All 4 entries tagged PhD
October 06, 2018
The fifth and final year of the Ph.D. is now underway! All plans lead towards the submission of the thesis next September, the VIVA defence a few weeks or months following the submission, and the production of more research papers. I have every desire to publish my work following the thesis and where possible, before the submission of the thesis. I have every desire as well to develop a book proposal and have this accepted by an academic publisher: I’m leaning towards the idea of converting my thesis into a book format. I have ideas of what I might like to cover.
I look forward to the coming year, a year that shall academically challenge, excite, scare, and push me and develop me further as an academic researcher. There is always much more to learn, but I am excited because after the many months of experimenting with different analytical approaches to the data, I feel that I am starting to put together a workable plan of data analysis. I feel excited because I can observe continuous development of my understanding of the phenomenon and the data that represents it. This has been achieved through continuous detailing and elaborating of my ontological and epistemological beliefs, and continuous elaborations of the way in which these link with the methodological approach and the methods of data analysis. As I begin to further develop my approach to analysing the data, these elaborations shall no doubt become more detailed and comprehensive.
But I also feel challenged and slightly nervous at the fact that this is the final year and I still feel like I have a lot of analytical work to do, even though I feel like I have already completed a significant amount. Another concern is the simple consideration of the workability of what I shall ultimately develop, and whether or not I’ll actually get the Ph.D. but those thoughts are probably common among a large number of people working towards their Ph.Ds. That said, I do feel more confident with the approaches that I am developing compared to what I was trying to achieve a couple of years ago and even a few months ago.
My understanding of my own epistemology and the way that my beliefs link with methodological approaches and the data analysis methods have altered over the years of thinking about them and experimenting with them. The significant time spent thinking about different philosophical orientations, methodological approaches and experimenting with different analytical methods have been beneficial. This is leading to a thesis chapter that shall include comparisons between different epistemological orientations, methodological concerns and data analysis methods, where they shall be critiqued and evaluated with regards to their effectiveness of exploring the particular type of data in relation to the research questions. It gives me the opportunity not only to write a thesis that provides new knowledge pertaining to the understanding of the phenomena, but also new knowledge with regards to methods and approaches that can be used to explore the phenomena represented as a particular type of text.
Despite these alterations there have been a couple of constants that have remained throughout the research so far: the idea that there is something real independent of our conceptions and beliefs about that something in the social world, and also the appreciation of and desire to adopt a coding and categorisation approach. Coding and categorisation of the data leads to the development of categories and themes, which can be used for further analysis depending on the aims and objectives of the research. Coding and categorising are considered to be the fundamental aspects of qualitative research, and can be a key element of mixed methods research. Qualitative research is dominated by text based resources of different forms and types, which, I am going to argue, can provide different types of knowledge and understanding of a phenomenon. Depending on one’s theoretical and philosophical orientation, one shall perceive the texts in different ways, and place different emphases and meanings upon the text in order to understand the text in various ways related to the phenomena in order to answer the research questions. Coding and categorising, as well as thematic analysing, the data is the key means of capturing the meaning of particular events, actions, and activities either implicitly or explicitly stated in the text. That is essentially qualitative research in a nutshell though, obviously, qualitative research is much more complex than that.
It is a journey, and it’s a journey of constant wonder, awe, inspiration, development, innovation and invention. It’s a journey of challenges, excitement, of emotion, of being inspired, of inspiring others, and it’s a journey that is unique to you and to you alone.
It has been an incredible journey, and it’s nowhere near finished yet! Sometimes I feel that I am really only just beginning: that a real “end” does not necessarily exist, therefore, this idea of “finishing” a Ph.D. is quite an interesting concept. What is it you are actually finishing? Are you finishing the Ph.D. research course? Yes, you are! But are you actually finishing your research? Is that it? Is it done? What about all the ideas that you have developed during the time on your Ph.D. that you had not had the time to implement or develop further? Or what was considered irrelevant at the time but you might be able to think of contexts where they are more relevant? Does your thesis really represent all that your research could be, has been, might be, and should be? You might complete the Ph.D. course, but in reality your own research has only just begun!
Thanks for reading!
‘Till next time!
October 22, 2017
It’s incredible to think that the fourth year of the Ph.D. has started! The previous year was simultaneously scary, exciting, awe inspiring and successful. A successful conference, a published research paper and the successful upgrade from MPhil to Ph.D. were some of the highlights of the highly interesting and inspiring year of the Ph.D.
But that was the previous year! This is a new year (academically speaking) and the new year comes with a new, energised focus and the determination, more than ever before, to continue to write as a comprehensive, detailed, immaculate, complete thesis as I can possibly write within eighty thousand words. The key chapters that I have been working on recently have been, as mentioned in previous blog posts, the literature review chapters (three different literature review chapters serving different but related purposes) and the methodology chapter. My approach to these chapters and the thesis in general has continuously changed in style, structure and content outlines. This has been a result of continuous improvements to my understanding of the different styles, approaches, purposes and construction of different literature reviews; changing nature and style of my methodology and methods of choice, and of developing my academic language and finding my academic “voice.” Further, changes to the thesis have come about as a result of becoming more conscious of my identity as a researcher, as a social scientist, as a philosopher, as a researcher, and of my positioning within this vast and diverse world of academia and educational research.
Becoming conscious of and developing your own identity is an important aspect and product of Ph.D. engagement, and has been the subject of many published journal papers.
It can take a whole Ph.D. program and beyond to really understand who you are as a researcher and where you position yourself in the academic world. I understand my own identity as a researcher more than I have ever been able to understand before, but I know that there is always room for improvement. I can always learn new skills, develop new knowledge, explore new areas and try out new methods and methodologies. There is always much to learn and develop, and there is no doubt that identity awareness and development shall always be a progressive, developmental journey. I have no doubts, therefore, that as the year progresses I will gain further understanding of my position as a researcher and where I position myself in this academic world.
It’s really important that at the beginning of a Ph.D., you don’t hold the belief that you know what it is that you know with absolute certainty. Your research interests might change (I’ve found a new fondness for the Philosophy of Mind and Philosophy of Language that I did not possess a few years ago), your ideas might change, your methodology and methods might change, your research context might change, and you will change as a researcher. As you really wrap yourself into your research and as you continue to travel along that path of inquiry and questioning of everything, you will gain new knowledge, skills and wisdom to acknowledge the need for changes, and to cope and adapt to these changes. This is not a bad thing, because organic, progressive, natural changes to your Ph.D. as a result of your experiences and increased wisdom (don’t forget to document extensively these changes) will evidence your developing skills and your adaptable and flexible identity as a researcher. Allow any changes to your Ph.D. research be organic and natural and never forced: let those changes be guided by your intuition, by your experience, by your observations, and by your thinking and cognitive connectivity with your research context and reality itself. By fully documenting these changes, you assist yourself in understanding why these changes have occurred in the first place, and what led your research to these changes. The Ph.D. is not just a process of understanding your research phenomena of interest and contribute new knowledge thereof, but also a process of developing your understanding of who you are as a researcher.
I can imagine that every aspect of my Ph.D. shall experience a sense of growth during the year. Identity will more than likely be a part of that growth.
It’s going to be an exciting yet challenging Ph.D. year! This is really the key year that I build the Ph.D. thesis, continue to push forwards with theoretical development, position myself further within this vast universe of academia, and think about the way in which my theoretical contributions can impact philosophical and practical aspects of the research context.
I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m determined, I’m inspired, I’m driven, I’m motivated, I’m scared, I doubt, I think, I write, I read, I……am…….me……
‘till next time!
October 05, 2017
In the previous blog post I suggested that there is a difference between a research background and a research backdrop, and that it is my belief that both need to be treated separately though in relation to each other. What do I mean by this? Let’s take a look at each term for clarification.
The Research Background
The research background typically comes as a separate chapter in a Masters dissertation or a Ph.D. thesis. The chapter typically outlines and details the problem context of your research. By this, you are specifying the exact research problem; explain how you are exploring this problem, and why you are exploring this problem. When I say what you are exploring, you are describing the research problem: what is the research problem that you are exploring and what are its defining features and concepts. When I say how you are exploring the research problem, you are briefly explaining the methods and approaches that you are going to use in order to explore the problem and provide a possible solution. When I say why you are exploring the problem, I am suggesting that you explain your interest in the research problem, explain why you are carrying out your research, and why there is a need for your research and reasons for solving this problem.
The background therefore addresses the relationship between the research problem and your reasoning behind the research, but it does not address the relationship between the research problem and the general disciplinary context. This is where the backdrop plays a role.
The Research Backdrop
The research backdrop situates your research within the wider disciplinary context. The background is the explanation of the research problem and problem context, and the backdrop is the explanation of the wider disciplinary context therefore appropriately situating the research problem and research context and establishing the relationship between research problem context and the wider disciplinary context.
Using my research as an example, my research focuses on the description and explanation of a learning phenomenon, therefore my research can be classed as both descriptive and explanatory. It explores the learning phenomenon from, what I believe to be, a different philosophical perspective than most research projects. As for the research problem, briefly I am attempting to argue that this particular learning phenomenon has not been explored in a particular way, leading to fairly narrow assessment opportunities over a longer period of time or larger amount of instances. And, that there are benefits in moving away from a typical view of the learning phenomenon to another way that from what I can understand has not been properly or fully explored.
Because of my increasing interest in the Philosophy of Education, I am situating the learning phenomenon within the backdrop of Philosophical considerations of Education. Typical questions involved with the Philosophy of Education are: what is the goal of Education? What are the aims of Education? What is the nature of teaching and learning? What is the nature of the teacher and the learner? What are the contemporary characteristics of teachers and learners? What are the contemporary characteristics of learning environments? What is the relationship between Education and the wider society? What is the nature of society and what is the role of Education within contemporary society? What are the nature, role and function of classrooms? What is the nature of the relationship between teachers and learners?
When answering the questions relevant for my research, the focus is on the learning phenomenon. The learning phenomenon becomes the key guide in all of my questions and discussions that shall involve three different literature reviews that addresses different questions using a variety of different types of literature.
Remember: the background addresses the characteristics and concepts of the problem context as well as your own interests in the problem. The backdrop situates your research problem and problem context within the wider, traditional and contemporary discussions and debates of the discipline within which the problem is based.
October 20, 2014
There is little doubt that many PhD learners have been pouring over many, many guides giving advice on the way to set up a PhD thesis and the way that they should present their PhD thesis. All of the guides online that I have come across have obviously been very useful, but they have something in common: they have not at all touched on the creativity that is involved when writing a PhD thesis. But what is creativity? What is the process of being creative? Is it a behavioural measure? Is it a particular type of thinking? Is it a cognitive state? Is it a mental state? No doubt my conception of what it means to be creative on a PhD will perhaps change during the PhD, but let’s have a little exploration in this initial post on creativity exactly what it means to be creative with the thesis.
It’s important, and probably figured out, by now that there is a definite structure to the PhD thesis. There is the background / introduction chapter, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and then an assortment of different appendices. Within each chapter there will be sub chapters and various headings flying about the place. Some people who are not academic writers have dismissed this approach as suppressing creativity; that too much structure and the language used does not promote creativity. But really, there is an element of creativity, and perhaps at the moment at least initially, this could be called controlled creativity, not supressed creativity: the structure of the thesis allows for your creativity to shine, but in a controlled, structured way. I’ll explain this further.
I do view the PhD thesis so far as creative, simply because of this: this is your research, this is your chance to explore the areas that you want in various creative ways, this is your chance to communicate creatively with the technology that you have, this is your chance to use technology creatively to assist you with your objectives, this is your chance to communicate using academic language creatively to effectively, and creatively, communicate your research ideas and findings to the academic and wider community.
You can be creative in terms of the research areas you want to explore. Investigating research literature can be very creative even though you are following a process of literature investigation. From investigating the literature you can select and design your methodology creatively. You can use and present the data that you have collected and analysed creatively. You can explore and discuss research results in creative relevant to the research questions and hypotheses, which themselves have had an element of creativity in their design and development.
As can be imagined I do believe that there are many ways in which any PhD learner can be creative in their research from research conception, through analysing existing literature, through designing research questions and hypotheses, through designing and implementing methodologies, through analysing collected data, and through discussing and disseminating research findings.
This is an area that I shall be discussing a fair bit on here as I travel through this long and winding journey of post graduate research. Till the next creative related posting, keep creative, creatively!