Research Diary #3: Progress

Progress is being made. I have completed the IoE research ethics application consent forms and participant information sheet and submitted them to UCL to get a data protection number. With this I can get research ethics approval through my supervisor. I’ve also got the blessing for my research with Senior Management at my own institution. I’m still behind schedule, but less behind schedule then I was. Next steps will be to complete the parallel research ethics approval at my own institution, and to start talking to ‘gatekeepers’ who can help me secure access to research participants.

The other big challenge that I have at the moment is working out how I’ve going to analyse the data. As part of my ‘100 papers in 100 days’ challenge I’ve been reading a lot about content analysis. As such, I know that I have a lot of choices. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough to know which choices to make. Too much choice is a terrible thing.

I’ve taken a scattershot approach to my reading so far, which I’ve enjoyed. I’m hoping as I progress through the 100 days I get a little bit more focused, if only to stop me continually rethinking the focus of my thesis project. I have around half a dozen half-formed ideas that probably wouldn’t survive long if I exposed them to the world. Perhaps I should reserve some of my research diaries to doing just that. Better to identify the dead ends now, rather than hit them full in the face later.

I’ve also starting a short IoE course on ‘Researching Beyond the University’ that looks at how research engages with people and policy in different settings. I refuse the use the term ‘real world’ because it assumes that the world is divided into ivory towers and barren badlands. Equally, I’m not sure that activities as diverse as parenting, banking, volunteering, farming and wrestling should be defined in opposition to academia. I’m only one workshop in, so there’s plenty more to think about. There’s always more to think about.


Research Diary #2: Some steps forward, some steps back

I’m in a bit of limbo at the moment. Ideally, by now I’d be close to securing research ethics approval for my second year project and starting preparations for gathering data. Instead, I’ve gone back to my original research proposal and starting pulling it apart and putting it back together. I think that this is ok, although it might not be. Either way, it’s what I’ve been doing.

This has come about because of the reading that I’ve been doing as part of my 100 day challenge. I’d come to realise that I’d let some fluffy thinking creep into my research proposal. I hadn’t sufficiently honed my original research aims and as a consequence it was in danger of becoming ‘I’m going to investigate this because of reasons’. Now, I’m trying to ask myself the big questions such as ‘what would need to occur for this event to happen?’. In my case I feel that to understand why students express dissatisfaction with their experience it is necessary to understand a) what their expectations were b) how the experience failed to match their expectations and c) why a failure to meet expectations matters to a student. I also need to explore why certain characteristics make if more or less likely that a student will express dissatisfaction.  I don’t think that this fundamentally changes my choice of methodology. However, it does change the questions that I ask. I’ve given myself until Wednesday 11th April before I nail my proposal to the metaphorical door and submit my research ethics form.

Beyond that, I’ve also registered for a couple of training courses. As a Institute of Education research student I’m required to sign up for at least two a year. In addition to the Critical Realism reading group that I’ve been attending I’m now signed up for am ‘Advanced Qualitative Analysis’ workshop, and a series of workshops on ‘Research Beyond the University’ that is focused on impact, public engagement, and collaborating with the third sector.

So, it feels as if I’m doing a lot of stuff. I’m just not sure that I’m doing it in the right order. There’s a joke in that somewhere.