieved.


In the meantime, I shall be working towards redeveloping the questionnaire and organise for a trial run for the questionnaire to take place.



The Upgrade Paper


Because the trial period has begun and all permissions granted I have been able to work on the Upgrade Paper through discussing the trial and its initial findings. I’ve also been rereading and reediting the paper particularly better describing the problem area and introducing the key authors and key literature referring to the phenomena of interest. I have also been introducing my own ideas and reasons why the phenomenon of interest needs to be investigated in a different way and in ways not presented in existing literature. Obviously I will be going into this further in the thesis, but for the upgrade paper I am trying to introduce my ideas and offer argumentation and reasons behind those ideas, based on existing literature.


Quite pleased with the paper so far. It is not allowed to go too far past four thousand words and that is going to be a challenge! Might sound like a lot of words to play with, but when you have a lot of ideas that you want to get across it is quite a challenge to explain everything in four thousand words. The core idea is to present key ideas, key authors, key basis of building the ideas, and the main aspects of the methodology, ethical issues, trial discussions, and anticipated findings and problems. Bit of a challenge trying to get all that into four thousand words (heck this post has just past six hundred words of waffle!) but it shall be done!

Critical Realism? Or not?


As some of you know, I did originally select critical realism as the philosophical basis of my mixed methods research, but I’m not a hundred percent sure now. The other philosophical perspectives are not suitable, therefore this does mean that I do like critical realism’s ontological and epistemological perspective of reality. Where there are problems now with the use of critical realism is its definition and focus on the relationship between structure and agent. From what I can currently understand (obviously need to do more reading, and learning is continuous) critical realism at the application level focusses on the relationship between a power structure (institution, policy, etc) and the agent (humans). From what I can understand at the moment there does not appear to be any literature that moves critical realism away from this idea of exploring the relationship between structure and agent, and focus on the specific aspects of my research because it is not being developed to explore such a relationship or to measure the impact that a structure has on an agent.


There appears to be however a main contributor of critical realism that does insist on the importance of moving away from power relations between structure and agent and focus more on aspects more appropriate for my research. But this I shall have to read further into.


What does all this mean? Well, given that the other philosophical perspectives of mixed methods are not really that suitable, if I cannot apply critical realism as defined by the main contributors I shall have to create a derivative of critical realism that better explores reality and learning context in the way that the research intends. I shall talk more about this in another blog post.


Making progress!


Which is the main thing, though I have to say that I didn’t expect to be challenged by critical realism in quite the way that I anticipated, but that really is the beauty of research and the Ph.D. in general: you are challenged to question your views of reality and find out if the way you think you view reality is really the way that you view reality. It’s all interesting and I shall be reading more into critical realism soon, as well as continuing with developing the questionnaire and continue to write the upgrade paper!


Till next time: keep it real(ism),or if not just keep it (critical) real(ism)!


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