Invitation to Participate in a Research Study

Today I begin data collection for my doctoral thesis research at Lancaster University, and I invite you to consider participating in my study. I have all this information, along with the ethical consent form, in a permanent link on my Doctoral (Thesis) Research page on my website.

There are 3 criteria for participation:

1.  Are you doctoral student or have you completed a doctoral degree (in any discipline, with any type of doctoral degree, anywhere in the world)?

2.  Have you encountered any thresholds or had any troublesome experiences while engaged in your degree that left you with a new sense of your discipline or identity of yourself as a researcher / evidence-supported expert practitioner? Perhaps you experienced an aha! along the way? How about a transformed understanding or perspective?

3.  Did you engage in any aspect of your studies from a distance, online, or using any form of technology while engaging in your doctoral degree?

If you answered yes to these 3 eligibility criteria, I invite you to consider speaking with me about it in a single 60-90 minute interview (phone or Skype, as you wish). For more information, my email and contact information are here.

I appreciate any assistance with identifying participants for my study; please share this link or information with anybody who you think may be interested. Thank you.

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!

Doctoral Thesis (Dissertation) Research – Approved to Begin

I just received final ethical (institutional review board) approval to begin my thesis research!

After adding one sentence to address data encryption, I revised and resubmitted my Invitation to Participate  and Consent Form for my study, Navigating Liminality in Distance Education: The Experiences of Research and Professional Doctorate Learners. I am now ready to go, and expect to create a location for my research information here on my webpage, after which I will talk more specifically about what I hope to study and how I plan to do this.

If you are a doctoral student (or recently completed your doctorate), you just may be a potential participants for my research!  I may ask you to tell me about your experiences . . .

CPsquare Research and Dissertations Series

I was pleasantly surprised to be invited by John Smith at CPsquare (The Community of Practice on Communities of Practice) to discuss my work in the Research and Dissertations Series next week. The title of my session is “Jeffrey Keefer: work in progress – Educational Research + (Virtual) Identity in Postmodernity.”  The subtitle for this sessions states:

We have a time-honored tradition of sharing mid-trajectory work, and Jeffrey Keefer’s Doctoral research to date follows it. He has said, “If we all waited for the ideal time, nothing would ever happen.” The synchronous session will be on Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 20:00 GMT (4 pm New York time). Jeffrey will post some bits here before that.

While this session is intended for members of CPsquare, I will share some bits and pieces of what I share there here as well, especially what I hope to discuss and what questions about it I have. For anybody planning or able to attend, here is the internal CPsquare url.

Questions to Help Clarify Research

I just finished reviewing a number of abstracts I volunteered to review for an upcoming academic conference, and I noticed a pattern in some of my feedback that I want to share and, perhaps, get some feedback of my own. I have received harsh feedback over the years, as undoubtedly others have as well, and am very sensitive to providing constructive academic feedback while trying not to be severe. I may think the work is of low quality, but we all have to start someplace, and just telling the person that it makes no sense or doesn’t have a research design does not really help the person improve his or her work. As most people I have met are in various levels of learning, it seems productive to help others along, especially when involving issues of research.

My epistemological stance holds that there is not only one way to know some phenomenon, but rather the questions we ask about it guide the steps we take and affect the ways that others read and assess our work. With this said, there is not only one way to approach research, and I find it useful to be sensitive to others who want to study something in a different way. The questions I ask are almost always meant to explore and better understand meaning, namely how this or that person answers those why and how sort of questions.

The pattern I noticed that I use to help guide the feedback includes, after a statement about a lack of clarity, questions that are intended to help move the research, or often the (working) abstract, along. These include:

  • What problem has the researcher has identified?
  • Why is this question important to answer?
  • What question does the researcher have about this phenomenon?
  • What literature has the researcher used to try to answer it?
  • Why is the researcher going to study this phenomenon in this way?
  • How is the researcher related to this phenomenon?
  • What is the researcher doing with this phenomenon to try to answer the question?
  • What are we learning about this phenomenon because of this research?
  • What can we do next with this phenomenon as a result of this research?

I tried to highlight some of the elements in a research design that are often more accessible when seen as questions, rather than topic headings. Have you ever been asked general, though highly helpful, questions to help you better express your work? Have they helped? What questions are missing?