Thursday, January 30, 2014

Found a good thesis

I had to go to work yesterday, so no progress.  But today was good as I found an American PhD thesis all about censorship in the American prison libraries which touched a bit on the value prisoners place on their libraries and some content from prison librarians.  This led me to some further references from her bibliography that I will follow up.  One in particular looks interesting.  I like that I feel excited when I follow resource trails and find something good.  I think this is a good sign!

This is a book that I have ordered on ILL:

And this is a review/summary of the book that I found interesting:

In reading today, I have been attracted to the ideas of how reading for recreation can benefit prisoners, in ways beyond the obvious time filling factor.  There is something transformative about reading, fiction and auto/biographies in particular that can benefit prisoners.  This is a line of discovery I could follow.  My concern with this is that this topic may be about books and reading, and not about libraries.

An alternate idea that came up today in my reading that could be interesting is the idea of the value placed on the library by the prisoners.  Several things I read to day talked about how the library in a prison was seen by the inmates as a sanctuary and neutral space, a safe place and the only place in the prison that provided an 'escape', comfort and the opportunity for some autonomous activity - reading and choosing the direction of the reading.  This is interesting too and could have a topic in it somewhere.

I think a question I need to ask my supervisor relates to whether a thesis about the value placed on reading outside of education and legal needs can be a 'library thesis'?  I think this is the line of enquiry that interests me most at the moment.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What I have done today.

Today I have done the following:
  • Chosen a referencing software: Endnote
  • Downloaded Endnote 
  • Downloaded a citation style from my institution library for my department
  • Read two articles
  • Found references to 7 more articles that I would like to read
  • Entered each of the ones I want to read and those that I have into Endnote
  • Marked each reference as 'read' or 'unread' so I can sort the library and make a reading list for myself
  • Done some database searching to see if anyone is working on my topic - nothing so far (good thing)
  • Checked out the Thesis Whisperer blog
  • Had a nap
  • Walked the dog
  • Returned an overdue library book
  • Wrote up this blog.
Not bad.  Time to go get the kids from school.  This is Frank, the dog.


Thinking about a topic

I have started reading around my area of interest with the goal of narrowing down my topic to a specific area and research question.  Current thinking:

  • Explore the experiences of prisoners reading fiction - the role that reading of fiction plays in their lives.
  • Explore the responses to libraries by prisoners
    • What value do they place on them
    • To what extent are they used
    • How are they used
    • What role do they play in the life of prisoners
  • The transformative experience of reading fiction (see Sweeney's article 2008, Peschers 2011 in particular).  If I was to follow this line, which seems to interest me the most, how do I make this a 'library' thesis, not a thesis about reading?
  • Do our prison libraries restrict access to any reading materials?
  • Are there examples of censorship?
  • Maybe not just recreational reading. Sweeney's "The Story Within Us" mentions a prisoner who says she values self-esteem books and parenting books to help her when she is released to be a better parent and to help with her views of herself.
  • Has access to a library, either within an institution or via a public library extension program, had a positive impact on the lives of prisoners/ex prisoners
  • Has access to a library, either within an institution or via a public library extension program, assisted in offenders achieving their goals?
Keep in mind that this is not a consultancy.

Preliminary Reading

These are the two books given to me by my lovely supervisor, PM. I am about half way through the 'Doctorates Downunder' one. I am pretty much reading it cover to cover, but the other one I will dip in and out of.

First steps

This is a list of what I need to do first:

  • Read the books PM gave me
  • Check that no one else is working on, or has researched my topic
  • Read some other PhD theses to get a good idea of what is involved
  • Read around my topic to help me refine my research questions
  • Read about 'action research' and see if I think it would be an appropriate research theory to work with.
  • Decide what referencing software to use. Either Mandelay or Endnote, I think.
  • Organise a desk/student card/ access and photocopy card.
The kids go back to school tomorrow, so I can get stuck into it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

It begins here.

This blog is to be a place where I keep a record of my progress through my PhD.  This is the very beginning. I will use this space to record what I have done, what I need to do next, any advice from and records of meetings with my supervisors and my general progress as I climb this mountain.  I hope this blog will connect me with others taking a similar journey.  I also hope it explains to my friends why I might be a bit grumpy/elated/desperate/in need of a baby sitter etc. at times.

If you are reading, thanks for keeping an eye on me!

If Eddie can do it, I can too.  I might have to work a bit harder than he did though!