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October 09, 2015

Weekly ramblings: opportunities and getting settled on methodologies and methods!

Open Doors!

A big opportunity might have opened up during the past week regarding publication of a second research paper! This is because of the positive feedback I had regarding the second assignment of the Advanced Research Methods course that I did as part of the first year of the Ph.D. with regards to the literature that I had critically analysed and explained the need for the questionnaire instrument that I am developing.

The supervisor was pleased that I had explored the literature and offered a unique perspective, and in my opinion that opens the door now to convert and extend relevant discussions for the conference paper at next year’s Warwick University conference early in the Summer. Still early days as to the exact directions this shall take, but my initial thinking is the conference paper shall extend relevant discussions on the survey instrument that I am developing.

Deciding on the methodology!

The following quote from the research methodology book “Qualitative Research Designs: Selection and Implementation” sums up the sheer amount of approaches to qualitative research

“The qualitative researcher faces a baffling array of options for conducting qualitative research”

Phenomenology, Ethnography, Case Study, Grounded Theory, and Participant Research are all different types of qualitative methodologies, with the additional different types and variants of each qualitative methodology. Not only this, but there are also various quantitative research methodologies around and also there are mixed methods approaches where a variety of different methods are used to provide a richer set of data, as well as the many different Philosophical perspectives of research (mostly relating to ontological and epistemological perspectives of reality). To the junior researcher, it can turn into a baffling mixture therefore they need to carefully construct their questions and understand their own mind and perspectives of reality before they really tackle the selection of methodology and methods. Many research textbooks emphasise the relationship between perspectives of reality, methodology, methods, and research questions therefore all of this needs very careful consideration from the very beginning and the only real way this is going to be understood is to start reading and keep reading! Questions shall change as reading progresses and therefore it might be likely that methods shall change: I know that I have changed my research questions several times to explore the same phenomenon and probably will change some of the questions in the future with the aim of increasing compatibility between questions asked and methodology selected. The key thing to remember is never believe that this is a once only process: this is a continuous process during the early stages of the Ph.D. as the reading and your thinking progresses and develops.

With my own methodological considerations, I have always liked the idea of Mixed Methods research design to explore the phenomenon of investigation even before starting the Ph.D. and this is something that I have stuck with. I had also very early decided on using surveys as an approach to collecting both quantitative and qualitative data, but also required a pure qualitative method to analyse any interview transcripts or discussion transcripts. Following the reading of various chapters of research methodology books, I have now settled on Grounded Theory. This was fairly easy to decide once I started to compare different qualitative research designs as I have an interpretivist, constructivist perspective of reality and Grounded Theory is compatible with these perspectives.

However, I have not yet decided on the way that survey data is going to be analysed and also have not worked out the way in which cross comparative analysis shall also take place. That is going to take a little while to build (and hopefully another research paper!)

So is that it then? Now that I’ve settled on the majority of the data collection and analysis methods can I just get on with it? Not at all: this is only just the beginning!

What’s next? The following lists some of the activities during the next year or so as part of the upgrade process:

  • Develop extensive understanding about the flavours and approaches of Grounded Theory methodology

  • Complete the questionnaire method if possible in time for showcasing at the conference via a conference paper early next year

  • More extensive learning on Mixed Methods methodology: its many flavours and approaches to collecting and analysing data and choose that which is most relevant

  • Develop substantial argumentation that supports the overall research design, the relationships between selected methods, the way they have been integrated, and why certain methods and methodology have been selected over other methods and methodology

  • Panic

  • Drink strong coffee

  • Chant some mumble jumble telling myself that everything will be alright

  • Explore and choose most relevant quantitative data analysis methods

  • Remember why I’m doing a Ph.D.

  • Plan, Design and Develop quantitative and qualitative data analysis techniques

  • Figure out in what way this organised chaos of a research design is supposed to work

  • Panic again

  • Drink strong coffee again

  • Chant yet more mumble jumble

Sounds like a plan! Thanks for reading and shall post up more musings soon!

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