Sunday, 7 December 2008

Lessons learned!

Now the dissertation is finally over, I feel it's time to look back and asssess what I've learned.

One thing I wish I'd known at the start is how difficult it is to keep track of the concepts and statements made in all the different pieces of literature.

If I do this kind of work again, I'll keep a more detailed database of all the articles and books I read, together with some keywords, and maybe a brief page of notes on each one, or some sort of index that I update as the literature review progresses, of themes and positions taken by authors.

Thankfully I do have a pretty good memory for this kind of thing, and since the topic was of interest to me I kept a lot of ideas in my head - or I used CTRL-F to jump around within my hefty Word document which included all kinds of rough ideas and notes right up to the second-from-final draft!

When I was going through my voluminous files of printouts, I realised there were lots more references I could have, and would have liked to include, had I been able to keep track of it all! I really need to improve my note-taking and make it more methodical; also, I think it's a simple question of confidence. I have never produced such a lot of words before! All my write-ups have been more technical in the past, including many more equations, diagrams etc. This was my first stab at a humanities-oriented research paper rather than a lab report or project write-up.

Another interesting question is how much to "publish" - I've written up a shorter version of my dissertation (about 10% of the length!!!) for publication. I can't share it here because it hasn't been published yet. However, I think that the habit of publishing something before you actually finish, which is common in PhD research, could be usefully brought into Masters level work.

Trying to express ideas and link them into the academic discourse is hard; the more research you do, the more connections there are and the more you are trying to summarise. Hence, to try and write up a summary, from start to finish, at a half-way point might really help (I know I found the length of the dissertation pretty unwieldy when it came to editing it). I suppose this blog has helped me do that to some extent.

Thursday, 4 December 2008


Currently plugging away at a few short versions of the dissertation for publication in library and information journals, of the print and online varieties, and of the more or less "academic" sort.

As keen as I am to get my results and conclusions out there, it's jolly hard work reiterating all the things I've been thinking about and struggling to get into managable form for the last 6 months or so.

Hopefully there should be some links I could put here once the things go to press (I'm optimistic!) and that would be a nice way to wrap up the blog.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Guess what?

It's finished!

A complete PDF version will be up at some point for anyone who's interested.


Sunday, 16 November 2008

In the thick of the final edit

I am now in the thick of the final edit. This is a good place to be, because it means I will soon (27th November!) be ready to submit the dissertation, and this blog will have reached its goal!

See you then. I will post a dissertation-submission celebratory posting, and a nostalgic look back at the months of effort and insights.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

I'm still here!

This blog has gone a bit stale, I know, but I've been rather busy in the real world and haven't got much dissertation news at all!

To be frank, I've been working on the write-up and it's fairly mechanical stuff. I've even taken to setting a timer and working in 30min bursts with quite generous breaks in between just to keep motivation up. I've found it's better to leave myself "hungry" between "shifts" rather than glut myself on writing. Anyhow my brain seems to work quite well like this; the breaks allow some subconscious processing to take place in between the "real" work.

I was a bit unsure as to whether my data really gave me enough to say anything meaningful. But some conversation with my supervisor and reading a few more past dissertations convinced me I'm on the right track, and I don't need to produce PhD level stuff at this stage. So, it's going nicely.

Working on the Methodology today and re-jigging my previous unstructured material into a logical storyline and updating it to reflect what I actually did instead of what I expected to do!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Side-effects of research(!)

On another note, I realised a few days ago that my research has generated MASSES of extra documentation of many kinds (handwritten and electronic notes by the bucketload, tables of blog posts, tables of categories of my own and others' invention, all the postings on this blog of course, my personal research diary from last term...).

What IS all this stuff? What happens to it when I finish? It's a kind of record of the process of thinking through all these ideas and it bears eloquent witness, I think, to the fact that a dissertation is no mean feat.

I <3 Data :)

So, the quest for data, lovely data continues. I am ticking off blogs and categories literally by the tens as the days roll by. Content analysis is actually quite a time-consuming and detailed business, when you get down to it.

I am still in the market for a catchy title: if you are a reader / follower of this blog (presumably a "follower" need not actually read it, just like "joining" Facebook groups doesn't actually commit you in any way!) then please will you post some suggestions for a snappy blogging/content analysis/academic libraries/information literacy-related title in the com-box for this post?

The more buzz-words the better!

I must say, I feel my own information literacy increasing even as I analyse the blogs. There are some shining examples of IL best practice out there, and some really cool resources and tools linked to and described by all you pragmatic bibliobloggers (TM) out there.

Hopefully, I can somehow represent this wealth of knowledge, experience and obvious enthusiasm in my final dissertation. My monthly supervision was yesterday and focussed on running through my results so far, figuring out how they can be presented (shiny graphs and percentages, woo hoo!) and what kind of story they can be made to tell (lies, damned lies...).

I was pretty pleased to find that my supervisor agreed that they do actually tell some kind of story, even the basic numbers regarding how many blogs there are, how often people post etc.

The Multi-Faceted Content Analysis (TM) proper gives another side to the "story" and a third "facet" should consist of an anecdotal report based on my reading of the blogs (after all, I have pretty much reviewed the whole of this "sphere", limited as it is to UK university blogging) and illustrated (literally) with example postings.

It's very tempting to get all sentimental about "my" blogs and keep on adding data ad infinitum but it seems more realistic to aim for ad nauseam and keep my "n" to a level I can cope with. After all, I have to submit this thing. Thankfully, most of the blogs in the UK population ("N") don't fit my criteria for content analysing (based on posting frequency and consistency, not quality at all!) so it's been quick to get through a lot!