A recruitment ramble

2015.11.06.recruitment-low-6629310209_b41f348fc3_oI began recruiting for my main doctoral study in September. When I did so, I had this naïve vision of finding enough participants within a few days and completing my data collection by the end of October. Though I did give myself a wee cushion, realising that some participants might not complete the study until mid-November, I had expected that I would be done recruiting people long before then.

Only the reality of participant recruitment began to present itself early on. Still, I had hoped that one or two strong social media blitzes would get me the numbers I need.

But here I am at the start of November, still trying to find more participants for my study.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete ghost town around here. It’s just that it’s a little (a lot?) more challenging than I had hoped it would be. And I don’t know why. I mean, it’s an exciting study, right!?

I am trying to find 12-15 people in each of three age groups:

  1. Generation Y: Born 1981-1997
  2. Generation X: Born 1965-1980
  3. Baby Boomers (or older): Born 1964 or earlier

My recruitment process has been fairly basic. I’ve created a short description of the research and a general overview of the participation activities, along with a short form to fill out for more information. From there, I send on a fuller description of participation details, along with the option of completing diaries electronically or by hand.

Once I hear back from potential participants, they are sent a second email with a consent form and diary instructions—as well as a couple other bits of information and a prompt to schedule an interview. Then there might be a couple of follow-up emails to answer questions, check in on the diary process, and confirm an interview time.

If everyone who noted interest followed through, I would have more than enough Gen-Xers and Boomers. But I would only have 11 Gen-Ys. And if everyone who is actively engaging with me completes, I would have enough Gen-Xers. But I would want another 2-3 Boomers—and twice as many Gen-Ys.

And it’s those Generation Y folks who have me stumped!

I honestly thought that younger people would be more eager to participate in a study about online information and personal reputation. I honestly thought that these people would jump at the chance to talk about how they engage with social media.

Instead, it’s people from my own generation (Go, Gen-X, go!) who seem more eager to participate. And, to a slightly lesser extent, the Boomers are noting an interest.

But then life gets in the way and people decide to withdraw from the study.

I’ve spoken with other digital researchers and have heard that they, too, have struggled with finding “younger” participants, so I know it’s not just me. But that knowledge doesn’t help me find a solution.

I am trying to reach out to the younger people I know, to ask for their help in spreading the word. And I am trying to think of clever and interesting ways to reach the Gen-Ys I don’t know. But I’m running out of ideas—and time!

Still, I’ve not given up all hope; I’ve not considered shouting defeat.

But I am—as ever—happy to hear thoughts and suggestions on recruitment in general or recruiting those young whipper-snappers! (And I’m happy to hear from potential participants, too!) And hopefully, I’ll be sharing a story in the not-too-distant future about a full set of participants.

[Note: Image by John Seidman, sourced on Flickr and used under Creative Commons License.]

Defining and organising the Internet

organising-the-internetIt’s been a while since I’ve blogged here, in part because I still haven’t figured out how best to use this space and in part because I have too many muddled thoughts in my brain to know what to share.

To address both of those issues, I’ve decided to use a tactic that works for my personal blogging habits: I’m going to attempt at using this space to work through some of the confusion I’m facing. The hope is that the act of writing my thoughts down will help me to clarify them, but that it will also give me the opportunity to seek feedback from others.

So, here goes!

Two of my goals for the next week are to 1) source some simple definitions of a few technical terms and 2) create an organisational chart of the Internet (highlighting my main areas of research).

Both of these things will be used in my thesis to guide the reader in their understanding of my approach to the topic of personal online reputation management.

First, the terms I want to define. Initially, I want to start with the broad terms found in the middle of the organisational chart. Those are:

But I may also need to add other definitions such as blog, forum, comments section, etc.

Or maybe those belong in a table somewhere?

Or maybe in a glossary?

How do I decide what terms to define within the main body of my work and which to simply relegate to a glossary?

Now, onto the organisational chart. (Full-size PDF here.)

(Don’t worry: the cat won’t be on the final version, despite theories that the Internet is actually made of cats*.)

I am starting with cats “The Internet” then attempting to identify the main areas under that umbrella. For now, those are the World Wide Web; interfaces for email and SMS; and peer-to-peer file-sharing, FTP sites, and VoIP services.

I am only planning to expand on the sections I’m investigating, so will only be expanding on the World Wide Web category from there.

Under the World Wide Web, I have listed social media (Web 2.0); databases and organisational and informational websites; and static websites (Web 1.0).

And from there, I’ve placed social networking sites under social media.

Here are some of my questions:

What am I missing from each level?

How much detail do I need to go into?

Do I list examples on the chart on in the descriptive text?
(Example: Blogs under social media; Facebook under SNSs)

Am I completely off-base in my thinking?

Any thoughts and opinions you have to share would be greatly appreciated. And hopefully, I’ll have my head fully wrapped around this all by next week, at which time I’ll share an update.

Thanks for helping!

(Oh, and I suppose I should make a joke about how organising the Internet feels a bit like herding cats, too.)

* There’s a video about it and all! Please note that there may be questionable language used around the 1-minute mark.

Reading habits

reading-habitsI’m struggling a bit with my reading habits just now and have decided to spend the rest of January getting a handle on them.

As you may know, the first year of a PhD is filled with reading. Lots and lots of reading. You’re reading through a massive collection of materials on your topic and writing notes about what you’re reading—all as part of your literature review.

The reading and taking notes part is actually pretty easy to figure out, but I’m struggling with how to find the best place for reading and taking notes.

What I know is this:

  • I can’t spend 8 hours in my office reading and taking notes because it’s too “stuffy” for me to read there and I’m constantly on edge waiting for someone to walk through the door.
  • I can’t spend 8 hours in a comfy coffee shop reading and taking notes because I’m a starving student and can’t afford to buy all those cups of coffee. (Actually, I’m more of a mint tea drinker.)
  • I can’t spend 8 hours at the library reading and taking notes because it’s much too quiet and I fear sneezing or coughing which means I’m very self-conscious.
  • And I can’t spend 8 hours at home reading and taking notes because that would provide too many distractions (Oh look! There’s a shelf that needs dusting …) and it would also mean I’d be home all day, every day.

I also know that I feel oddly guilty if I’m not in my office 8 hours a day. I feel like I’m “skipping school” or something. (Is this common for PhD students or am I alone in this weirdness?)

So, what do I do?

The simple answer is this: I need to find a way to combine my reading-and-note-taking locations throughout the day so that I’m putting in a “full shift” but so that I’m not losing out on productivity by constantly being on edge for some disturbance to happen.

The complicated solution to that answer, however, is what I’m struggling with.

But, as I am meant to be a researcher, I’m going to research! And I’m going to research by testing potential solutions and analysing the results.

With three full weeks (plus a full day) left in the month, I am going to start trying out different combinations of study locations to see what works best for me. There will be combinations of reading at home, in coffee shops, at my office, and in libraries at various times throughout the day. The number of locations I visit in a day will be switched up, too.

And, hopefully, by the end of the month I will have found a good pattern that works well for me. (I need a pattern; I work better with patterns!)

Of course, there’s always the risk that in my excited attempt to find a productive combination, I will work harder to be productive. In which case, even if I don’t find an ideal solution to my problem, I’ve hopefully been more productive than if I just stuck with the status quo.

I would love to hear from others on how they’ve managed to combine working locations to increase productivity. So, thoughts and suggestions for this eager reader?

Lost in databases

2013.12.16.original-database-by-shindoverseI began my PhD nearly a month ago and have been spending much of that time searching for books and articles relevant to my topic. I’ve done basic library searches and I’ve done some minor database searches—most of which have brought me at least some results for useful reading materials.

But basic searches aren’t really enough when you’re trying to find articles on a focused area, which means I have to figure out a series of slightly complex databases.

I think that one of the biggest problems with databases (for me, at least) is that there are so many different ones I need to check and each one has its own format. There’s Nexis and the Web of Knowledge and the IEEE—and many, many more.

There are so many databases that have so much information that I’m getting lost.

My hope (and my guess) is that I will find my way around everything as I continue my research. I am hoping that I will start to instinctively know which databases to consult based on what type of information I’m searching for at that moment. And I am hoping that as I become familiar with each one, I will get used to how to use the search functions (which vary from one database to the next).

For now, I am learning how to manage and document all of the information so that I know where I’ve found things—and where I can find them again if needed. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge at the moment because I’ve not attempted such a monumental task before, but I am learning. Slowly but surely, I am learning.

One day, I hope to be sharing with you some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. In the mean time, however, I am open to any tips and tricks that you may want to share with me.

[Photo of “original” databases. Credits to shindoverse. Sourced from Flickr and used under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.]