I Finished Data Collection!

I am happy to share that I have completed data collection for my doctoral thesis research!

It has been four weeks filled with countless interviews, discussions, explanation about my research, national and international phone calls, Skype sessions, and more support than I ever dreamed of. Having engaged in research interviews several times during my course of study, I knew a little about what to expect in these interviews. What I did not expect was a consistent sense of well-wishes, encouragement, interest, and positive energy on behalf of my many participants during this period. In many ways I feel like I engaged in conversations, rather than data collection. What better way is there to think about our research, especially research that in one sense involves colleagues, however far and distant and heretofore unknown?

Thanks to so many people, I feel I have now passed over this step, and while transcription and sense-making await, I am very thankful that I have turned this corner in my work.

I look forward to now trying to make sense of everything I heard, and hope to continue to share and discuss this with my colleagues, old and new, over the next several months.

To Pilot, or Not to Pilot; THAT is the question + 52 Answers

As I am preparing to begin my search for participants for my doctoral thesis research, I received a suggestion last week to consider a pilot. Not sure why I had not thought about this before, but that is what having active supervisors and a supportive community of doctoral colleagues is for–help point out things when we miss them ourselves. Seemed like a good idea, though I wanted to get some feedback as to the processes.

Let me be clear, it was suggested (and I agreed) to pilot my semi-structured interview questions, not my research purpose and research questions (I have research evidence from the past 2 years and some literature that suggests this is a real issue that we do not know much about). If I pilot my questions, it can help me determine if they are the right questions (they will give me answers to my research questions and link to my problem and purpose). Nothing like having the opportunity to ask the interview questions and then discuss / debrief them with some people. I think I wrote interview questions that will get me what I want to know, though piloting the interview questions may just be the best way to find out.

Yes, I do follow the suggestions and recommendations of my supervisors, but how about the larger community of doctoral learners (some of whom may even ultimately participate in my study!!) who may have some suggestions for piloting these questions? With this in mind I asked my online doctoral community, #phdchat:

I then received a number of responses, and followed up with one more direct request for thoughts and suggestions and help and support:

The result is there is general consensus that piloting my semi-structured interview questions is useful, though that is not the only thing I learned in this process. I learned that there is power in community, as my two initial posts, along with my individual responses to what others suggested, resulted in 52 responses to me from a number of my doctoral colleagues. They shared their stories, what worked, what did not, what they learned, who to read for more information, and so on. Overall, I am amazed at how generous this network of fellow doctoral colleagues, most of whom I have never met face-to-face though with whom I have established various levels of relationship with, is when there is a need and sharing with one another is just the support that is needed. Can this indeed be a component of a community of practice?

Yes, my supervisors are wonderful, though my fellow colleagues cannot be underestimated!

Transcription Politics

I am busily working on transcription–my first foray into this process (complete with new recorder and foot pedal), and have already had the benefit of encountering some of the politics around transcription.

Politics, you think?

I started to think about this when there were pauses (not recorded, if we are literal), changes in thought mid-sentence (which in a written transcript seems like a scattered and brainless mess, though happens all the time in our common discussion), grammatical errors (do we embaress the participants by showing them what they actually said), chuckles, changes in tone and energy, body language, and the like. So many factors to consider, that I have started to think that an audio interview, while capturing what is said, may not adequately capture what is meant.

When sharing this with some colleagues, I was surprised to hear how uncritically or at time literal people could be, as if these issues were assumed to be outside of the research process, and should not be explored. Odd response from qualitative researchers, to say the least.

Into the literature I go yet again for some guidance on how to handle these . . .

Potential Participants and Informed Consent

I am speaking with 5 potential participants for my research project right now, navigating the process of scheduling days and times. This should not be such a big issue, but I have 5 weeks to complete and submit this research. Thus, interviews need to occur this week since I need time to transcribe and analyze my data (not to mention analyze the written accounts as well, as I am engaging in narrative inquiry).

I have my informed consent form, though am tweaking it to include the questions I will ask. I have a few back-up and unrelated questions already, though will use them only if there is time and the other process is faster than expected (they may serve as feelers for possible future research). Hoped to have the consent sent by yesterday, though too many errands around the house (since it rained this week and is pouring out now, with yesterday being the ready-or-not day for outdoor work).

Surprised how much I am enjoying doing this research.