Thursday, June 12, 2014

Research framework update

In an earlier post I was congratulating myself on having settled on a research methodology/framework - case studies.  I thought that this was a good fit with what I wanted to do.  I put this suggestion to my lovely supervisors and I thought they were happy and it was all systems go for case studies.  I was about to immerse myself in Yin's works to get myself thoroughly familiar with case studies.  Then came a meeting with my supervisors where it became clear that I had misinterpreted their support.  Bummer. They were of the opinion that case studies is not a research framework, but is nothing more than a data creation technique.  Big sigh.  In talking with another academic, she said that this view was old-fashioned and that plenty of PhDs were based on a case study method.

Anyway, mine can't be. Which (as usual!) turns out to be just fine as I now have settled on phenomenology as a framework, using case studies to gather my data.  This is actually a whole lot better and I have since heard from other people, whose opinions I trust, that case studies can be a method,  but are best left as a data gathering technique.  I had looked a phenomenology a bit before, thinking that it would fit quite well, but the philosophy and all those dead German men that wrote about it put me right off.  I was being intellectually lazy too.  Some of the writing about it is totally impenetrable twaddle designed to show off the author's brain power rather than to communicate anything useful.  But, having delved deeper, some of the writing about it is quite plain and practical and it is these writings that have made me feel comfortable with the framework and its concepts.

So, phenomenology it is!  I can almost spell it too, now.  In the interests of staying positive:

Ethics and more ethics

So, because my research will put me into direct contact with prisoners, I need to get ethics clearance from my university.  What an interesting process it is has been.  It has made me describe my project, what its goals are and how I am going to go about gathering my data.  I have ended up doing this much earlier in the process than I anticipated because the committee only meets once a month and I wanted to get through all the hoops before my confirmation in July.  I managed it and I have been granted approval subject to minor alterations. I consider this to be a great success and I will make the changes and it will be a better project because of them.  The real benefit came from going through the process of applying and filling out the Committee's form.  I had to really think about what I was trying to do and to focus on really fine detail about how I was going to do it and why.  FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS.  I now have a well focus, defined and rigorous plan for what I want to do.

People stress about 'getting ethics', but I have found the process fascinating, rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable.  I got to go to an Ethics Workshop run by the university.  There was an academic there who asked the presenter, who is a lovely man from the University Ethics C'tee, for a "cost/benefit analysis" of getting through the ethics process.  Seriously. I kid you not.  The lovely presenter said the benefits are you get to keep your job, dickhead.  The dickhead was implied.  The academic said that he told his research students not to bother 'getting ethics' as it was too slow a process and they never do any harm when they are researching anyway.  He actually said that to the ethics guy.  Sheesh.  Personally, I don't want to do ANYTHING without ethics approval.  If anything did go wrong, it would fall directly on my head and my supervisors' heads.  Not fair to them and not something I want to be in the thick of, thankyou very much.