This chapter covers the determination of my methods (including a pilot study), a description of my participant sample, and details of my data collection tools. It also discusses how I coded and analysed my data and how I decided to present my findings.
I feel somewhat confident about this chapter, but I admit I am a little concerned that my examiners might want a little more detail about some of the more philosophical aspects of the methodological approaches I used. However, I think that there is a bit of overlap between the start of this chapter and the end of my literature review that might need some re-jigging once the whole document is together. And maybe once I am reading the full thesis as one document, I will feel more confident. Or, maybe, I’ll realised that the last bits of Chapter 2 (literature review) really do belong at the start of my methods chapter.
As for the actual writing of this chapter, it was relatively enjoyable and relaxing to write. (Unlike my literature review chapter!) I think that’s because the methods chapter is about me. Or, rather, it’s about the work that I did and the decisions that I made. Sure, some bits were a bit more challenging. But most of the chapter is a narrative that outlines what I did – or did not do – and my reasoning for those things. Because I was writing about things I knew quite well (my own actions) I wasn’t faced with the fear of getting it wrong or misinterpreting someone else’s work.
In the next couple of weeks, I will be getting my three findings chapters ready to drop into the main thesis document. I will also be writing up my discussion chapter which is feeling a bit overwhelming at the moment. But it does feel good to see more progress being made – especially as I have to send a full draft of the entire thesis to my supervisors in 11 days’ time! (Yikes!)
As thesis season continues, I am starting to feel more and more confident that I will manage to complete my thesis without (too terribly much) stress. And as September begins, I am excited (and nervous) about the next 61 days. (Yikes! Only 61 days to finish writing. How scary!)
My progress in August was steady, though slow. I worked on my three findings chapters and my methods and literature review chapters. Sadly, none of those chapters are completely completed, but they are fully drafted and are just seeking edits at this time.
The highlights for August were getting all of the main content for my findings chapters completed and knocking out a near-final version of my literature review. I also enjoyed a successful (final!) research progress review at the end of the month.
However, August wasn’t as amazing as I wanted it to be. I didn’t manage to complete the visualisation of the data and I didn’t manage to complete my literature review and methods chapters. Although I am pleased to say that they are all in fairly decent shape and only need a bit of editing. Thankfully, I know what I need to do for each of those chapters and will add that work to my “easy work” list. That list is a variety of tasks that I can do in the evenings when my brain needs a rest, but my motivation levels are still pushing me to get something done.
My plans for September are fairly ambitious, but I am confident that I will manage them without too much agony. I am including a few late nights in my work plans, which will include taxis home as my local bus stops running at 6.30pm. However, I will be doing some teaching again this term which will give me the extra money to pay for the taxis. (Yay!)
Here’s my plan for September:
Create a full “primary draft” of my discussion chapter. This means that I will have that chapter written to completion (based on content), but the draft will (likely) need further edits for language and grammar.
Complete all visualisations for my three findings chapters. This work will happen in dribs and drabs as my brain needs a break from the “extreme” thinking that is needed for the discussion chapter.
Complete all edits for my literature review and methods chapters. As above, this work will largely take place as a break from the discussion chapter.
Finish all appendices needed for my literature review and methods chapters. These are largely complete at this time, but I need to do some formatting. As with the other edits, this will be done as and when my brain needs a break.
Draw up a final completion plan for October. Yikes! That document might be a bit scary, especially if September doesn’t go as planned. But if all goes well, the plan will be largely focused on writing up my introduction and conclusion chapters and making edits to my discussion chapter. I will also give myself plenty of time to do all the fiddly little things like formatting the full document.
Yes, September is going to be crazy! But I am feeling quite confident about it and I am sure that it will be a productive month.
With August now upon us, I am aware that there are only three months remaining for “thesis season”. And that is a scary realisation when I stop to think about how much work I have yet to do. And so, the next three months will be spent writing, writing, writing… and writing a bit more.
I am pleased to say that my July thesis goals were (largely) met. And that means that I have now (mostly) completed drafts of five chapters. These are the methods chapter, three separate findings chapters, and my literature review (submitted to my supervisors for their comments last night).
Today and the first half of Friday will be dedicated to making updates to my findings chapters, ahead of Friday afternoon’s meeting with my supervisors to go over my literature review. Then the rest of August will be spent making edits to the chapters I already have drafted whilst making notes to develop the structural outline for my discussion chapter. I expect that to be a very challenging chapter to write and will dedicate much of September to completing it.
So, what do my thesis plans look like for August?
In a nutshell, it looks like a lot of time in front of computer screens and very little time enjoying the great outdoors! More specifically, August will be spent making edits and notes for September’s work.
In August, I will:
Make updates to my literature review. This will include incorporating edits, comments, and suggestions from my supervisors as well as adding new literature sources where relevant.
Review my findings chapters. This will be done with consideration to my literature review so that I can ensure that I have not missed out on literature that should have been included.
Make notes for my discussion chapter. This will be done in conjunction with the review of my findings chapters. These notes will help to form the narrative structure for my discussion chapter, which I will write in September.
Prepare for my next (and final!) progress review meeting. This should be fairly straightforward and will include sharing an update on the progress of each of my thesis chapters and a plan for completion. (There will be about two months left to submit by this time.)
Work on updates to my methods chapter and appendices. This work is fairly simple (as compared to the literature review, at least). Because of that, it will be done in between other work as a “treat” when my brain needs a bit of a break.
And, as always, I will be attempting to take care of my physical, mental, and emotional health. This will include my (sometimes faltering) healthy eating habits, regular 5K runs, a minimum daily step goal, and a bit of “me” time each week. (All easier said than done!)
There is much work to do, but I am feeling quite confident about it. (For now.) Stay tuned for a September thesis season update!
Like many people, I look forward to attending conferences because I am excited to hear presentations on papers and current research. However, this conference was more than that for me. This was an opportunity to meet with other academics to discuss my research, our common research interests, and potential collaborations. In fact, my overall goals for this conference were aimed at building my academic confidence and further my researcher networks.
In preparation for the conference, my PhD supervisor (Professor Hazel Hall) and I created a flyer detailing the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) at Edinburgh Napier University. This way, I had something (other than a business card) to share with people who were interested in potential collaborations with me or others in the CSI. It was also a useful hand-out for the night of the University Reception, where Hazel and I (wo)manned an information table for the CSI that we shared with two other Scottish universities (University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow).
Dr Roued-Cunliffe met a couple of times over the course of the conference and she provided me with some great insights (leading to increased confidence!) for how to explain different aspects of my research. There are a few parallels to our academic journeys (which are quite different!) and it was refreshing to hear the views and opinions of someone who seems to have a good understanding of some of my concerns. I was so grateful for her input at the conference and am even more grateful that she has agreed to keep in touch, should I have any future questions or challenges that I want to run past her.
The rest of the colloquium session was quite useful in a “general” PhD manner. Whilst we didn’t speak directly about our individual research projects or thesis-related questions, we did engage in some useful round-table discussions about life as a researcher and academic life in general. In addition to the doctoral students, there was a good group of established academics with a range of experiences. The one-on-one meetings with Dr Roued-Cunliffe were probably more useful in the short-term, but the discussions (and, importantly) the connections with other academics and doctoral students will certainly prove to be invaluable in the longer term. (I’m too focused on the short-term right now, as I am preparing for my major write-up time!)
I attended a variety of paper sessions and talks over the course of the conference, too. Whilst they were all quite interesting, my favourite sessions were (1) Digital Sociology and Information Science Research and (2) New Takes on Information Behaviour. The first session was a great opportunity to talk about the changing climate of information studies, with inclusion of “digital” interests in other domains (in this case, sociology). It helped to remind me that there are many crossovers from information science into other disciplines—something I have long known, but I still struggle to fully appreciate. The second session was about information behaviour, but my main takeaway was new takes on methods of investigation for information behaviour studies. And when I think about the two sessions combined, I think that it would have been very interesting to have a round-table discussion about digital sociology’s role in information behaviour. (Just think about the interesting research methods you could come up with there!)
The conference was also a very social one. There were lunches and evening receptions each day, but as most people were staying at the conference hotel, even breakfast was an opportunity to meet with other conference-goers. In fact, some of my greatest networking moments happened whilst waiting in the queue at the omelette bar!
ASIST really was a great event for me, and I am so pleased to have been able to attend. I have come away from the conference feeling a bit more confident about my own place within the international Information Science family. I have also come away with some great ideas and insights for how best to explain some of my research in my thesis. And I owe it all to Cilip and the John Campbell Trust!
I won’t be attending any more conferences until next year now, but I do have a few lectures and one-day workshops and training sessions to look forward to. Of course, there’s also a question of that pesky PhD thesis that needs (a great deal of!) my attention. I am pleased to say that I am feeling very motivated at the moment though, so hopefully, I will manage a great deal of writing over the next few months.
I have finally entered the empirical research stage of my PhD, and I am so very excited about it! In fact, it’s the first time I’ve actually been excited about my studies in many, many months. (Yes, the literature review part really did drag my spirits down.)
The pilot is testing out the methods for the first stage of my empirical research. It involves a two-step process for participants. The first step is to keep a diary for one week where they will record some of their thoughts and process regarding their social media use. I will then review the diaries prior to the second stage, which will be in-depth interviews.
I have recruited eight participants and have a couple of extra people in place in case one of the first participants can’t complete the study. That means eight diaries and eight interviews to transcribe. Which is a lot of work, but it will help me to determine how much time I need to set aside for the main study.
I will be done with my data collection by the end of July. Then, I will try my best to figure out how to analyse all of it without going crazy. I expect to use NVivo for coding my data, but I tend to be a bit tactile as well, so might find myself working with hard copies of at least some of the data.
Once the pilot is done, I will be in a position to fully plan the next stages of my main study. I expect that there may be a few tweaks based on the pilot, but that’s what the pilot is for!
[To jump right in] Last week’s panel review meeting went rather well. I was (as predicted) worrying about (mostly) nothing and the review was a simple(ish) chat about my progress to date. Of course, there had been an expectation that I might have had a bit more work to show as it was a “6-month review” but when it was explained that I started late and was therefore only at my 4-month mark, it all started to make sense.
One of the biggest things I took away from the meeting was that I really need to start giving more thought to my research methodologies. I mean, it’s great that I know I want to research how people manage their reputation online, but how do I actually accomplish that? (Yes, these are things you need to think of as a researcher!)
(In fairness to myself, I have known all along that I would need to pin down my methodologies, I’ve just yet to actually put a stake in the ground.)
Do I use in-depth interviews to really investigate how individuals manage their online reputations?
Do I use a large-scale survey to determine the percentage of people who do x, y, or z in the management of their online reputations?
Do I hold focus groups with the hope of generating a bit of conversation around topic?
Do I use observational tools, looking at publicly available data and information to make conclusions of what people appear to be doing—or not doing—in an effort to manage their reputation?
Or do I use a combination of methods?
And what about the validation process? How will I go about validating my research, especially if I’m opting to use in-depth interviews and case studies?
As you can probably tell, I don’t actually have an answer to these questions. In fact, the more I try to find an answer, the more I start to ask more questions! (Ah, the questions-answers-questions loop. It can be frustrating at times.)
So in an effort to help me determine what methods to use in my research, I’m doing what any good researcher would do: I am researching!
I am currently re-reading research articles to determine the varying methods that have been successfully implemented in the past. From there, I hope to be able to identify a couple of methodologies that seem likely to fit with my project.
At the same time, I will be accessing other PhD theses to see what methods others have used—as well as what methods others have eschewed—and their reasoning behind those decisions.
Over the weekend, I will make a list of further research articles to read, in the hopes of expanding my knowledge of existing studies so that I can better determine what methods might work for me. And—with a bit of hard work and a touch of luck—by next Friday’s supervision meeting I will be ready to talk to my supervisors about 2-3 potential methods.
Importantly, all of this research into research methods will also help me with my next big milestone: The completion of my RD4 form, which is an expanded research proposal that will include my intended methodologies.
As always—I’m open to input from others so please feel free to point me towards some great resource you think I should be considering!