Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Is this boring??

I went out to dinner last night with a number of people within my industry and one of them asked about my studies and she wanted to know what themes were emerging from my analysis. So, I told her very broadly what I was seeing in my data and it sounded so BORING and unremarkable. It made me worry that I will get to the end of all this and my readers will say "um, yes...  I could have told you that three years ago". What if my work leads to something so predictable and unremarkable that it has nothing to contribute to the body of knowledge in which my topic fits? No-one will have written about it before, but it could just be so ordinary that it makes no difference to anyone or anything.

Maybe I need to be looking back on why my study is important and what its goals are. I hope, hope, hope that what I am doing is important to someone, sometime and that it is not just BORING!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Intimidated by the invisible mountain

It is January and I have extracted the holiday digit and started work again. At night only at this stage as it is school holidays and I am enjoying family time during the day.

During my down time over Christmas and New Year, I have been thinking a lot about the task ahead of me. I have all my transcripts ready to go and it is just up to me now to get the work done.  When I think about what I have to do - turn the transcripts and what they offer into a thesis, I have been feeling quite intimidated. I have been feeling that this is really hard and I don't know what to do. I don't know what to write. I don't know what sort of language to use. I don't know how much of me should be in the writing. I don't know if I should be peppering all my writing with references to others to give it academic grunt or not. How do I start? What is expected of me? Am I even up to this?

Well, I am confident that there is a way through and that I am indeed up to this. Most people probably are if they are mental enough to give it a try and lucky enough to have a chance.

So, I feel like I have to climb this huge mountain, but I don't know what the mountain looks like, so I can't start the climb. The mountain feels invisible and I feel out of control because the thesis feels out of control. To counter this, I have attempted to control the thesis. As in the long history of mankind attempting to control the uncontrolled, I have attempted this by creating structure and order and classification. What a good librarian I am. I have written a draft structure with some very brief thoughts about what could go where.  Here it is, below.  I expect it will change as I proceed, but I feel that this makes the mountain I have to climb visible and therefore less intimidating. Climbing an invisible mountain is quite scary. I feel better now.

Chapter One – Introduction
·      Aims & goals of the research
·      Introducing the research question
·      Why is this important?
·      Why did I choose to study this topic?
·      Positioning the study – context
·      Introducing the methodology
·      Thesis overview

Chapter Two – Literature Review
·      The right to read
·      Library as contributor to social capital (Putnam)
·      The role of the library in the life of the user (Wiegand) – what is it like, to be a library user?
·      The role of the library in a prison environment
o   All things to all: must be an academic, public & law library
·      The role of the prison library in the life of the user – what we already know.
·      The importance of understanding the user’s perspective
·      The unique needs of prison library users

Chapter Three – Research Methodology
·      All about phenomenology
·      Why it was a suitable approach for this study

Chapter Four -  Research Design and procedure
·      Choice of sites
·      Choice of participants
·      Ethics process – RMIT & governments
·      Development of paperwork – PICF, low literacy, consent to record voices, issues encountered during interviews because of paperwork
·      Working within the prison environment
·      Phenomenological analysis of data (Moustakas 1990)

Chapter Five – Australian prison libraries
·      Describe current situation
o   Staffing
o   Funding
o   Collections
o   Purpose
o   Guidelines – ALIA & Corrections
o   Physical Facilities
o   Size of populations served

Chapter Six – Explicating themes (analysis of data)

Chapter Seven – Discussion (Implications arising?, suggesting possibilities?, gathering together?)



·      A1: Participants

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Research Question Change?

I have started to work through my transcripts that I received from I am checking to make sure they were transcribed accurately. I am finding a few problems with Aussie slang and town names, but nothing too bad. What I didn't expect to find (and maybe should have) is that I think I have been asking the wrong questions of my participants. Or perhaps more accurately, I have been asking the questions that I really wanted to ask, but didn't match very well with my research question.

So, what I have got in my interviews is some totally gorgeous information that informs me about something I am truely interested in. What I haven't got is information that will allow me to answer my research question. Well, it sort of does, but the answers are not very interesting. So, I am going to use this post to get my thoughts in order.

My original question was something like: "How can a prison library meet the educational, legal and recreational needs of prisoners?"  Well, the answer is: It can't. Not in their current form, anyway. I can expand the answer to make a 'wish list' of things that the prison libraries could do to better meet the educational, legal and recreational needs of prisoners, but that wouldn't be all that interesting, and wouldn't make a PhD. It would be more like a consultancy report. But it would answer my research question.

What the information I have gathered also gives me is a view into the lived experiences of Australian prisoners in relation to their libraries. I have a picture and a feeling of how they are using, experiencing and valuing their libraries. This is much more interesting and more like a PhD. Particularly if I am going to follow the phenomenological method of data analysis - which I said I would do.

So, this leads me to an interesting place. I can follow where I want to go and explore what I have found in terms of the phenomenology of using a prison library, but this would require me to change my research question. I am pretty sure this is an OK thing to do and I reckon I have heard of other students doing this. Maybe it is common, particularly with quantitative research.

OK. Lets imagine that this is an OK thing to do. What would my new RQ be?  Lets brainstorm some possibles:

  • How do Australian prisoners experience their libraries?
  • How do Australian prisoners use and experience their libraries?
  • How do Australian prisoners, use, value and experience their libraries?
  • What is the lived experience of Australian prisoner libraries?
I went to a seminar the last day where the speaker stressed how important it was to just write what you want to say, clearly and simply. So, maybe:
  • How do Australian prisoners experience and value their libraries?
  • What role do prison libraries play in the lives of Australian prisoners?
  • What role to libraries play in the lives of Australian prisoners?
  • What role do libraries play in the lives of Australia's prisoners?
Maybe that is it? What role do libraries play in the lives of Australia's prisoners?

That is a more interesting question, I think, anyway. I guess the next step is to ask for a meeting with my SUPERvisors and see what they think.

Thanks Blog. You helped me think (write) out loud and get my thoughts to a useful place.  Bye for now, I am off to email my SUPERvisors. Change is good, yes?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rev it up

So, I sent my audio interviews off to in the US and wondered how they would go. They promised I would receive them within 24 hours. In fact, the started coming in about 2 hours after I sent them off! Nice. I haven't been through them all yet, but I have read two of them through and I would say they are about 97% accurate. I will still have to go through all the files and listen to them and read through correcting as I go, but the time saving is immense. They seem to have dealt with the Australian accents really well. The two I read didn't have any swearing in them, so I'm not sure what they will have done with that.  I am really pleased that I decided to get this done. I think it was a good decision. Anyone needing to get transcription done would do well to consider using this company. Sadly, they were half the price of Australian services otherwise I would have used someone local.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

To transcribe or not to transcribe

I have over 30 hours of interviews and I need to type them all out before I can do anything with them. I had always intended to do this myself. That was before I started doing this for myself!  What a S.L.O.W process it is. For me anyway, even though I am a reasonable typist. So, after 8 interviews, I decided to start thinking about getting someone else to type the rest up for me. This was not a straight forward decision. I was enjoying the process of transcribing from audio to text as it took me back to the day and place when the interviews where recorded. I found myself back in the room with the men and women I spoke with and I felt again all that was to be felt at the time. Mostly sadness and hopelessness and loss.  While this was emotionally quite hard work, both at the time and now during transcription, I felt I was benefitting from reliving the experience. I felt I was getting back inside the data and that this was important.  However, also important is the passage of time. If I did all of the 31 interviews myself, I was going to be spending too long on this part of the process.

So, after 8 transcriptions, I spoke with my SUPERvisors to get their opinion and they agreed that it was time to hand it over to the professionals. They thought that although there is benefit to be gained from transcribing your own interviews, most of that benefit can be derived from the first 8. Now there was more to be gained by outsourcing the transcription than there was to be gained by doing it all myself.

Enter An American transcription service that charges US$1 per recorded minute. I have submitted all my remaining files today and they promise the transcripts will be available in 24 hours!  I wonder how they will go with the Australian accents (and all the swearing!).  I really hope they do a good job. I will review all of them and expect to have to tidy it all up a bit (I hope just a bit) and then I can actually start doing something with it all. EXCITING!!!!

I am wondering now if I will get the same emotional response to the transcripts that I did when I was transcribing the interviews myself. I wonder how much of that response came from hearing the interviewees tone of voice and the extra sounds of the environment in the background. The pauses and the sarcasm.  It will be a very interesting experience to read through them all as a group too.  Can't wait!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Data gathering is complete!!

I think the term 'data-gathering' is odd. It sounds like the data is just sitting out there somewhere, waiting to be gathered and taken home. The reality is much more complicated. For me, the gathering of data took almost a year of ethics negotiations, two trips interstate, flying on tiny planes and sitting alone in rooms with prisoners who are household names for all the wrong reasons. The gathering was hard and sometimes frightening and always exciting. I have been to places that I never thought I would go and shaken hands with people I never thought I would meet.  I have the thoughts and words of these people in my sound files, waiting to be transcribed.

So, that brings me to the end of the gathering and the start of the next phase - the real work it seems. I feel like I haven't really done anything yet and the real work is about to begin. This is probably an inaccurate view as it has been a great deal of work to get this far. Maybe I feel that I haven't done anything yet as I haven't really done anything very intellectual yet in terms of analysis. Perhaps I am thinking that 'doing a Doctorate' is an intellectual exercise and the work hasn't begun until there is significant intellectual input.

The next stage is organising for my transcripts to be typed up. I have 35 interviews to transcribe and I have done 7 myself and I think that is enough. I spoke to my wonderful supervisors about this last week and they agreed. I have done some of them, so have experienced this and learnt some skills aroung this. Now I need to crack on and get moving. I am very slow in doing them as I don't have any specific equipment to speed up the process. I get some money from RMIT to pay for things like transcription, so I think I will just do it. I am really excited about the next phase of the research and I can't get there without the transcripts. So, I think it makes good sense.

Once I have the transcripts I can start analysing them. I need to work out how to do this. That is for another post!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What's been happening

Long time, no blog. Maybe I have been busy!

Achievements to date:
Prison visits to interview participants -ACT & Vic
Started work on getting clearance to interview prisoners in SA
Leant how to use NVIVO
Started transcribing interviews
Session teaching (lots) (good for $$, lousy for research)
Acceptance to have my research workshopped at RAILS
Started reading fantasy books (seems to be the genre of choice for prisoners, and I know nothing about it)
Started reading 'Reader Response Theory' help explain previous statement
Maintenance of sanity - just.

This is hard. It would be less hard if I didn't have to keep working so much. I have a full time teaching load, another 2 days teaching at another uni, full time study load, two kids, husband & dog. I am tired. My dream is of just sleeping. Even a little bit would be nice.

Anyway, no point in complaining. Things I need to do soon:

Keep transcribing interviews
Remember how to use NVIVO
Feed the transcripts into NVIVO and make it do something clever
Keep bugging prison administrators to get access to another State's facilities.

Loads more too, but these are the important study-related things at the moment. School holidays are about to start at the end of this week, so everything will grind to a halt for two weeks again.