Sunday, October 31, 2010

Assignment 3

The article that I have chosen for assignment 3 is:
“Making the Most of Your Video Trends in Patron Access and Resource Sharing” by Barbara J Bergman.
She used survey method for her research study. The steps and principles that she used for her study is very practical. Although this research is more towards academic libraries but her approach to find solutions for circulating the video collection could be used in any libraries. This research study made me to think about the methodology of my own research.
By reading this article I realized that choosing the right research method is more important than choosing a few different methods. Because even by choosing one method you can find different ways to approach the subject matter in the research study. Therefore the findings will be in more details to support the research statement, and also more reliable for the future study of the same field.


New Assignment

I’ve chosen the ethnographic study on the role of the internet in social change in the Middle East to review, and I’m finding the explorations of different facets and applications of ethnography very interesting.  Shaffir and Stebbin’s articles demystified some of the methodology, especially on the issues of personal preparation for working in the field,  which my experience of the direct interview had brought well forward for me as I wrote in my previous post.  I found Stebbin’s reminder that the researcher needs to have a credible level of competence in the area of study, and Shaffir’s discussion of the role that modifying oneself or even dissembling to some extent, might play in winning the confidence of the subjects of study (people!), especially notable.  Whether the encounter is structured, semi-structured, or  informal, I am now acutely aware of how much difference the researcher’s knowledge of context could make to the direction and depth of the Q and A process.  Empathy also comes into it.  Which is where participation can change the character of the interaction in some fundamental ways, as Boellstorff also emphasizes in his observation that while it’s impossible to fully observe and fully participate simultaneously, it’s in that paradox that the best connection can be made. 

The van Dijk article’s exposition of critical discourse analysis and his dissection of how discourse control in policy debate functions to manage public views and the status quo in the maintenance of racism struck a particular chord with me.  Derrrick Bell (Faces At the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism)  has some amazing multi-layered and multi-disciplinary analyses in this area.  Critical theory and many other theoretical approaches tell us that power relations are a fundamental aspect of social analysis; the role of racialization in those relations can hardly be exaggerated and would be especially important in ethnographic studies of a wide range of topics and contexts, yet discussion of its role has been so successfully discredited or otherwise discouraged that in my experience it’s rare outside of specific forums dedicated to that discussion.

Now you see Trotsky standing next to the podium where Lenin is speaking...

Now you don't

I am still finishing my reading of Knight, but in the meantime I have posted these two images after being inspired by the discussion on p.104. It is useful to consider why Trotsky was removed from the second pic (e.g. by whom and to what end?). This story is very revealing.  Knight's comment that understanding the "context if production" and that "published images are carefully chosen and have been produced under certain constraints of creation [e.g. totalitarian regimes, my example] and the process of selection and editing helps researchers to attribute significance to the images" (104) is bang-on in my opinion and very insightful.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Being Honest with our Biases...

I had some issues with the Knight reading this week, especially with his discussion on the History field on pg. 110. When he stated that changes in literature happen because of changes in ways of thinking and not new information becoming available, I have to disagree. Personally, I believe that new ways of thinking and new resources work hand in hand. If we were never to find new sources then academics would continue to hash out the same problems in different words. It is because of new resources that become available, such as the opening of some Eastern European archives, that new ways of thinking are brought forth. They do not simply materialize from nothing.

I do understand what Knight was talking about when he was saying that modern scholars look at historical events, etc. through tainted modern discourses and might not take into consideration the lens through which they gaze at the past. However, I think this goes back to our discussion in class last week on knowing our biases when doing ethnographic research. I think the same needs to be done with historical research. As long as a researcher is upfront about their biases, then I can not see why new ways of thinking and research can stem from new resources.

In keeping with the title of this blog, I am a trained historian. Some of my animosity behind Knight's viewpoint may be because I take offensive to the implications. However, I still strongly believe that without new resources becoming available new ways of thinking would not come about and vice versa. To me they are interconnected and can not be viewed as separate and opposite entities as Knight does.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some thoughts on anthropology and the technological species

Let me begin by posing a semantic question: Can we reasonably interpret what Star describes as the ethnography of infrastructure as an archeology of more contemporary artifacts? Is this question even worth asking? The reason I ask is that I feel Star’s ideas, which undoubtedly have a novel tone, are perhaps more established than the buzz around the Ethnography of Infrastructure would lead us to believe. Let me explain.
Homo sapiens have always been a technologically dependent species, and since the development of archeology, the technological extension of humankind has proven to be a fruitful way to interpret human culture and social relations. Is the ethnography of infrastructure not then, in essence, a continuation of this tradition? I suppose one key difference between the two children of anthropology (archeology and ethnography of infrastructure) is the focus on living versus past humans, which is a significant conceptual difference. However, the commonalities between the two in terms of their focus on technology and artifacts as the basis for interpreting human social life is too compelling to be ignored. Both the archeologist and ethnographer of infrastructure have a privileged detachment as researchers for examining social phenomenon (past and present). I will give two brief examples to illustrate my point:
First, artifacts from an aboriginal burial ground tell the archeologist a story of customs and rituals common to a tribe during a certain time-period. Second, the health care infrastructure in small-town Ontario tells the ethnographer of infrastructure a story of customs and rituals of physicians who need to cope with a lack of resources and networks. In both cases, and for arguments sake, those who are directly involved in the use of such technologies are less likely to produce a scientific account of their social implications. On the other hand, the ethnographer-archeologist is in a suitable position to examine such implications by means of the researcher’s own technological extension, namely the tools used for building an appropriate framework of analysis.
In Tom Boellstorff's case study on Ethnography and game studies, I found that he made a very important point about culture being something that is about relationships among things, rather than a thing in itself or a mere set of 'rules' that we live by. When he talks about game cultures, he says that these cultures can not be reduced to the rules of the actual games but instead proposes examining the relationship between the physical and virtual worlds by discovering how they play the games they play, how their life outside of the game affects how they play the game, where they play the game, etc. I found this case study to be relevant as a way for thinking about my own research. I would like to try to determine through my research how social networking tools like facebook affect offline communication. By taking Boellstorff's model, I could examine how people use facebook- do they use it at work, at school, on their smart phones? This would be a good way of examining the social networking cultures by looking to physical world aspects that determine behaviours, frequency of use, etc., on a social networking site like facebook.

Monday, October 25, 2010

IQ Tests

In Chapter 4 of Knight, he talks about the 4 characteristics that define a scale. The issue of validity stood out as being something that is taken for granted in many ways. We talked in class before about IQ tests. There is a debate about whether or not they have validity. They preference a certain way of thinking or learning and use that as the grounds for quantifying intelligence. If we accept this form of testing and evaluating intelligence then it would be meaningful to have a high score on the IQ test, but it could just as easily have no meaning if you don't believe that the testing framework has validity. In many ways this is what happens with our own school work. Our intelligence is being quantified, but from within a framework of evaluation. There are not exact (objective) right answers in the social sciences, but there are processes. Almost like if you got part marks for having done most of the steps right in a math problem but then come up with the wrong answer. There are certain criteria that must be met on assignments and these criteria can be assigned numerical significance.


Luker discusses in Chapter 6 the importance of generalizability in research. This has a lot to do with sampling. You have to be able to convince your audience that your research is not just a specific case but can be applied to similar scenarios. Luker said that most of her research was conducted in California which is considered to be atypical. To counter these assumptions, Luker did several observations or interviews outside of California. I am wondering if my research on the Toronto Public Library System is generalizable to other library systems. Can it be considered an example of Canadian library systems? This is something that I will need to grapple with in order to produce successful research. I need to find a way to make it useful for other circumstances. In the same way, for my literature review, I am taking researchers' work and generalizing it to my research in Toronto.

data cropping

In Chapter 6, Luker gives tips for going about 'data cropping'. The first of which I found to be particularly helpful in the context of my own research. My proposal has to do with privacy and facebook. I was seeking to find out if there was a correlation between age and privacy concerns on facebook- both in terms of privacy settings as well as the types of information that is being divulged online. I chose to do interviews where I select and divide my interviewees into 3 age categories so that I can see if there if the variable I am trying to explain actually does vary. In other words, if age is a significant factor in both peoples' motivations for using the social networking tool as well as their actual behaviour online. If I am trying to say something more secific about the younger age group of facebook users and privacy, then it is important that I make sure to have some other age group to compare it to. This would be necessary for showing that the trend I observed was not merely a trend among facebook users in general.

Doing Ethnography

The recommended reading "Doing Ethnography" was written by William Shaffir, a former professor and mentor of mine during my undergraduate years. This article obviously appealed to me initially because I know Dr. Shaffir personally. It also appealed to me, however, because I am definitely attracted to the research method of ethnography. I don't think this method will be appropriate for my thesis, but I envision combining my sociology background with my interest in libraries down the road. In my previous research, additionally, there were times when I employed participant observation methods in which I noticed some of the things pointed out by Shaffir. I visited a mosque as part of my research on Afghan-Canadians, and, like Shaffir changed his appearance when studying Hasdic Jews, I dressed in a way that brought me closer to the community. I understand what Shaffir meant by the ethical implications of ethnographic research. No matter how open one is about conducting research, there will always be an element of deception. When I visited an Afghan mosque for my research I was obviously open about the fact that I was gathering data. However, the subjects I interviewed assumed that what I was wearing and the questions I was asking signified a strong interest in converting to Islam.


In Luker's Chapter 6 she discusses the process of sampling during research. I found this chapter to be pretty helpful when considering my proposal. Luker's correct in saying that you must sample when doing research because there is simply not enough time to collect every single piece of data. When I was first designing my basic proposal I thought I would be able to collect data from every single library in the Toronto Public Library System. Now, however, I am realizing that this would probably be beyond the scope of a thesis. I know I must take a sample and I guess the question remaining is: how large should my sample be? How many interviews are sufficient for this project? Another thing about my proposal is that I would like to gather data for two different samples: libraries in Toronto and highschool students in Toronto. I am in the process of reevaluating this. I want to ensure that I am not taking on too much.

Interview Experience

This week I had to do an interview for my Library Foundations class and found it to be extremely rewarding. Although I have had experience doing interviews in the past, it was nice to experience interviewing in a different context. Previously my research was on a very sensitive topic: ethnic identity in Afghan-Canadian youth. This time, I was interviewing a friend about his understanding of libraries therefore the dynamics of the interview were different. I found that I still enjoyed the research method of interviewing. For this reason, I am planning on including interviewing as one of my methods for the proposal. I just want to make sure, however, that I am not simply sticking with the method that I am most comfortable with so I am going to try a quantitative method to supplement it. I am also going to use surveys. I think the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods will be very complementary.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interviews and Focus Groups

For this week blog I am trying to gather all the reading and come to a conclusion for choosing methods.

Basically Participant Observation (PO) is the main key for methods such as; focus groups and interviews. The requirements for these methods are based on the theory and questionnaires that the researcher is conducting. In order to build up our theory, it is important to look at the cultural aspect of the people who are being interviewed.

It is very true as I read this week articles that the PO must get close enough to the people of the study and yet be far enough to be able to analyze it.

In my research study I will find out about the community outreach/organizations and build up the practices and questions to discuss during focus groups and interviews.
These methods will be very useful in my research study because the programmes in the library is very much related to our community needs and interests.


Interviewer Observer

This week I had an interview to do for INF1300.  It was a sobering exercise.  So easy to write, I’ll use this method and that method… reality is a bit more demanding.  Even a one-on-one Q and A with someone you know, can surface a lot of issues about the process.

It’s a challenge to word questions without leading; to prompt without suggesting; to receive all answers with the same benign inscrutability that will (hopefully) disarm anxieties and neutralize any desire to give a more pleasing or less ignorant answer.. etc etc.

It’s a process that made me aware of how weighty the ethical issues are or can be.  I didn’t find too much guidance on this in the readings for this week.  But I can see that participant observation of any kind is going to be a many-layered challenge.

Interviews and Focus Groups

Historical! Comparative! Complicated!

I read Luker's chapter on historical-comparative methods with great interest because my research topic is historical (early modern) and I, like some others, have been wondering how to do historical sociology.

I am a fan of "building theory," which is the heart of Luker's book and, yes, the heart of her historical-comparative method, perhaps because I was in English literature and I built theories or interpretations about texts out of textual evidence of one kind or another. A notion like "pattern recognition" (190) sounds good to me. However, Luker argues that historical sociology attempts to build theory by identifying particular relationships: either "what events in the past shaped how this turned out in the present?" or "why did things turn out this way in one place and another way in another place?" (191). These questions represent a particular kind of history, one that focuses on causes and effects. They aim to build generalizations.

I want think about my research in relation to her method because I recognize the power of causal explanation to make research seem valuable and important and original. (That's an assumption worth interrogating.) I want to say that certain experiences, represented in texts, influenced the development of certain social and cultural formations. I'm pretty sure they did, but I won't know until I do a lot more research. But what if they merely reflect those formations?


Into the Abyss...

The more we read about the different research methods, the more I realize how little I know about them. Coming from a History background, I know about reading texts and using them to help frame my own analysis on a certain subject. However, each week we are learning about new methods and each week I am at a loss as to whether or not I even understand how the scholars are explaining a method, let alone whether or not I can use it in my proposed research. A few weeks ago we were discussing how to know if our proposed research was something new and unique and now I am wondering the same thing about my own research. I am wondering did I choose it because I am passionate about it or because of a lack of a better idea. I hope it is the former, but our discussions have really got me thinking.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

About interviews...

I know there are many of us who are in INF1300. For those of you who aren't, one of our assignments involves conducting an interview on the public's view of the library by interviewing a non-library worker. Within the past week I have conducted the interview and have found that this class has really assisted me in determining the method I would employ as an interviewer/researcher. The goal in this particular research is to discover what a person knows about libraries, how the operate, etc. At first I thought that it would be very lightly structured but through talking with many people in the class, there was a general consensus that many of the people interviewed did not know a whole lot about libraries. This made it difficult as an interviewer because despite the openended questions, it became apparent that there needed to be more structure than I had originally thought. The questions that I thought would have long answers were very short and I had to compensate by asking questions in different ways or being more specific without telling them what they know about the library. Of course, discovering that there is a lack of knowledge about the library gives a researcher valid information which can lead to questions of why there is such a lack of knowledge on the resources offered by the library, for example. That being said, I wanted to cover all of the bases and try my best to engage my interviewee with the questions I was asking to solicit answers that were more elaborate than a simple 'I don't know'. This would have made for a very short interview.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lets hear it for radical tirades

Although I found Luker’s tips on sampling, operationalization and generalization, as well as the summary and class discussion to be extremely useful, the whole conversation triggered a healthy sense of disillusionment in me. Let me explain.

By fixating our attention on the “validated” means for producing “acceptable” generalizations, I think we run the risk of overlooking a world of “truths” which can enlighten our sense of “social reality.” For example, if an oppressed South African living in jail during the apartheid era produces a journal of his experiences, I would not penalize his work for leaving out a discussion on methodology. If anything, a preoccupation with social science methods would, somewhat ironically, render obscure this important piece of “reality.” This example speaks to the attractiveness of post-colonial literature (as well as poetry, music etc.) as a source of “truth” in our complex world.

In other words, if we accept that Luker’s (and similar scholars) methods are highly westernized, then it is not unreasonable to claim that they affectively perpetuate a western mindset in our society (also consider the immense influence of the academy).This affect is not only a hindrance to our pursuit of knowledge, but can also be quite dangerous. Take for example the Jews from the Frankfurt School whose critical theory (note the lack of capitalization) rose from the oppression of Nazi Germany. Although society has progressed since his time, Foucault, whose thinking was also unconventional in this sense, was a homosexual. You get my point.

As a final note to close this tirade, I believe that often important “truths” are too personal or humanistic to be attained by conceptual “methods,” as much as the established order would steer us to believe.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Adult Programmes in the Public Libraries

It is very exciting when I finally could frame my research study. Now I am ready to dive in and discover all different ideas and endless possibilities for the adult programmes in our medium-sized public libraries.
I really believe in what Luker says about “generalization”. The case of my research study began when I had some informal conversations with colleagues and staff at larger-sized public libraries and realized that this problem is general, therefore the audience for my research study will be far beyond our community.

Knight: Chapter 4 made me to consider all the different types of questionnaires; including rating scale questions for each programmes, semi-structured interviews with different groups in the community, and use q-sort to get a better understanding of adult groups beliefs and expectations.

I am not sure, but based on Annette Lareau school study, is sampling the same as comparison?


Friday, October 15, 2010

Different Methods?

Lately I have been trying to figure out how I am going to go about doing my proposed research. The readings we have done thus far, while I find them interesting, are not really feasible with my intended research. Because I am studying an event that happened over sixty years ago it would be very difficult to find people to survey, either face to face or in a more canonical way. While there are still survivors alive, they would have been children during the war. Since my research focuses on women during this period and not children, it would be difficult to gather the information from those who were not in the correct age group. While I know that they would most likely remember their mothers, they would not have first hand knowledge as to what it meant to be a woman during this period.

Therefore, I know I am going to have to focus on diaries and memoirs that have been written. While, I think this is more difficult than working face-to face as I can not ask questions, I am optimistic that I can still gather the information needed for my research. I am anxious to learn more about how to go about researching using written text and not face-to face methods, even though I do find them very interesting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Visual Thinking

The workshop that Eleonore and Jennette organised last Friday on the Artlab approach gave us a good look at the actual workings of the exercise.  It facilitates more abstract thinking and, paradoxically, more direct communication.  Using modelling material to express our responses seemed to generate material that was more complex and revealing than the verbal information exchanges.  All good! from the researcher’s viewpoint. But as we discussed in our post-exercise review, this could need some sensitive management in groups where participants might feel uncomfortable about exposure. As well, though there’s a lot of good potential for layered, authentic information, as Knight observes in his review of face-to-face methods analysing it systematically could present challenges.

On another front; reading through the SSHRC proposal samples I’m struck by the issue of language use; it seems to be very difficult to avoid using specialised vocabulary.  Coming to a working understanding of many of the basic terms of contemporary information studies is one of my own challenges at the moment.  I am appreciating just how much of a gatekeeping function specialised vocabularies have, especially in the process that Innis’ Minerva’s Owl thesis critiqued -- the building of knowledge monopolies.  (At the same time as his writing itself demonstrated the sin, being almost unreadable in both content and form!)   The other side of this issue is expressing one’s ideas accurately and appropriately, which might demand technical terms – which, as the information age has and continues to evolve so rapidly, are already common usage within vanguard users in the community.  The Seiter article/interview – which was indeed troubling – also demonstrated some of the barriers that class-and-knowledge based language differences can present in just relating, never mind information-gathering.  It’s a problem with many dimensions and implications, I find.


Writing a Research Question

Hello Everyone,

I'm going to go back a little bit for this entry and talk about Luker's Chapter 4 and her discussion of translating general ideas into a research question. She uses the analogy of an intellectual cocktail party, different groups focusing on different conversations and having to find a way to insert yourself into a conversation. I am still concerned with being original in my research proposal. Everything I think of seems to have already been done. I'm really struggling with finding a way to make my research stick out from everybody else's. In my undergraduate degree I did my research on Afghan-Canadians and ethnic identity and it was a really original topic. Afghan-Canadians hadn't been researched extensively at all and my literature review consisted of studies done on other immigrant groups. I'm looking for that same spark of originality that I had with my undergraduate research but it seems to be eluding me.

Hope your proposals are going well!


Monday, October 11, 2010

A Public Service Concerning the Passive Voice in your SSHRC Proposal and Writing in General

In a word, no.

Or, to take a more moderate view, as little as possible. The frequent use of the passive voice is the sign of a writer whose command over English is dubious at best. Why? Passive verbs put your prose into reverse, front-loading your sentences with objects and trailing a bunch of agents out the back. They sap your prose of its swiftness and attack. Let's look at some examples, invented for the sake of instruction, and some possible alternatives.



My methodology is founded on pioneering research by Smith.

You can spot the passive construction in the combination of the passive verb and the agent ("is founded on . . . by Smith"). Here's an active version:

Smith's pioneering research is the foundation of my methodology.

Better. But it emphasizes Smith's research and not the author's methodology. Let's try some another version:

I will base my methodology on the pioneering research by Smith.

Probably better. This version makes the author into the actor.



Metadata is defined as "data about data" that enables users and researchers in the discovery process" (Smith and Wilson 45).

It's a ghastly sentence for a number of reasons. Besides the presence of the passive voice, there is enable, one of those awkward verbs that never sounds human. Here's an active version that clears up some of the problems:

Smith and Wilson define metadata as "data about data" that helps users and researchers in the discovery process (45).

Or start with your subject:

Metadata is "data about data" that helps users and researchers in the discovery process (Smith and Wilson 45).

Much better. But I'm still not happy with this sentence. The clause feels clunky. In any case, the elimination of the passive voice is a significant improvement.



"I argue that relations between readers and e-book retailers are shaped by processes of economics and demographics."


"I argue that economic and demographic processes shape the relationship between readers and e-book retailers."

The difference is clear. Don't be afraid to use a present indicative verb ("shape") in your writing if it matches the tense of your topic. Its power comes from its clarity and directness. Note that I also changed "processes of economics and demographics" into a leaner phrase.

Of course, in spite of these various examples, you can use passive constructions without mangling your prose. Sometimes they work quite well, and some sentences sound better in the passive voice. However, if you notice that you're using passive constructions in paragraph after paragraph or, worse, sentence after sentence, then it's time to edit aggressively. Your readers will thank you.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Just thinking..

When I was reading about Horvat and Antonio's study of African American girls in an elite high school in Chapter 3 of Knight, I thought about it in the context of the distinction that was made between empathy and sympathy. As the research being done was about unequal power distribution, sympathy was present. I thought about how an interviewer sharing their views with the interviewee, while perhaps seeming to 'lose objectivity', might engage people to expound views that they have but have not voiced without being prompted due to the fact that they are (in this case) a racialized group. This then led me to think about the interviewer's expectations when conducting interviews. In this case study, the subject matter was not neutral, and thus would cause some to believe that the data produced from such interviews would lose credibility. From my perspective, these interviews could only be conducted in such a fashion. The findings of a study like this are both anticipated and the motivation for doing the research. There is an idea that they will find that their is an inequality and they disagree with this inequality as the motivation for their research. It is not neutral. Is the information produced less valid when sympathy (if we are distinguishing it from empathy) is used in interviews? What is the measure for that?
Chapter 3 of the small-scale research by knight, helped me to understand the face to face inquiry methods that the researcher used in the proposal example 2. And I think that the researcher using observation in a lightly structured method with open questions. Also I noticed the same research method in the “D. Gauntlet’s Lego Serious Play Research”, week 4 reading. In both cases the study is explanatory, in a way that points to areas to explore in conversations with people.
Need to say after reading this week materials and rethinking about my own research, I decided to reframe my research study to a smaller subject to be more concise and productive in the research methodology. It will be community related and I am making my list of prompts to discuss with other colleagues in different department of the library.   

Feedback and its mediation

I was struck by the centrality of feedback in some recent methodological discussions. David Gauntlett, having invited people to model their identity in Lego bricks, observes that people need time to think about their models and reflect on the meanings embedded in them. He concludes that people need "reflective time to construct knowledge." Peter Lunt and Sonia Livingstone, in their article Rethinking the Focus Group in Media and Communications Research, point out that feedback is part of the "new, critical approach to methodology that emphasizes empowering and respecting respondents as participants in the research process" (80). Interestingly, Gauntlett represents feedback as a conclusion of his research—it's an essential part of identity formation—which happens to confirm his method. Lunt and Livingstone represent feedback as an ethical quality of modern research.

Looking closer at Gauntlett's Lego experiment, we can see that the model itself acts as feedback. For example, he says that some people "balance" their design, building new elements in a discursive relationship with elements that they have already built. In this case, the feedback is not mediated by the researcher, perhaps increasing the validity of the findings. However, saying that the 'feedback is not mediated by the researcher' is not the same thing as saying that the feedback is not mediated. Obviously, the feedback is mediated by Lego. To what extent do the Lego pieces themselves suggest certain qualities or options? After all, they are meant to be connected together in very orderly and symmetrical ways. How does the symmetry of Lego pieces affect someone's desire to achieve "balance" in his or her model? At the same time, note that many people build their Lego models on a large base, effectively linking the various elements into a unified whole. How does that influence their model and our 'reading' of their model?


Face-to-face methods

Knight provides a no frill anatomy of face-to-face inquiry methods. Read alone however (and self-evidently), as the bracket of methods at researchers’ disposal could limit the variety of techniques which comprise a more holistic, intelligent, flexible framework for analysis and subsequently, a clearer understating of a given area of inquiry. For example, combining the data from a flexible interview protocol with quantitative data on the same topic can add a human dimension to the study and shed light on the meaning of numbers so to speak.  I am not suggesting that Knight is being negligent; however, it is important for researchers to consider not only the pros and cons of different face-to-face inquiry methods, but also their pros and cons in relation to methods outside of the bracket of face-to-face methods. I believe this is sometimes referred to as the triangulation method of doing research and has proven to be a fruitful approach. For example, unless the researcher has an omnipotent sort of knowledge of the topic of the interview, then she or he will have to triangulate the data collected with other methods for understanding the topic at hand. This last point (triangulation) is actually discussed later on in Knight, which highlights the point that this chapter ought not to be read in isolation. Nonetheless, it does serve the useful purpose of providing a good anatomy of face-to-face methods.    

Food for Thought

For the past few weeks, I have been working on my application for the Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). Like the SSHRC proposal, there are strict guidelines, limited space and a lot of hard work. I thought that because I have already written a SSHRC proposal, and was going to be proposing the same research, that writing my OGS research proposal would be easier. In a sense it was easier because I already knew what I wanted to research however, it turned out to be way more difficult than I had ever anticipated. The biggest challenge I faced was trying to fit my two page SSHRC proposal and one page bibliography into a single page. I remember when writing my SSHRC, the difficulties I had fitting my information into the page limit and now I had to cut that down by more than half! I had a very hard time gauging what was important, what message I wanted the committee to receive and what I ultimately wanted to focus on.

The reading in Knight this week really helped me with my dilemma but not in the way I think Knight intended it to. When Knight was discussing the different options of face to face research and the pros and cons of each, I was attracted to the sections where Knight discussed how to figure out what was relevant when doing research. I believe if I use similar methods in deciding what is most relevant, not only in my OGS proposal but also when I start researching for my end of term research proposal, I will be able to research more effectively. And that is the point of this course isn't it?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Gradually synthesizing

In the three lectures so far some big questions have arisen -- the nature or at least the form of truth, the methodology paradigms and who asks the questions, of whom, and how, and now the big nut (that may be hard to crack before midnight!) – what’s our own interest? and how can it be defined in an essential question? 

Some of the information that has been raining down on us in these first three weeks is starting to coalesce into some kind of synthesis though.  In INF1003, highlighting the progression from data > information > knowledge gave me a useful framework for analysing some of that “information,” much of which was actually only data for me initially.  Having integrated and organized some of it now, I can think more usefully about how information becomes knowledge, and that that process is both the process of learning something, and of being able to apply, manipulate or expand it into related or entirely other areas. 

The data that our key question may generate has to become information before it will transmute into the knowledge that might provide new insights or solutions to perceived problems.  But long before we get to that point, it seems that the process of generating a meaningful question is the same – data (our multitude of thoughts, observations, interests and inclinations, not to mention all the feelings that go along with them), has to be processed into coherency, out of which the question/s will emerge.

We hope!