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!

Monday, 25 August 2008

The exultation!

Finally, I have data. I have RESULTS!

I've got through 30 blogs in the last 2 days, 10 of which have actually fit my criteria for analysis, so I have a serious chunk of data.

Plus, my previous pilots (all 3 of them!) have produced enough statistics to make some nice, wavy graphs.

I also found a uni library blog which links to my research.

It's a good feeling. I will plow on later today, and maybe until the end of August, before I start tying up the loose ends and trying to figure out what all of this actually means!

I have just given up most of a bank holiday weekend to do research. I must be a potential PhD candidate, surely? ;)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Title: an exploration of the categorisation and labeling of things

I have had a title kicking around for months.

In fact, I've already written large amounts of my final dissertation, in a kind of hypothetical (my supervisor termed it "brain-dump") fashion.

Today I sifted through the huge piles of data I already collected, learned some new statistical functions of Excel, and realised I can get this thing off my back a lot sooner than I expected.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Some tidbits.

I have found some handy hints on writing up.

And dragged up a useful content analysis guide from my bookmarks on my old pc :s

Ah, well. Back to the data trawling tomorrow. I had a great birthday party last night so I've been taking it easy!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Library 2.0 Masters Thesis!

I just dug up this great thesis on Library 2.0 by Michael Habib. That's going on my reading list!

He engages with the meaing of the "2.0" and develops a methodology that can be applied to libraries - and then uses an academic library as an example. Very relevant.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Something strange...

...I thought I'd seen the last of Teen Second Life back at the Lib 2.0 You? conference...

...and it struck me as very strange at the time. Since my PC at home doesn't seem capable of much more than a few Word documents and a bit of 'Net browsing at any one time, I haven't experimented any further with the memory-intensive SecondLife, but looking for some education theories to bolster my dissertation introduction I stumbled on this:

Yes, "Schome" is coming, neither school nor home (actually it's a surreal educational online graphic adventure roleplay, in pre-1990s language!).

There are some truly bizarre photomontages on their blog, of these kids with strange digitally-created heads. I hope this isn't the future of education, just for the sake of good taste!

Seriously, I am a library school student who spends more than half his time online, but come on! This is very strange. It's not like I'm unfamiliar with change in IT; my lifespan has exactly (to the day, actually) coincided with that of the PC, so I've pretty much "tracked changes" since the beginning, and only just kept up, but now I feel like a digital old-timer!

I suppose blogging is just "so '90s" now.

Personal Information Management!

My goodness. I've just finished organising all the paper copies of literature that I've read as background for this project.

They amount to 2 whole lever-arch files full. Plus a big wallet of PhD print-out, and a folder containing my personal notes on the project (see previous post). That is about twice the volume of paper produced by the entire of the first half of my Masters course (the taught part!).

Of course the estimate is skewed somewhat because I got rid of paper copies of lecture notes that were duplicated online or articles I could get from e-prints etc. So they probably amount to almost the same volume of "printout-inches"!

I'm quite pleased that I've read about the same volume of stuff (measured rather crudely, to be sure) for the self-directed part of the Masters.

Well, my next step is to re-shape the outline of the thesis. This I hope to do by making up lots of cards with headings of varying specificity (oh, sorry, I mean granularity! Must keep up...) and then arranging them in some sort of logical order to demonstrate the narrative (of my argument, not the project chronology).

After that, back to the coding scheme (long sigh...) because I think it can be improved again! I dug up some more references on Information Literacy (that course was almost a year ago so I can be forgiven for forgetting) which shed light on the categories I want to use, and which I was on the verge of essentially duplicating! Gosh, what a lot can be gained (and what effort spared!) by just reviewing the past.

Writing a Dissertation - Part 1

While I may not have "done" much on the dissertation work this last fortnight, I have actually been very busy!

I've been settling into my summer job, had an interview up in London, and been working through a "real" content analysis using my new, improved (probably to be re-improved!) coding scheme!

Also, I've been mulling over the ideas my amazing supervisor and I thrashed out over a coffee last meeting. Plus, I've been reading the research guide in the latest ed. of Turabian. It's a rather good, concise, yet detailed, punchy and warmly encouraging blow-by-blow method for just getting down and DOING the dissertation writing!

I've realised that I've taken a rather "interesting" approach to dissertation drafting: I've actually written up most chapters of the thesis already, before I've done the definitive research upon which it is (to be) based!

This is actually an approach vindicated by authors such as Bolker - to get down and write without worrying at all if what you're writing is good, or properly organised etc. It's just a nice way to get oneself moving, get the ideas out of one's head and onto paper where they're not so daunting and may actually suggest new and better ideas.

In addition to this "zero draft", I have a small ream of notes produced in the Bolker free-writing style just documenting the progress of the whole thing - I think it's really helpful to have a "personal blog" which you only use for yourself. Taking back the "journalistic" roots, actually writing a "journal" for one's own personal benefit!

In my last meeting, with my supervisor, we talked about the overall outline of the dissertation, or, in more immediate terms, the plan of action that's slowly taking shape in my brain. It was very encouraging to hear my supervisor talk about possible conclusions and how I could try to relate my results to my aims. I could envisage this finished dissertation sitting there, making sense and hanging together. Wow!

Sitting here with a massive stack of research papers that I've been sorting through for my literature review (and references throughout the report) has made me see this beautiful vision again; the papers seem to fall (given a bit of mental effort and re-shuffling) into various categories... and thinking of the main themes of each paper and each category as I sort through them, I start to re-imagine the "story" (c.f. the Turabian research guide) that they are telling in the context of my research, and how they will support each section!

I got another useful mental model from my last supervision; the idea that each section of the report must at least briefly reference some or all of the other sections, but have as its main emphasis the points it alone is responsible for making. The whole in the part, and the part in the whole!

The physics graduate in me immediately translated this into a series of waveforms with the peak shifting from left to right as you look down the series (the x-axis is "section of report referred to" and the y-axis is "word count") - but that's not a mandatory visualisation! ;)