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November 07, 2019
A reason why I have not fully developed the philosophical and methodological arguments yet is simply because there is a lot here to consider. There are probably things that need considering that I have not even thought about yet, and there are probably things that I gave only a passing glance that need further thought (I’ve come across this several times!).
From what I can currently understand and from what I am currently considering, further thought needs to be given to how the multiple uses of methods is compatible with middle range philosophical positions. I also need to further consider how the approach is compatible with hermeneutical qualitative methodologies. I also have to consider further how thematic, basic quantitative and pattern-based approaches complement each other with respect to the philosophical and methodological positions. I also have to think further about these considerations with respect to the research question and research objectives.
This is all ongoing work and will take a number of months to fully realise and elaborate. This shall obviously lead to the continuous need to edit and probably rewrite the research design chapter sections as deemed necessary.
I am also considering carrying out extra analysis of the data. I have found the essentials of the process of social learning and have developed a better understanding of the process itself, but I have also begun to understand and explain in the thesis what factors inhibits the process of social learning. This needs further work because I am realising that I am developing claims and hypotheses that I am not able to answer, and I am thinking that these assumptions can become more reliable and validated if I carried out further data analysis. This will of course impact the content and ordering of the findings chapter and the discussions chapter. In what way this could happen, what extra content or discussions could be made, and the way that existing discussions shall be amended have not been fully considered yet and won’t be till I decided what other data analysis tasks are required, and to think about the way in which they could affect existing findings.
The coding framework, which is a key deliverable of the research, is now complete but I am also in the process of testing the framework within different contexts. The aim of this is to improve validity and reliability of the framework, and to show its possible areas of application, which might have a profound impact on what has already been discussed in the discussions chapter. The desire is to publish these findings in a research paper in the future.
I also have other ideas for research papers particularly method papers that contribute towards the discussions of ‘multi-methods’ approach particularly with respect to the specific learning context. Papers based on the findings are also planned and I have ideas to publish papers based on each type of method and also in combination, but I am not sure at this time the way this is going to come about and I am going to think about this more next year.
Lots going on! The key emphasis now is on the continuous development and redevelopment of thesis chapters from what I consider to be complete draft form to formal thesis form. Another key emphasis is on testing the analytical framework for validity, reliability and applicability. The other key emphasis is on publishing papers, but this is not an immediate concern and can be left to some point next year. In the meantime between now and Christmas the focus shall be placed on editing and rewriting the first literature review chapter.
What a journey and there’s more to come!
Previously I had discussed the limitations of thematic analysis, and briefly indicated how these limitations could be addressed using quantitative and patterned based approaches with the aim of generating a better understanding of the process of social learning processes as well as its essentials or essences. Although, I could argue in the thesis that in order to understand the process itself it is important to understand the essentials of the process relative to the research question and research objectives. How can a process itself be understood if we do not know its essentials? This is a question I’m currently thinking about.
Going further into the discussions, what I had found with the combined use of thematic, quantitative, and patterned based approaches is a more effective understanding of the process of learning, but still not a complete picture of the phenomenon as a whole. I am in a better position to explain ‘what’ happens and possibly ‘how’ something happens, but not ‘why’ that particular learning event happens at a particular point because I would need access to resources that have been beyond the reach and purpose of the Ph.D. However, in the thesis I am explaining all of this as part of potential future work that could be carried out. As individual analytical methods, not only did each in part support the findings of each other, but each approach offered a different yet compatible perspective of the data.
I had not anticipated or expected such vastly different perspectives of the data, so this complexity had overwhelmed me for quite a while. It took a lot of working out of the meaning of each approach and the data that each produced in order to understand how each set complemented each other, and what exactly the data was trying to communicate (and, indeed, the way I was interpreting the meaning of each set of data relative to each other). This is still ongoing and, hence, provides a possible reason to edit the findings and discussion chapters.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the philosophical and methodological issues of the combined approach that I have been thinking about.
Methodologically, the inclusion of multiple analytical methods does not constitute a mixed methods approach. Briefly, a research project could be considered mixed methods if each method is used with different types of data (e.g., qualitative and quantitative) leading to the production of different sets of data that is to me merged or combined in some way. Within this research, the qualitative thematic, basic quantitative and patterned-based approaches are being used with the same type of data and within the same type of general methodology (hermeneutic qualitative). A key question that I am currently exploring is whether or not this sort of approach can be considered ‘methodological triangulation’ or ‘analytical triangulation,’ or ‘multi-mode’ or ‘multi-methods’ research. Regardless, philosophically the multiple uses of methods is arguably compatible with middle-range realist perspectives as it is to my understanding that subtle realism (considered a middle range philosophy, and is a realist position I draw upon within the research) support multiple different types of analytical approaches within the same project in order to enable understand of the complexity of a phenomenon. I am still fully working out the compatibility between middle range philosophies and multiple uses of analytical methods within the same project, though I am arriving at the point that middle-range philosophical positions supports multiple analytical methods.
What does all this mean? What does or could this mean for qualitative research? My methodological position is hermeneutical and whilst most literature I have come across focuses on how hermeneutics assists with the interpretations of text, I am not convinced that this excludes some form of basic quantitative analysis. I am currently developing explanations and ideas about this, but my current thinking here is that because hermeneutics is compatible with middle-range realism, and because middle range realism advocates reasonableness and rationale development of concepts, the interpretations that are hermeneutically constructed can be supplemented or supported in some way by a form of quantitative analysis. This, of course, depends very much on the context of what is being explored. Because I am exploring a process of learning through accessing the process directly and not through some mediated access through, for example, the perspectives of learners, I can ground the research within a particular form of objective reality that can be supported in some way by the use of the quantitative. Through thematic analysis I can present a series of themes and codes, and make assumptions about a process based on those codes and themes, and then use the quantitative to provide a form of validating the reasonableness of at least some of these assumptions and interpretations, in conjunction with the pattern-based approach. This is again something I am currently figuring out.
The pattern-based approach provided a perspective of the learning process that differed widely from the thematic and quantitative approaches, and provided insights into the patterns and processes of interactions among participants that I had not previously anticipated and considered. This, admittedly, completely overwhelmed me as mentioned and for a while I was stuck and muddled, but I persevered and slowly, progressively, sense and clarity was being made out of the uncertainty. I am not yet in a position where I can fully elaborate on the way that the different approaches complement each other and build on the findings of each other, and what I have already explained might need editing. But I do believe that my philosophical and methodological arguments are becoming clearer as my understanding grows, and I do feel much more clearer on the meaning of the findings and the purpose of each approach compared to a few months ago when I felt completely overwhelmed with the differences in the perspectives that were afforded by the different analytical methods.
I still feel I have a long way to go, yet I also feel I have come really far. It is very wrong to think at any time that you are absolutely correct and absolutely close to where you need to be, because you can never really fully tell the distance that you are at compared to the complete whole. All you can to is track and trace the distance you have travelled, and if you can observe real difference and real progress in your understanding of everything that you do, then you’re on the right track!
Long term blog followers will probably remember my discussions about grounded theory and discourse analysis, and the reasons why I shifted towards thematic analysis following the identification of their unsuitability. Whilst thematic analysis has been very useful for achieving certain purposes of the research, thematic analysis had not provided a complete picture of the phenomena of research interest. In fact, I came to realise that some of the problems encountered with grounded theory were also encountered with thematic analysis.
Thematic analysis was used in this research to develop a coding framework that can be used to code for particular and similar patterns across the data with reference to specific characteristics of social learning processes. From the codes, themes have been developed that characterises the process of social learning. However, a problem that was encountered was that, similar to grounded theory, whilst thematic analysis was able to identify the key concepts and conceptualisations of social learning process, it could not enable a full understanding of the process of learning itself. In other words, thematic analysis can describe and present the key essences of social learning in accordance to the specifics of the research question and research objectives. It cannot, however, explain how learning takes place within the context of a social and cognitive process. In order to achieve this, I had to go deeper into not just the essences that describes and captures essential social learning, given particular conditions and contexts, but also deeper understanding of the process of learning itself. Learning is a process, not a product, regardless of the context of this learning and it is arguable that to understand learning within any context is to understand it as a social and cognitive process.
In order to achieve this level of understanding, along with thematic analysis I also used basic quantitative approaches, and patterned-based approaches. From the use of thematic analysis, I developed several assumptions about the process, but could not use thematic analysis to test these assumptions. The use of basic quantitative analysis and pattern-based analysis led to the testing of these assumptions and further explorations of the data in order to better understand social learning as a process and as a pattern between individuals. This has added considerably to the research not just in terms of better understanding the essences of the phenomenon, but also of understanding its process. The addition of multiple methods has, not surprisingly, also led to the need to rethink of some aspects the research design to ensure compatibility and cohesion between the research design components. These considerations are important, because without these careful considerations the research design is going to appear disjointed and illogical, with incompatible parts that could generate incorrect or inappropriate data leading to unreliable and unverifiable interpretations of the data.
What actually happened during this process is the observation and construction of insights of the learning process that I had not previously anticipated, and that which I had no idea I considered possible to perceive. I shall explain this further in the next blog post.
July 08, 2019
Progress On Data Analysis And Findings Chapter
Data analysis was completed earlier this year leading what I believe to be a complete set of codes, and a complete set of themes that forms the thematic framework. As per the requirements of thematic analysis, I have been able to identify how the themes relate to each other and as a result, I have been able to complete the findings chapter. There are various theses available that revolve around the use of thematic analysis, and these have assisted greatly with forming and shaping the structure of the findings chapter. Briefly, the findings chapter is where I describe and explain the meaning, description, and explanations of the functions and purposes and variation of each theme, with all claims of the data backed up using relevant extracts from the data that justifies the claims being made.
As a side note that relates to the findings chapter, but also the research design chapter, I very much recommend that you read other theses that apply the methods and methodologies that you use so that you can attain a sense of their functionality and use, and perhaps attain an understanding of the extent to which they have been used so far across different philosophical, theoretical and disciplinary contexts.
What you can state in your thesis is your observations of how the selected methodologies and methods have been used within different philosophical and theoretical positions, and if you can find approaches that match exactly what you are doing in terms of your research design that could be useful. However, this is not a guarantee as research design itself is an evolving field of research and practice. Sometimes, if you feel convicted in your beliefs and reason about your research design, you have to take a risk, but make sure that you clearly, comprehensively, meticulously, and considerable detail, explain, and justify the components of your design, and the way that they relate to each other. An interesting approach is to argue how your philosophical and theoretical positions could provide further insights into the characteristics and behaviour of the phenomenon that other philosophical positions would not be able to observe. I’m planning to write a paper on this subject.
The discussions chapter is where the findings are situated within a more interpretive, theoretical level and situated within existing literature in order to provide reasoned validation to the themes, and to increase their reliability and validity in their ‘existence’ through their existence being perceived and interpreted by other authors across different contexts. The discussions chapter is being divided into a couple of parts. The first part simply discusses the key findings, the core themes, and how they relate to each other in order to address the research problem and answer the research question. It is in this chapter, therefore, that you strongly link your findings to the research question, how they are relevant to the research question, and the way that they connect with the research problem and offer a possible solution. Remember, because your framework is built on a set of reasoned and rationalised interpretations grounded in the data, you cannot be absolute and certain about the absolute validity of your interpretations. This is particularly the extent to which they are generalizable across multiple contexts. This is a big debate in literature.
The second part of the chapter revolves around situating my findings and the discussions of my findings in the context of the wider literature, and this is where I begin to compare my themes, claims, codes, observations, etc. to other research and literature. This is where I am reading literature that very closely matches my own in terms of naming themes and codes with very similar functions to my own in order to validate and verify my themes. Not only this, but I can use extant literature to explain how my thematic framework differs from what exists, why it is different, and why these differences are important. This is where the second literature review takes place, and is effectively embedded and integrated in with the discussions of the findings.
It can take a long time to work out the way that this second literature review shall be shaped. You won't really know till you have completed your data analysis and have, therefore, developed your themes. It is your themes, how you view your themes, and the context within which these themes have been developed, that guide your understanding of existing literature, and how you compare your themes to what already exists. This is why it is important to ensure that the literature you choose for both the first literature review chapter and the integrated literature review is correct and relevant for the purposes of (a) research contextualisation and (b) for the purposes of validating your themes. An incorrect approach to discussions can disjoint your literature reviews and qualitative thesis as a whole. It has taken me a long time to figure this out and, quite honestly, it wasn’t until I completed the data analysis that I was able to build that complete picture of how I am going to discuss my framework and the frameworks of others, and where in the thesis I can discuss them. I am still thinknig about the very fine details, it's an ongoing process.
Have literally just begun this chapter so a full vision of the chapter has yet to be developed. However this takes what has been discussed from the previous chapter, the critiques of the literature and the explanations of the findings, and situates these discussions in the broader and wider theoretical and disciplinary landscape of the research. Because the discipline of my research is Education, I would have to link these discussions to the broader practice of education e.g., how the findings impact teaching and learning practice, how does the framework assist with researchers in their explorations of online learning, how can the framework be used in different contexts, etc. Also link with the theories of learning and perhaps link with the general goals and purposes of Education in our society, I’m guessing, I am not fully sure but I might just go for it anyway…..
I remember writing lots about the goals and purposes of Education in the past as part of the role of Education in society, but I had archived those discussions because I didn’t think they were relevant. Thankfully, they are archived and not deleted completely so they might prove to be relevant after all!
The previous couple of posts show where I am more or less up to at the moment! Still a fair way to go, but I have a vision that continues to unravel itself as time progresses and the more that I write. It is important to keep that vision and to keep that in focus because when you become overwhelmed, you have that to guide you. That, and the mindset that tells you that it is better to feel overwhelmed with so much to say, than to feel underwhelmed and feel devoid of anything to say.
‘till next time!
November 02, 2018
It has been quite a while since I wrote the previous blog post as I have been steeped in data analysis with the sole purpose of developing the coding frame. There is too much detail to cover in an update blog post so I shall simply focus on the core accomplishment, and that is the development of the coding framework!
For the past few many months I have been developing a coding framework that is intended to assist qualitative researchers in the exploration of social learning phenomena (I am obviously not going to go into this in too much detail on here: more extensive details shall be found in the thesis and, fingers crossed, published papers). In developing this coding framework I have switched from a grounded theory methodology to a thematic analysis with concepts borrowed from grounded theory (e.g., the writing of theoretical memos, and the idea of theoretical saturation, and some ideas from constant comparisons, etc.), and also changed direction in coding (e.g., switched direction in coding for particular data characteristics and functions). Extensive notes have been written and continue to be written as to the reasons for the changes, the exact process and aspects of the analysis, and the relationship between the components and stages of analysis. As data analysis is continuous, I am effectively writing notes about the research design as the analysis progresses. In my view, there is no sense in doing the data analysis and then writing the research design chapter (even in rough note form) after that. It is really best to do both tasks simultaneously especially if it’s qualitative research.
Now I am in a position where I feel that I have developed a coding framework and I am beginning to identify themes that explain the core principles, characteristics, dynamics and forms of the phenomena of interest in relation to the research questions and the research context.
Even though I have developed the coding framework, the work is not complete.
The next stage is the process of refinement, verification and validation of the coding framework along with continuing to refine the themes that are developed from the codes, which themselves shall be going into the next stage of refinement and checking.
In a nutshell, the refinement and checking process shall involve a deeper examination and comparison of all the coded data segments. In line with the thinking of grounded theory (which I think should be a part of overall qualitative research thinking), I have been writing extensive theoretical memos on various aspects of the analysis process and this includes memos for each code.
With each code memo, I am placing each similarly coded segment into the document relevant to the particular code in order to document the location and content of each coded segment. The next step with these memos for each code is to closely compare each segment to ensure that they are similar enough in characteristics, function, purpose and features (all of these aspects of the data have been written extensively about on paper and continue to be) to be given the same code. Other tasks include the comprehensive comparisons of their similarities, to discuss and examine the way they are similar and which sub-group of the code they belong, based on their characteristics and features. I shall, again, be extensively documenting this process stage by stage. It is expected that this process shall lead to a refinement of some of the codes and understanding of the codes, and the continuous task of identifying more themes, and refine and develop existing themes. Again, I intend on extensively documenting this process.
Other processes of verification and validation shall include the potential use of a focus group where a group of graduates is being planned to apply the coded framework to test it (part of the inter rater process) and also I plan to situate the codes and most importantly the developing themes within existing literature. In other words, I plan to use existing literature to verify and validate the data, and to use the themes to expand on existing understanding of the phenomena, and to explain the way in which the coding framework can be used along with other frameworks for different purposes.
This blog post does not do justice the amount of work that is involved and what shall be involved in the future, seriously. I’ve written now well over four hundred pages perhaps nearer to five hundred pages or more, on both the computer and on paper, on the research design, the phenomena itself, and observations that I have made of the data so far. And I’m not done with it yet because I have not detailed the processes that are yet to come and that which I am just about to begin engaging with.
These pages are not formally drafted: they are a mixture of a series of quick thoughts or notes on a page, pages of extended thoughts and observations, reflections on the process so far, critiques of the research design, notes and extended thoughts on the problems I have come across, developments of philosophical and ethical groundings and justifications, critiques and explanations of the research process I am adopting, and much more.
Obviously there is not much in the way of cohesive or logical ordering to these notes: I am simply writing everything down as anything comes to me. That works for me and is the best approach; otherwise you’ll be so worried and focused on order that you’ll miss out on important details and the serendipity of it all.
I shall worry about the order and logic of everything in the future: the most important thing is that everything is being recorded in whatever order that occurs, using whatever medium I can get access to at the time either on the computer or on pen and paper (and sometimes both at the same time!).
That’s basically been the key activity since writing the blog post: developing the coding framework to a point where I am happy with it, and can move it forward to the next stage of refinement, verification and validation. The other tasks obviously have been to extensively and comprehensively document everything that I do: the what, how, why, when and where.
‘till next time!
July 07, 2018
I have managed to code through the entire data corpus, involving the development and assignment of codes to relevant data segments; codes that capture the meaning of the assigned data segments, along with embedded theoretical memos within the data. These memos explain the nature, function, context and meaning of the code and the segment’s content and any other relevant thoughts, hypotheses and theories related to the content. However, as I was thinking about the next stage I stated to doubt myself and asked myself the main questions:
What is the real meaning of a theme?
How is a theme really constructed?
What type of theme should I be constructing?
These questions reflected the doubts that I had at the time of my understanding of what a theme really is, and the depth and breadth of which I should involve myself with theme analysis and development for the purposes of my research. These questions are continuously asked but I appear to have some clarity in my rereadings and exploration of the literature. I knew at the time the process of making themes but there was something that bought doubt into my mind: is there really no step between developing codes and developing themes? I wasn’t convinced, and hence the formation of the questions and the subsequent reading of literature. Doubt in this case has been used as a means, a process, of developing questions and of endeavouring to explore topics further.
From what I can understand of the literature, there is varying terminology to refer to the same type of theme but for the sake of brevity I shall focus on a couple of authors who are becoming key writers for my understanding and application of thematic analysis.
Braun and Clarke (2006) define the themes as semantic or latent. Semantic refers to theme development based on just the surface level meaning of the data; essentially, the researcher is not interested in anything beyond what is said literally within the text. There is therefore, from what I can understand, no attempt at understanding context, nuances, variety, diversity and deeper meaning at the semantic level. Semantic level is essentially considered to be a descriptive level of meaning.
At the latent level of theme development, however, there are attempts at going beyond the semantic level and into the realm of interpretation, assumptions, concepts, conceptualisations, meaning making, hypothesis making and theorisation. From what I can understand, Braun and Clarke (2006) describe theme analysis and development as a progress from the descriptive level to the level of interpretation and theorisation. What is identified at the semantic level is taken beyond the obvious and observable to what can be known and understood through theories and interpretations. The latent level, however, is not grounded on hairy fairly assumptions as the latent level assumptions and theorisation processes are grounded in the semantic level. Therefore, what I find or observe at the semantic level I can theorise, hypothesise, assume, and make meaning of their existence, functionality, purpose and context.
This actually makes sense, because how can I possibly stop at just a simple observation? How can I simply consider the existence and meaning of something at only the semantic level and not at the latent level? It doesn’t make any sense to me just to observe and know something at the semantic level: I am immediately drawn to theories, well grounded assumptions, hypotheses, and meaning behind existence and function. Is that because I have an academic mind? Can I perceive beyond the observable? Can I understand meaning and function beyond what is right in front of me and clearly observable? Surely I can if I am drawn to this level of understanding?
Moving forwards, I have this understanding now of semantic and latent themes so surely it is common sense that thematic analysis consists of both themes? That my research would involve the construction of both? According to the approach to thematic analysis by Braun and Clarke (2006), I would be correct.
But wait, there’s more!
Category or Theme? Should we consider both?
After spending a long time pouring over methodological papers about thematic analysis and the idea of theme development, I had more questions than answers. I came across literature that was not only encouraging me to doubt and question what to do in the next stage (I shall discuss this more in a future blog post), but also encouraged me to question my own understanding of what a theme is, and also what a category is. Is it not true that categories are an integral part of grounded theory and therefore I should not worry about them? If only our attempts at understanding the world, of social reality and all the components of social reality were that easy!
Methodological authors differ in their description and discussion of the theme development level and of the definition of categories and themes. After a long while of reading however, I am beginning to lean towards discussions around the likes of Vaismoradi et al (2016), who suggested that the thematic analyst considers both the category and theme, where the category represents the semantic content whilst the theme overarch the category and represents therefore latent data.
What is interesting here therefore is that a theme could consist of multiple categories although some authors name categories as sub-themes. Categories or sub-themes themselves are constructed through the grouping of codes; categories therefore describe and functionalise a group of codes and describe their general meaning. From what I understand of the literature and particularly Braun and Clarke (2006) is that categories (or sub-themes) are constructed first before they are them grouped into themes. But it’s not as clear cut as that, because I’ve just recently read another paper and the author suggests that there is no need for theme development and automatically considered their codes to be themes………..
It is a minefield, but the way my mind works I like the idea of progressing from codes to categories to themes (and, therefore, from semantic or manifest data, different authors label them differently, to latent data; from observation to interpretation and theorisation).
What did I learn from that process? That the whole idea of building themes is to move from semantic or manifest level to the level of interpretation and theorising and this makes a lot more sense to me now and comes to me really as quite obvious. Also reflecting back on the process I have used so far this is something that I have always done, I just wasn’t familiar with the terminology! Also, categories themselves are complex and used in different contexts. Previously I thought categories were terms and features exclusive to grounded theory, but categories are general terms but it appears to me that categories are used differently depending on the research method used. Within grounded theory, they are used to build towards a theory whilst in thematic analysis they are used as part of building understanding and not a theory.
I was right to doubt, because I was able to realise and recognise where I have to build my own understanding. This is an ongoing process, but the more I use thematic analysis and read the relevant literature the more I can understand the way in which it relates to the coding process I am carrying out, and the way in which themes can be used for the next stage of the research.
‘Till next time!
Braun, V., Clarke, V (2006): Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77 - 101
Vaismoradi, M., Jones, J., Turunen, Shelgrove, S (2016): Theme Development in Qualitative Content Analysis and Thematic Analysis, Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6 (5), 100 - 110
May 25, 2018
I have lost count of the amount of times I have rewritten literature review sections and I am now completely rethinking the structure, layout, content and even the number of literature review chapters given the planned changes to the research design. I have quite frankly given up on all ideas of being settled on any kind of literature review format, layout etc. till the day I actually print out the thesis……..
I have a lot of thoughts about the literature reviews. I am now planning on going for at least two literature review chapters with the first engaging with the relationship between society, culture, education and other concepts that I have now come to know as relevant, and the second focussing on the concepts and characteristics of the phenomenon of interest and technologically enhanced learning. The third chapter was going to focus on the exploration and examination of the different theories and models used to explore the phenomenon of interest in different ways. I am not sure now though whether it is best to keep the planned third chapter the way it is, or to discuss and critique existing models and theories when I have developed my own model of what it is I am exploring. However because my research design is emergent, there is a requirement to save critiquing empirical literature most relevant to the phenomenon of interest till the later chapters where literature can be integrated with research findings in order to compare findings, and to authenticate and validate the emerging model or theory. As you can tell I’m not yet decided about the third chapter because of the complexity of the research design……….
Thoughts On The Research Design
The research design has changed because I have now come to fully realise the multi-dimensional and multi-layered nature of the phenomenon of interest. More importantly, I have come to realise or have become more aware of the characteristics of the data that I want to explore as a result of further rereads of the data and, therefore, the result of coming to realise that Grounded Theory simply isn’t going to capture these characteristics.
This realisation has led me to viewing the phenomenon of interest as multi-layered and, therefore, the need to carry out a multi-level approach to data analysis. There is care needed here with language: there is a difference between a multi-level approach and a multi-staged or multi-phased approach. I am saying that the phenomenon of interest can be explored using different levels; in the case of my research, three levels, but I need not go into any detailed explanations as to what they are on here at this time. Therefore I am saying that the phenomenon can be understood in three different ways, but combined they can provide potentially a powerful insight into the complexity and process of the particular learning phenomenon of interest. Whether or not the multi-level perspective of the phenomenon of interest shall lead to a multi-staged (e.g., Mixed Methods) research design remains to be determined. It is likely though to become mixed methods with the way I am currently thinking about the way I would like to investigate the phenomenon of interest.
What I can say is the first phase naturally aligns with the work I have already completed: Grounded Theory coding, or at least the first stage Open Coding. I am not, however, sure at this time if I need to fully develop the codes into grounded theory categories, or if they can simply be left as they are and not call it Open Coding but simply call it another coding process. Either way, I shall be rereading the data again and reread all the codes and theoretical notes that I have made, and the product of the rereading and reanalysis of the data should lead me to decide exactly what further analytical methods I shall be adopting in the further phases.
I do like the idea of using the graph / network analysis as previously discussed and I feel that there is a need for some sort of quantitative analysis of the data (which would make it mixed methods) but I need to ground this need in the data and the literature (though I’ve read enough to consider these approaches as possible).
Grounding the need to change or amend a research design within an emergent research context is an important point to make, because it is easy to think (as has been argued by some authors) of emergent research designs as ‘anything goes’ but this isn’t the case. Not every research project, particularly emergent designs, is fully planned at the beginning stages of the research project. It can take some time and several reanalysis of the data for the design to really emerge and this accompanies the way in which the researcher becomes sensitised or becomes aware of the extent and complexity of the phenomenon of interest, and the way in which is the best approach to understanding this complexity.
What’s important in my current thinking is not that you are able to perceive multi-level complexity or that you potentially or eventually come to the idea that you need to combine various methods in order to capture this complexity, but that you can fully and elaborately justify your choices and justify why you perceive the phenomenon of interest in the way that you do. Everything has to be grounded in data as well as in sound, authentic reasoning and logic that can stand up to scrutiny (which goes right up to your ontological and possibly meta-philosophical considerations), and of course in the literature.
The next step now is to move away from writing the literature review for a while and refocus on analysing the data and continuing to draft the methodology chapters, but I shall explain this further in the next blog post that shall be coming soon. The coming summer months shall be spent therefore mostly on data analysis!
‘till next time!