Doctoral Thesis Data Collection, Status #2: Emotions

I want to share an update on my doctoral thesis data collection, as a lot has happened since the last one I did a little over a week ago. I have now completed 13 interviews in total (60-90 minutes each), and am hoping to finish the remaining interviews in another week. While I initially planned to have 15-20 people in total (which should be enough for some sense of data saturation, given the qualitative design I am using), it now seems I may be nearer the latter when I finish.

While I am not beginning any systematic processing of this data yet (transcription, anyone?  😉  !!), there is one thing that I have learned in this process that I want to share for the benefit of anybody else planning a similar research endeavor. Data collection in the form of long, in-depth interviews takes a lot of energy. Moreover, I am finding that it takes almost everything out of me. Let me explain.

My research asks about barriers and liminal (in-between) periods that happen during doctoral study, resulting in some form of an aha! or new sense of one’s identity. This often involves the telling of difficult stories, ones that are personal and oftentimes riveting in nature. Being privelged with listening to these stories is a rich experience, one that requires my full attention in way unlike many of the other tasks I have encountered in research (or practice, for that matter). I feel emotionally humbled when I finish with each one, and find that I struggle to do my ordinary work or other commitments in life during this period.

I am thankful for this opportunity to engage in this study, as it is a deeply moving experience. I think I have a lot more to process in its effect in me, much less as part of my research.

Transcription Completion for Public Transformations Research

trees-pathI have completed the transcriptions for my research (a bit later than I hoped, but it is moving forward), and am beginning to analyze it. Some of the transcripts for the 8 interviews I conducted still need to be sent to the research participants for member checking, but all that is underway.

My initial review of the interviews is wonderful; I believe I have a lot of rich stories that may reveal some very interesting things about the experience of Public Transformations.

However, I have to fight against the anxiety of feeling I am very behind where I hoped to be (my paper is due in another week). In some ways, I wish I had the luxury of being able to research without any other work, but it is a fact of my life that there are a lot of things happening. Regardless, I still expect to have the draft of this paper submitted by February 8, when it is due. Hey, what else is there to focus on at this time of the winter?!

Interview Progress for Public Transformations Research

With so many generous participants offering to assist me with my research project, Public Transformations: Adult Learners Who Use Social Media to Express and Understand Their Identities as Developing Researchers, I want to provide a brief update as to where I am with all this.

I have thus far completed 6 interviews (I initially planned for 3), have one more confirmed, and am trying to coordinate 2 additional ones. I will collect far more experiences (data, in research terms) than I need for this course project, and hope this helps me understand the topic more completely, perhaps to assist with my dissertation (thesis, in UK parlance) direction for next year, a research paper I am already formulating, and some really valuable findings to better understand how this all fits together. With so many wonderful people out there willing to open their lives and meaning making to me, I want my work to benefit our community of learners and educators as well.

Next, continue with the transcription steps . . .

Interview Recording Equipment for Phone and Distance Research

WS-510MWorking on some research toward my PhD, I needed some equipment to record the interviews as well as to be able to record via the phone (or Skype). Yes, there are a lot of online products for this, but with my seemingly constant problem with Skype recently, I did not want to rely on an online solution in case I had to call my participants directly (which I had to do on both occasions; thanks Skype-that-I-pay-for).

I purchased the Olympus WS-510M 4GB Digital Voice Recorder and WMA/MP3 Music Player and used its accessory the Olympus TP-7 Telephone Recording Device. Absolutely thrilled with how well these two work (together), how I can use them with my cell phone, office phone, and even Skype headset. Wonderful results! Put the TP-7 (which is really an ear piece microphone) into the recorder and into my ear, and it recorded everything on the phone as well as my responses—all while being able to watch the audio-in settings move as we spoke.

TP-7Yes, I alerted my participants that I was recording them (AND had Lancaster University ethical approval to do so), though as the external equipment was digital and not connected to the line itself, they would not have known I was doing this otherwise.

One word of caution—the instructions for using the WS-510M and adjusting the settings are not quite helpful (OK, they are among the worst instructions I have ever used; no usability testing whatsoever!), so I had to do a LOT of trial and error and testing to finally get them right for my needs. Perhaps to save others the same wasted afternoon (and following morning), these are the specific settings I found gave me the best results:

  • Dictation
  • ST X2
  • Low Cut ON
  • VCVA OFF
  • Voice Filter ON

With all the limitations and struggles I have seen discussed online about the best equipment for recording interviews, these two worked fine for me. If I were to do larger focus groups or the like, I would suggest either an external microphone or a physically larger built-in mic model (though the costs increases significantly). Nevertheless, these two meet my current and foreseeable needs.

Interview Questions Based on Wenger’s CoP Framework

I begin my research interviews tomorrow, so now may be a good time to consider some of my questions, both planned as well as possible.

The purpose of the study is to examine and try to understand, in some way, if Wenger’s Community of Practice (CoP) framework makes a difference within the research or experiential lives of those who conduct autoethnographic research, especially given that many in the larger research community still see this as a contested strategy of inquiry.

While there are numerous works from Wenger that I will detail in my literature section, the two that I have in mind at this point is his

Wenger, E. (1999). Learning as social participation. Knowledge Management Review, 1<