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Some progress at last.

You know sometimes the weeks just pass you by and you wonder just what have I achieved?  These past two months have felt like that but I studiously have kept chipping away at what seems a terribly large task – doing my MRes dissertation on route to starting the PhD full next year.

After collecting data during June and July, analyzing data August and September, October has been a month where I stopped opening NVivo so much, and began to write again.  In that time, I pulled out all my papers to read and my first iteration of the Lit. Review from April to have another go at getting a Lit. Review chapter out.  Pleasingly, a couple things occurred. 1. My actually having spent time doing research I had unconsciously become more informed about the subject, and my re-reading key articles a whole set of ideas seemed to connect in my brain!  2. This increased understanding seemed to both help me critique my earlier work in April, and speed ahead in writing a more focused second iteration.

I have been struggling with the reductionism required in writing a Findings chapter, and I still have much work to do in this area.  The fact is that I seem like many to have way too much material, and I have had that feeling of trying to report everything that I have found with appropriate evidences.  As the weeks go by, I have found that writing without word constraints followed by moving to write something else creates some sort of space where I can be a bit more ruthless.  Still more work to do here though.

The methods chapter thankfully I leveraged much from the earlier essays, and my journal of actual research choices and facts along the way.  Again, like the Lit. Review I can see more clearly what to keep and what to drop.  Even today, I went through my papers I had set aside with notes in the margins – and further refined the theory aligned to my research actions.

Last week, however, I’ll admit to a real bout of shock, perhaps trepidation as I realized that since Alvesson and Willmott’s original 2002 seminal article on Identity Regulation, that scholars have certainly written a lot more about the subject, and after careful reading I though – “shit, much of what I see in my findings has been already said”.  Thankfully, the MRes is not that kind of dissertation like the PhD will be, but given some responses to my tweet on the subject there was some really good comments, one in particular from @NSRiazat who says new knowledge comes from ‘how you weave the story’, and this comment combined with my good friend Paul that I was approaching the discussion chapter with a negative frame of mind – woke me up to the fact that yes – I can do this!

Not that it is the requirement of the MRes but I will make the claim that I’m ‘creating’ something worthwhile, in two ways: 1. I’m extending Alvesson and Willmott’s model to include some aspects found in my research not in their paper, and in some case supported by others work, and 2. that this new model is the first time I have seen these broadly discussed areas in one place.

Additionally, after revising my aims that underpin the research – I can also see both practical implications for project managers and managerial implications for organizations who may make use of identity regulation in a positive way.

So all in all, I’m chuffed – and ready to start the Discussion Chapter now.  I can see light at the end of this first tunnel in order to think more deeply about how my PhD will take my initial work further – AND – that I will in time need to step my game up to another level, the recent realization that professional academics really make it hard for PhD students to create new knowledge as they are so seasoned and bloody good at it!  But, it can be done, of course.

This will be my fastest blog ever – 15 mins from start to finish… it was all just sitting in my head to posted.

I’d love to hear from others who have had similar experiences during their research…

Can conferences motivate the researcher…

Ok, so its been more than a month since my last blog for various reasons.  One reason is when I’m really focused on a piece of work, blogging seems like a unnecessary distraction.  Another reason is the opposite when I’m totally un-focused.  I feel bad due to my slow progress therefore there is no way I’ll write a blog entry out – simply out of guilt.  This weekend I found myself in the latter – but I promised myself to at least write a few words!  I don’t usually suffer from procrastination, but a combination of interesting stuff going on at work, family projects, X Factor, and not to forget the Rugby World Cup (Go All Blacks) – I’ve been slipping to the dark-side.

Let me try to see if I can remember what I’ve been doing these past four weeks:

  1. I did some documentary analysis.  I’ve found that DA looks likes it kind of adds evidence in the space between interview data, and never really appear primary evidence.
  2. I was having some real fun theorizing and drawing boxes with arrows between them, and then trying to explain them to whoever would listen.  I think I’ve taken this part as far as I need to for now.
  3. I had a major realization during a 3 hour shisha with a good friend @pkpolava, that I had made a serious error getting my findings work and theorizing work mixed up in NVivo.  I had to take some quick back steps to make sure I could maintain integrity in my analysis….Panic is over now.
  4. I spent one day cut/pasting from my previous proposal and methods work into a dissertation Scrivener project file – started some writing at last for the final paper….
  5. Lastly, I’ve moved from coding to extracting the evidence from my NVivo project into the same Scrivener project.
I’m wondering how this sounds for around 4-5 weeks of part-time effort.  A little light for me.  Looking back, it doesn’t appear so bad, but I’ll admit the momentum seems to be slowing…. I just feel it.  So, where am I going to find the impetus to get moving again????  One possibility (come from an email yesterday) is a call for papers for the Making Project Critical Workshop that will be held in Manchester April 2012. Here is some information  on last year’s workshop:  http://www1.uwe.ac.uk/bl/bbs/research/bcloe/newsinshort/makingprojectscritical.aspx
Personally I think my research totally fits here and I’m getting excited about the possibility of writing a paper for it.  Only problem is that I’ve no idea how to do so?  So any advise on how to do this, or ideas on how to maintain momentum in research projects – then please let me know :o)
441 words – at least I kept my promise to myself.

#phdchat

September 2, 2011 1 comment

Who would have thought one could find real connection and support for researchers on twitter?  I certainly would not have guessed it.

Well, if you’re a post graduate student I thoroughly recommend you check out the twitter group #phdchat created by a group of UK researchers, in particular – Nasima Riazat aka @NSRiazat.  Here  you will find more than a thousand PhD-ers, MRes-ers,  MPhil-ers, DEd-ers, DPhil-ers, and other students/graduates who regularly post their tweets.

There are many beneficial ways of interacting with the community:

One way is simply the ad hoc following of peoples tweets and sharing your own tweets whenever you feel like it 24 hours per day!  I use the application called tweet deck that keeps me updated – but I do find it necessary to switch it off as twitter can be a real useful procrastination tool for researchers :o) There are loads of people posting their blog entries, sharing links to articles and other resources, and sometimes just sharing an emotion or two of joy or frustration.  If you have a question that you want to crowd source then try tweeting it – more often than not someone with more experience than you replies.  For example: I had some trouble with #NVivo – and I was knocked over when QSR support contacted me directly…after seeing one of my tweets.  Another member of the group  helped me out with a few other NVivo things, and as my own experience grows I find I’m doing the same for others.  On tools generally, there is loads of discussion on things like #papers2, #scrivener, #mendeley etc. that all take time to learn.

Another way to get some benefit is to join the weekly scheduled session at Wednesday 730pm-830pm BST… for me at 10:30pm UAE time.  Even though I’ve been following this community for months, I finally joined one of these regular sessions this past week and found it a lot of fun.  I was a bit overwhelmed but I did my best to follow the fast moving conversation threads.  I picked up some real gems including one conversation thread on the question of voice and representation – and in particular how others are navigating this conversation between literature, data, and themselves as the researcher/author.

There is also a wiki with various resources there that members can tap into.  Here is the link:  http://phdchat.pbworks.com/w/page/33280234/PhD-Chat 

I’d like to make it clear is that before #phdchat, as I took on my studies as an international part-time student – it would not be uncommon to feel a bit lonely or somewhat disconnected.  I now tap into the community almost daily, and thanks to #phdchat these feelings of isolation are now almost completely gone.   You can tweet, or read tweets at any time any place e.g like a couple of nights ago while I was waiting for Popeyes for my food order, or waiting for my son to come out from the service station, or I’ve even been known to tweet on the loo!  I have my own tag for this #TOT for tweet on toilet.

One final benefit I’ve noticed is that I feel much less of a need to be bothering my supervisor with adhoc questions or emails.  I’m not saying that #phdchat replaces your supervisor – of course not – but that I’m ok with a bit more space between meetings/emails etc.  In sum, the #phdchat community for me is a group of talented, interesting, intellectual, emotionally connected, and funny researchers who help each other through a journey that few understand.  I hope I’ve motivated you to at least take a look.  Introduce yourself – either anonymously as some do (I’m known as @kiwicito) or with your name.

We will look forward to welcoming you.  I’m 100% certain you will find #phdchat useful – and you’ll make some new friends guaranteed!