Today, I’m excited about:
- The Oxford Handbook of Methods for Public Scholarship
- the first meeting of our Equity in the Making team. The scope document for this phase of the project includes “Project newsletters, social media, website updates”
Today, I’m excited about:
By far, my most visited blog post ever is my Start-to-Finish Literature Review Workflow and honestly, I return to it myself fairly often. I sent it to my EdCamp friend Allison Rae Redden when she was writing her first critical lit review in grad school. I also tweeted a couple more advanced lit review tips at her, and I wanted to gather those here. So here goes!
Make a concept map before you outline. If you haven’t concept mapped before outlining, go back and do that. (I scoffed at my prof who suggested this. I thought I was so good at lit reviews I didn’t need it. I was wrong.) I like to use bubbl.us, which I learned about from Dr. Summer Pennell.
Synthesize. It’s tempting and easy to just summarize studies, but putting them in conversation with each other is much better. Synthesizing the results of multiple studies is a good way to bring them together. Focus on grouping them by findings and briefly mention context and methods as you introduce each article.
Explicitly articulate critiques of studies. Identify gaps and point them out. I usually say something like ”It’s worth noting that none of these studies address…” or similar. I try to be descriptive rather than speculative - noting what’s missing - without directly pointing to how a specific study could be improved, but that’s just me.
If you simultaneously synthesize instead of summarize AND provide a strong description of each study’s context, methods, and results, you’ll be way ahead of most people.
I hope in the future to provide more specific examples for these tips like I did in my earlier post, but I decided it was more important to go ahead and get this out in the world than to wait until I had perfected it.
Cross-posted to: Twitter
Here are my goals for 2020 Q3:
I’m keeping it light. I had many more goals in mind but these are the most important things right now.
Last Friday, I finished correcting the AI-provided transcripts for my dissertation interviews. This process didn’t go as I’d originally imagined it would. When I wrote my proposal, I expected to conduct these interviews over the course of the entire summer, at various fan conventions. I expected to first explore online to find where cosplayers hangout and only then recruit participants. But then COVID-19 happened, and face-to-face research was no longer an option. (It was prohibited by my university. Cons were cancelled. I’m at high risk of severe complications, so even if there had been cons, I wouldn’t have been able to go to them.) So I changed my plan significantly, starting with sampling and recruitment.
I originally was going to use purposive sampling, identifying cosplayers through my online exploration who were local to me and might be able to provide valuable insight into their information literacy practices. Once I was in quarantine, it became clear that this wasn’t going to be an option. In my revised IRB proposal, I stated that I would use convenience sampling, recruiting cosplayers with whom I had contact in the past, either because I met them in the cosplay area of the con where they were guests, or because I attended their panels. I reached out to cosplayers from two local cons I attended last year. I also used snowball sampling, asking the first several cosplayers I interviewed to recommend other people for me to talk to. At first, they were all recommending the other people I had already invited to participate, but later participants introduced me to more cosplayers I hadn’t known before, and I rapidly ended up with a group of about 12 or 13 confirmed participants, of whom 10 actually scheduled interviews.
So how did I do it? Let me take you through the process…
All of the cosplayers I met at the two cons I attended last year were on Instagram. I have a dedicated cosplay Instagram account that I use both for personal and research purposes. Using this account, I DMed several cosplayers with a message similar to the following:
Hi [Cosplayer Name as Listed on Instagram],
My name is Kimberly Hirsh and I am a doctoral student from the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I also go by Luna Wednesday Cosplay. I am writing to invite you to participate in my research study about how cosplayers find, evaluate, use, and share information. You’re eligible to be in this study because you are a cosplayer I encountered at [Name and Year of Con] when I attended your panel, [Title of Panel]. To be eligible to participate, you must have cosplayed at least once since 2012 or be currently working on a cosplay project; you must also be over 18 years old.
If you decide to participate in this study, you will draw a diagram and participate in an interview that will take about one hour. We will conduct the interview using Microsoft Zoom. I would like to record your interview and then we’ll use the recording to ensure I understood your answers to my interview questions correctly.
Remember, this is completely voluntary. You can choose to be in the study or not. If you’d like to participate or have any questions about the study, please email or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @lunawednesdaycosplay.
Thank you very much.
The text of this recruitment message was approved by my university’s Institutional Review Board.
If the cosplayer responded that they were interested, I would say something like,
Great! The next step is to schedule a time for an interview. You can do that here:
And provide them with a link to a special type of event using the scheduling service Calendly. This was useful because I gave Calendly access to my Google Calendar, and participants could see what times I had available and sign up directly. In most cases, we didn’t have to back and forth. A few participants weren’t available during the times on the calendar, so I worked with them to set up special times. (The limitations on my time were about childcare, and it was easy to leave M. alone with W. for an extra hour on a Saturday or Sunday to do an interview.)
If you’re curious, you can read about Calendly’s security and privacy policies and practices. Calendly is a black-owned business, though I did not know that when I selected the service for my scheduling. I am happy to know it now and plan to continue using Calendly to schedule meetings.
The Calendly event description included the following text:
For our interview, you’ll need to have paper and something to write with, and the ability to take a picture of your diagram and send it to me via DM, text, or email. You’ll also need to have the Zoom app installed; if you’ve never worked with it before, it’s probably easiest to install on a phone. If none of the times on this calendar work, message me or email email@example.com and I’ll find a custom time for you.
Feel free to use your cosplay name rather than your real name when signing up for an interview slot. Once we settled on a time, I would schedule a Zoom meeting in my University’s Zoom instance and send the details to the participant by email if they had signed up for a meeting in Calendly, or by DM if they hadn’t. Calendly does have Zoom integration, but I chose to do this manually because I wanted to fine-tune the security settings in Zoom. I used Zoom not because it is my favorite service of this type, but because it has integrated recording and is supported by my university.
I made sure to use the following security features to prevent Zoombombing:
The day before or the day of the interview, I would contact the participant either by email or DM to remind them that they would need paper and a writing utensil for the interview. I would also include a link to the consent document and release form, so I would know what name to call them in our communications, what name to call them in my writing, and what information I collected was okay to share. I created this consent document and release form in Qualtrics, another piece of software supported by my university.
This was the text of the consent document:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Research Information Sheet
IRB Study #: 20-0351 **Principal Investigator: Kimberly Hirsh **
The purpose of this research study is to explore how cosplayers find, evaluate, use, and share information. You are being asked to take part in a research study because you are a cosplayer over the age of 18 who has cosplayed at least once since 2012 or is currently working on a cosplay project.
Being in a research study is completely voluntary. You can choose not to be in this research study. You can also say yes now and change your mind later.
If you agree to take part in this research, you will be asked to draw a diagram of the sources you use for finding, evaluating, using, and sharing cosplay-related information and participate in an interview about your diagram and experiences. Your participation in this study will take about one hour. If you choose, I may contact you with follow up questions sometime in the next 6 months. Each follow up question should not take more than 15 minutes of your time and I will not ask you more than 3 follow up questions. We expect that at least 10 people will take part in this research study.
The possible risks to you in taking part in this research are:
- Feeling uncomfortable discussing your information process
- Having someone else find out that you were in a research study
- Potential loss of confidentiality of data
The possible benefits to society from this research are:
- Making it easier for cosplayers to find, use, share, and evaluate information in the future
- Helping information literacy educators understand how people work with information when they pursue their own interests
To protect your identity as a research subject, the researcher(s) will not share your information with anyone unless you choose. In any publication about this research, your name or other private information will not be used unless you request that it be. If you have any questions about this research, please contact the Investigator named at the top of this form by calling [my phone number] or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have questions or concerns about your rights as a research subject, you may contact the UNC Institutional Review Board at 919-966-3113 or by email to IRB_subjects@unc.edu.
The release form included the following questions:
Please state your initial requests regarding the use of your name and the information you provide, as well as any media I collect. You can change your requests at any time! If you agree to be recorded, you can tell me to turn on and off the recorder at will. If you permit me, I may record your interview. You may choose whether I use your information horizon map as an example in my final dissertation report or not.
All recordings and photographs will be stored on secure UNC servers, password-protected, and accessed only through a Virtual Private Network.
What name should the researcher call you? Is it okay to identify you in the project? (This included a space to write the name that should be used for identification in the project.) Is it okay to record you for the project? Is it okay to use videos of you in the project? Is it okay to use photographs of you in the project? Is it okay to publish your information horizon map, the diagram you will be creating in our interview?
About fifteen minutes before the interview, I would get set up in the space I was using, either my home office or my bedroom depending on what W.’s schedule was that day and whether he needed a more private space (the bedroom) to give a presentation. I would plug in my headphones. I would load up Firefox with the following tabs:
The Qualtrics survey was so I could refer to it and make sure I used the correct name for the participant and that it was okay to record. Instagram and email were open so that I could see if the participant needed to communicate with me last minute (this happened at least once, when we ended up delaying the interview by an hour or two because of the participant’s work schedule) as well as so participants could send me their information horizon maps.
We began each interview with greetings and introductions, followed by the information horizon maps. I’m really excited to share with the world how different they all are from each other. They’re so cool, and while my participants have many shared practices, each of them represented those practices in a unique way.
Then I would ask several questions, depending on what the think-aloud process alongside the drawing of the information horizon map revealed.
At the end, participants had a chance to revise their maps. My original intention was to allow them to do this only if they chose to do so, but I found that most participants tended to be general in their map and specific in their interview, so I often took notes on resources they mentioned in the interview and then asked them to add those resources to their map. I’m not sure how this is going to affect the trustworthiness of this research method, but I thought it was worth doing this to make sure I had the richest data possible and could understand not only what resources they used, but the relationships between those resources.
The end of the interview consisted of demographic questions.
I asked the participants to identify their gender in the demographic questions, but failed to ask most participants if they would like me to use specific pronouns. Some participants voluntarily offered pronoun possibilities along with their gender, especially if their gender and the pronouns that might go with it weren’t the only pronouns with which they were comfortable.
I had one genderfluid participant who prefers different pronouns at different times. I asked this participant, given the fact that the dissertation will be published a long time from now and this participant might be using different pronouns at that point, what would be the best way to handle this. The participant told me that using he/him pronouns would probably be fine, because he tends to be using those consistently lately, but we both agreed that I could also simply refer to the participant by name, just in case the participant’s pronouns have changed by that time.
Asking a person to give their pronouns in a classroom setting can be fraught; sharing your own and making them option to share can mitigate this some. I don’t know if much work has been done with this for studying research group demographics. (I had a disagreement once with some other researchers who created a survey and only offered two gender options.) If you know of any, I’d love to look at it.
My goal is always to respect participants’ wishes with respect to their identity, but at the same time there is value in disclosing the ratio of participants in different groups. To try and straddle the line between these two things, I offered all participants the option to skip any demographic question they wished, skipping to the next question with no further discussion of the skipped one.
There are some identity markers that may have been relevant that I didn’t include. In my next study, I will probably include more varied demographic questions.
I used the service otter.ai to transcribe the interviews, uploading the video files, correcting the transcripts on the website, and downloading PDFs to share with participants. (I downloaded .docx files for the purpose of importing them for data analysis, but I’ll talk about data analysis another time.) Otter.ai offers a generous student discount (50% off I think?) so be sure to look for that.
The final step I took in the interview process was member checking, in which I gave each participant a chance to review the transcript of their interview and add or correct anything they wish. I emailed them a PDF; this meant that for the participants who hadn’t used Calendly to sign up, I had to DM them and ask for their email address. So far, no participant has requested major changes; one participant noticed filler words in her own speech patterns and asked me to mitigate that, which I will certainly do when quoting her.
Whew! This was a long post! Thanks for reading. I’ll give you the same thing I give anyone who reads something lengthy that I write: Neil Patrick Harris riding a unicorn (on the Harold & Kumar 2 poster, the poster for a film I have not seen). Also, please feel free to ask me questions about my process. I love talking about process!
Just finished correcting my interview transcripts and loading them into my data analysis software. Data Collection for Phase 1 of my dissertation is complete! Data Analysis for Phase 1 starts Monday, with Data Collection for Phase 2 soon to follow. EXCITING!
Me, in an interview w/ a cosplayer who, like myself, is a cosplayer d’un certain âge: I never figured out Snapchat. I was like, I guess I’m just too old. It’s the opposite of intuitive. I was like, how do I - how do I make my face barf a rainbow? How?
More AI transcription fun: Ways my software transcribes Nightcrawler. nightbot. Nicole. Nikon. micro. an Ico. microwave. my cooler.
Bit of levity to break up the awfulness: the way my transcription software tries to transcribe “Mjolnir” (Thor’s hammer): meal near. me on there. me on air. (But it knows how to spell Moxxi from Borderlands 3, instead of moxie.)
I’m struggling to dissertate today. My main task for the next little bit is just to correct AI transcriptions of my interviews. It’s not immensely draining, but today even that task is too much for my brain. I blame the weather. It’s cloudy and rainy here today.
The best part of conducting my dissertation interviews via Zoom is I get to see my participants’ cats.
📚 Just found my copies of Making Sense of Qualitative Data (Coffey & Atkinson) and Writing the New Ethnography (Goodall). I’ve been looking for them since November and my little qual researcher heart is SO HAPPY right now.
Oh hey, just over here pondering what LIS even means and whether information practice should be treated as its own subfield distinct from (inclusive of?) information behavior/information literacy, how’s your Saturday going?
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been sitting on an accepted-with-revisions paper for well over a year. (I know. I know. Okay?) The paper needs major revision, which I will do.
I’m actually kind of glad I let it sit for so long, because it gave me the opportunity to look at the reviews again with fresh eyes. I went through this thing when I first got the decision where I was very excited to be accepted with revisions. Then I read Reviewer 2’s comments.
Reviewer 2 says things like, “This feels like the work of a beginning researcher ‘writing one’s way’ into a topic.” Reviewer 2 is not wrong. I wrote this my first semester of the PhD program, sat on it for 3 years, and revised it minimally before submitting. (I KNOW. I had a baby, okay? And then he turned into a toddler. SHH.) I re-read it before reading the reviews this time, and REVIEWER 2 IS NOT WRONG.
I also took Wendy Belcher’s point that reviewers who take the time to offer detailed comments think something is worth working on until it’s better and can be published; if they thought it was worthless, they would simply say it should be rejected. (The decision recommendation from Reviewer 2 was “Not acceptable as is; needs major revisions as indicated.” There is an option for straightforward rejection; Reviewer 2 did not take it.)
The first time I looked at these reviews, I read Reviewer 2’s comments and got all “BOO you don’t get me, you’re wrong” and now I’m like, “Oh, Reviewer 2, you’re so right, thank you thank you thank you.” Because Reviewer 2 said:
The conclusion’s intriguing ideas indicate that perhaps the author, after writing the paper, has discovered a few trends in the review that, if revisited, could reshape the literature review to be more powerful and deliver more impact, finding deeper insights than those that are listed here. I hypothesize that this is one of the first research pieces written by a student doing first forays into scholarly writing, and that now that this preliminary work is done, a second attempt would be more nuanced and in-depth.
And Reviewer 2 also said:
It may be that focusing on three topics meant that all three issues could only be covered in a cursory way within the page limitations. It might be interesting to consider going deep in just one or two of these areas, which might open up more space for that deeper understanding to happen.
This is a brilliant idea. My original audience for this was a professor, who needs to know different things than other researchers and library professionals might.
From now on, I think I’ll think of peer review as getting free editing.
I have a lot to think about. This is going to be a lot of work to rewrite. But it’s going to be really good work to do, and will (I hope) break me of my distaste for/impatience with revision. (As an editor, I’m super into deep revision. As a writer, I’ve already moved onto the next thing…)
Time to be my own developmental editor, I think.
Since the beginning of my doctoral program, I’ve struggled to situate my work and research interests. The role of libraries in learning. Interest-driven learning in libraries. Connected learning. Information literacy and learning. In particular, geeky interests and their relationship to learning. Nothing felt quite right.
Last year, a new journal called Information and Learning Sciences launched. I noticed. I maybe signed up for table of contents alerts? I don’t know. But I kind of forgot about it for a while.
I remembered it again when I needed to read a couple of chapters from the book Reconceptualizing Libraries: Perspectives from the Information and Learning Sciences for my comps, but then once I was done with that, it slipped out of my mind again.
People have only been embracing the interdisciplinarity of these two particular fields for the past few years; nobody really would have thought to use them together before that. Now, this is a defined interdisciplinary intersection with a growing body of scholarship, and it is a place where I can actually plant a flag for my own work.
It’s funny, because right before I started my PhD program, one of my colleagues at LEARN NC, Joseph Hooper, and I would talk about the intersection of LIS and LS all the time. And if you look at my coursework choices, one of the only courses I’ve taken that was about content rather than theory development and methods is Intoduction to Cognitive Science and Sociocultural Perspectives on Learning. It feels like I should have arrived at the realization that this is where my work sits much earlier.
But it doesn’t really matter. I’m there now, and I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the relatively small body of literature about it and seeing how it relates to my dissertation work and other research plans.
I’m reading Dr. Katie Linder’s blog archive. One of her earliest posts is titled 51 Tips to Help Academic Writers Be More Productive. It’s a very different sort of set of tips than the kind I was complaining about yesterday. The latter is all about telling you what kind of work you ought to be doing. Not, here are actual tools to help you get the work done, but just… remember all this work you could be doing. Don’t forget how you could use this time wisely.
(Phrases I hate: “use your time wisely” and “live up to your potential.” Blargh. If I want to fritter my life away reading fantasy novels and only be an A- student, that’s my business, middle school teachers. Oops, sorry, went to a dark and distant place there.)
Dr. Linder’s post, on the other hand, doesn’t remind you that there’s work you could be doing. Instead, it gives you tips for how to tackle the work you’ve decided to do.
Her first tip is to start a daily writing practice. I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time, and struggle to build up consistency. So I went beyond Dr. Linder’s help, and went to another favorite scholar of mine, Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega. He offers four strategies, both for creating a good container in your schedule for writing, and for deciding what to write when you’re making it a point to write daily so you don’t just stare at a blank screen for 15 minutes a day.
The first of his tips involves working to deadline like Wendy Belcher suggests in her book, Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. So I “got out” my ebook copy of that book and looking through the table of contents, discovered that she has a whole chapter dedicated to responding to journal feedback.
Well, I’ve been sitting on an accepted with revisions article for well over a year, and it’s pretty embarrassing. The other day I sat down to make the revisions and got overwhelmed quickly. I ordered a print of both the article and the reviewer comments from Staples, so that should be here soon. And now I have this schedule from Belcher’s book that’s got me ready to actually get down to it.
So here I am, essentially going to do Dr. Jo Van Every’s 15 minute #acwri challenge, using this revision to launch my daily writing practice. Guess what Internet? You’re my writing buddy and you’re going to keep me accountable.
Here’s the schedule:
4/15 - 4/19, Read through p. 298 in the book and follow the instructions for reading the editor’s letter and reviewers’ reports.
4/20 - 4/26, Identify which journal decision was made and decide how I will respond.
4/27 - 5/2, Prepare a list of recommended changes and how I plan to respond to them.
5/3 - 5/9, Revise the article.
5/10 - 5/16, Draft my revision cover letter and send the article back out.
Basically, a month to turn this thing around. And I’m going to try to have my (sadly at different times of day, thanks coronavirus) work schedule be:
First 15 minutes: Settle in, review to-do list. Second 15 minutes: Write. Remaining time: Work on data collection and other tasks.
All friends & students who are in the midst of dissertation data collection - I know recent events have made the process even more stressful. I hear & acknowledge the worries. Reach out to your supervisor/chair/colleagues/mentors - we can talk through options & possibilities.— 𝔻𝕣. 𝕃𝕖𝕚𝕘𝕙 𝔾𝕣𝕒𝕧𝕖𝕤 𝕎𝕠𝕝𝕗 (@gravesle) March 11, 2020
My kid has been sick the past few days. Today is our first day back at Montessori/co-working space since last Friday, and while I’ve been pondering how the spread of coronavirus will impact my research the whole time we’ve been out, today I actually plan to figure out what I’m going to do about it.
Yesterday, Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency in North Carolina. The press release includes several suggestions. The one that is pertinent to my research is this one:
NC DHHS recommends that people at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 avoid large groups of people as much as possible. This includes gatherings such as concert venues, conventions, church services, sporting events, and crowded social events.
One of the key pieces of my research involves interviewing and observing at conventions. I’m not sure whether or not I am at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, though I suspect I am, due to having pre-diabetic Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and autoimmune thyroiditis. Autoimmune disesases don’t make one automatically immunocompromised, but I don’t trust that there aren’t some hidden conditions going on in my body that would make me such. Additionally, I spend a lot of time with my son’s grandparents on both sides of the family, and all of them are in high risk categories. Even though so far none of the cons I was planning to use as field sites have been canceled, I am reluctant to attend conventions myself.
The interview protocol I’m using requires participants to create a graphic representation of their information horizon, drawing themselves in relationship to the resources they use when they have an information need related to cosplay. My plan was to do the interviews in person, giving participants blank paper.
One potential solution is to add more cons - further afield than the initial 50-mile radius I’d originally planned to maintain - that are occurring later in the year, in hopes that coronavirus risk will be reduced by then.
But with the situation changing so rapidly, I don’t feel comfortable relying on that.
So of course, I’m considering how to conduct these interviews online. I have access to Microsoft Zoom through my university, which provides excellent quality for video calls and easy recording. In one sense, this would actually be easier than a face-to-face interview. Except for the graphic representation piece. I could have participants draw on the Zoom whiteboard, but that would require me to give them a tutorial in the whiteboard features. What my colleague/committee member Casey Rawson suggested, and what I’ll most likely do, is have participants draw on some paper at their homes, then both hold the paper up to the webcam for me to see and take a photo of the paper and email/text/DM it to me.
I was concerned as to whether this shift would change my IRB exemption, but after examining the type of exemption I have, I don’t think it will. It is no less secure or protective of participants’ privacy than face-to-face interviews, and in some ways, it is moreso.
That still leaves the question of observations. Part of the unique contribution of my study is that it is the first to examine a blended affinity space, a set of spaces where people gather around a common interest both online and in-person. (Earlier studies looked at World of WarCraft but not BlizzCon, and Minecraft but not Minefaire.) If things go very badly and there are no cons, well, that changes things quite a bit.
On the other hand: Everything is data, so seeing how participants in the cosplay affinity space itself handle avoiding cons or con cancellation will be instructive in and of itself.
I’ll figure it out.
I really just want to graduate before I’m 40, y’all.
I spent some time this morning installing encryption software so that I can encrypt the data files I will be backing up onto an external hard drive.
I created a spreadsheet to track the initial sources for my sustained, systematic observation and entered the resources Kroski (2015) mentions. I noted the title, author, URL, type (book, tutorial, blog post, etc), and whether the resource was part of a larger portal (e.g. YouTube, Instructables, Pinterest).
As you might expect of a 5 year old book, a few of the resources are now unavailable. Not a lot else to report today, and I expect this piece of the work will continue for a few more days before I start actually taking notes using my observation protocol.
Having a low spoons day today, so I’m working through a bunch of fiddly, errand-type to-do list stuff rather than getting knee-deep in data collection. But I have been reflecting on just the beginnings of this research process somewhat.
I’m an old hand at turning fun into work and vice versa. I did it with my first career as a Latin teacher, and then when I was a Latin teacher and picked up reading and blogging about kidlit and YA lit as a hobby, I became a school librarian. If things had gone differently at my job after that, I was going to steer my work in the direction of the Maker Movement and STEM-to-STEAM. In my two qualitative methods courses, I wrote my final papers about improv, which was my (incredibly) dominant hobby at the time.
Some people find that when they do a thing as a job, they don’t love that thing anymore. But not me, usually. (If I stop loving the thing, it’s less to do with the thing itself being my work and more to do with the work environment.)
So when I decided to make my research about cosplay, it was not a little bit because I knew that if I made cosplay part of my work, I would prioritize it more than I had in the past, and that’s definitely happened.
As part of looking at the resources Kroski recommends in her book, Cosplay in Libraries, I have found myself getting really excited about the possibilities for my own cosplay in the future. While everyone I’ve interacted with around cosplay has been immensely kind, it can be hard to feel like you’re capable of jumping in. There are so many possibilities for techniques you might use when you transition from styled cosplayer (where I still am right now) to cosplay maker, and I’m looking forward to having these resources at my fingertips to help me dig in more.
I think Gillian Conahan, author of The Hero’s Closet, tries to learn a technique with each costume she makes, and that’s my goal, too. For Oak City ComiCon, I’m putting together a Kitty Pryde (Sprite) costume and a Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) costume. For Kitty Pryde, I’m going to learn 3D printing and painting a 3D printed item. For Spider-Woman, I’m going to learn to use craft foam to modify glasses.
I began my sustained, systematic observation today by gathering my initial resources for this phase.
First, on my Dissertation Trello board in my Sustained, Systematic Observation list, I created a card called “Collect initial resources.”
On this card, I created a checklist and including the following types of sources to use to identify resources:
Next, I began a close reading of Kroski 2015 to look for resources she suggests/mentions. This includes specific lists of tutorials related to particular techniques, books she mentions, apps, and references in her endnotes that are cosplay resources such as blog posts. I am flagging these with Post-it flags and will enter them into a spreadsheet before beginning using my observation protocol.
I will also need to perform the observation protocol on Kroski 2015 itself.
I’ve been doing some reading this week on what it means to dissertate in the open, and as there are many different ways to do it, I thought I would talk quickly about my plans moving forward.
First, here are some of the sources informing my ideas:
Laura Gogia’s visual article and post on granularities sum it up best. I can open up my dissertation process and/or my dissertation content, using a variety of tools. So far, I’ve done a combination of both: I’ve offered insight into the process and shared documents such as my literature review, prospectus, and proposal.
For now, I’m going to focus on sharing process. I will come back around to content, especially as I want to share my research with cosplayers, but my primary audience right now is other researchers - especially doctoral students and early career researchers.
To that end, I will be blogging my process memos. In the course of working on my PhD, I’ve discovered it’s far too easy to forget how we got to a certain point, so I’m going to keep daily process memos about the work I did that day. I’ll probably be a day behind in posting them, since I’ll write them at the end of my workday. So you’ll see today’s process memo on Monday.
Have a lovely weekend!
I’ve been trying to establish my data collection/analysis workflow and I’m running into the age-old problem with qualitative research: you don’t really know what you need until you’re in the middle of it.
One of the things I heard repeatedly from professors was that the difference between quantitative and qualitative research wasn’t how much work you would do, but at which end of the process you would do it. Quantitative research requires a lot of up-front work, designing surveys or experiments, etc. , but analysis can go pretty quickly as long as you already know which statistical tests you need. Qualitative research requires a lot of work in the analysis stage, and the beginning of the design process is a little more free-flowing and improvisational.
(She said, thinking about her detailed interview and observation protocols and meticulous research design…)
I’m the kind of person who likes to have structures in place ahead of time so that when I’m in a thing I can just do it. If I don’t get those structures in place, I can be a bit of a mess. For example - life example, not work example - if I don’t do all of my pill-sorting at the beginning of the week, there is an almost 0% chance that I will take anything besides my prescription medications. (I take 24 pills a day, when prescriptions and supplements are added together.)
So I wanted to have a data collection structure in place, so that my data would not become a mess.
I realized, though, that creating an elaborate data collection structure was a form of productive procrastination. After all of the complaining I’ve done about being ready to start on my own research, though, I really ought to get down to it.
I settled on only setting up the data collection structure for the first phase of my research, sustained, systematic observation. I gave myself permission to work exclusively on that for a couple of weeks before I design the next set of structures.
I’m going to start on that tomorrow, and my plan is to write a blog post about that process in hopes of helping future scholars who might use connective and affinity space ethnography.
I successfully defended my dissertation proposal on February 3, 2020.
I have one huge piece of advice for writing your dissertation proposal: buy or borrow Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches by John W. Creswell and J. David Creswell, and do what it says. It will guide you through the proposal-writing process down to the sentence level. It is expensive. It is worth it. It is the most useful graduate school textbook I’ve ever bought.
It’s possible you’ll discover at this point that you haven’t made as many decisions about your methods as you thought you had. That’s fine. Make them now.
For example, I realized that I had no idea where online I wanted to do my observation. This stalled me out for a few days, until I remembered that figuring that out was the whole point of the sustained, systematic observation part of affinity space ethnography (PDF). So I wrote about how I didn’t know that yet, about how my design is emergent, and about how I imagined that observation might play out.
In November and December 2019, I wrote the first draft of my dissertation proposal. I submitted it to my committee ahead of my comps, so they were able to quickly peruse it and offer me some feedback during the oral exam.
At first, some of the feedback overwhelmed me. Dr. Casey Rawson suggested that rather than a wide-scale ethnographic approach, I might take a case study approach, following just a few cosplayers through their process and attending to their information practices. This was an intriguing possibility, but the logistics overwhelmed me, as I’d have to know a few cosplayers well enough that they would allow me to actually physically be with them throughout their process, plus I would have to manage the time (i.e., childcare) to actually be with them. I decided that this was a cool idea, but it was a different study than my dissertation, so I ended up putting it in my suggestions for future research in the second draft of my dissertation proposal. Now I had a research program, not just one study.
I sent this second draft to my committee right before the winter holidays, starting the clock on the 30 days I was required to give them with the proposal before the proposal defense. We scheduled the defense for February 3, and I spent January creating my proposal defense slides. (As always, if you are a cosplayer whose photo I used and you would like it removed, please let me know and I’ll oblige ASAP.)
As I was working on the slides, I read through the proposal and asked myself what questions I would ask if I were a committee member, and then set out to answer them in the slides.
First, I realized that there were some terms I mentioned in the proposal and had defined in the literature review, but that probably needed to be defined again at the proposal defense:
Then, I realized that my research methods were still not as detailed as I would like. I wanted to be able to show the committee what my research would actually look like, in practice. I remembered that for my theory development class, I had created a grounded theory proposal and included sample data that I had actually coded. I decided to do something similar for this presentation.
First, I demonstrated what the sustained, systematic observation would look like, using a librarian-recommended cosplay resource as my starting point. I created a specific observation protocol for this stage based on the affinity space ethnography literature, and applied that observation protocol to the resource. I evaluated that resource to determine if it was information-rich, and it was. I followed links out from it to other resources, evaluating them as well. I determined that the original resource was information-rich, and showed what it would look like to pull down data (in this case, YouTube comments) and code them using both my information literacy and collective intelligence coding schemes.
I put all of this stuff in my slides:
(I’ll say it again: if you are a cosplayer whose photo I used and you would like it removed, please let me know and I’ll oblige ASAP.)
The proposal defense went really well. I felt very prepared, having done all of this. My committee members said it was a thorough proposal and appreciated the demonstration of the methods. They also gave me several helpful suggestions for revising the proposal further before I submitted it to the Institutional Review Board. I submitted my final dissertation proposal to the review board on February 5, and a copy of it went to the SILS library, as well.
After one round of revisions and one correction of a typo, my IRB application was approved and determined exempt from further review. Time to get to work!
Most of my blogging has been micro this month, which is appropriate since I’m hosting my blog on micro.blog now. It has really made a difference in my comfort level and ease-of-blogging; much lighter weight than WordPress. I don’t feel like I have to have a 1000+ word essay to bother posting (obviously).
I do want to get back into longer form, though. The reason I haven’t this month is because at the beginning of the month I was getting ready for my dissertation proposal defense. As soon as I passed that, I had to write my Institutional Review Board application. Once that was done, I had to write an application for a dissertation completion fellowship. And then when that was done, the IRB application came back with 7 revisions I needed to make. I did that this morning.
I didn’t think all this stuff would take 3 weeks. I thought it would be done in the first week of the month, that I’d sail through IRB (more the fool me!), and then be doing data collection already. I also thought that during that brief wait from IRB application to IRB approval (again, haha, brief, apparently they’re moving very slowly lately), I’d come up with a beautiful data collection and analysis workflow.
Let me tell you what. Based on my quick Googling and visiting my favorite resources on academic writing (okay, my one favorite, Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog) and my lit review, people really don’t want to share the nitty gritty details of their qual data collection workflow/process. Usually, when I bump up against something like this, my instinct is to then be radically open with my own process and create a resource other people can use so they don’t have this problem. (See: the Intellectual Freedom Toolkit I created with W. when there was a book challenge at the school library where I worked.)
But, well, for now, I’m at a loss as to where to start. I went back to my syllabi for what we call babydocs at SILS, and it had some good stuff for navigating the early part of a PhD, but not as much project management lit as I would have liked. I’ll dig into my qual methods course syllabi next, but I suspect they won’t offer much either.
Everybody wants to tell you: 1. why a given research design is appropriate 2. big picture how to do those methods And of course those are SUPER IMPORTANT!
But whoever is writing about like… Where they put their memos, and stuff - how they organize their workday when they’re doing fieldwork - esp. virtual fieldwork - well, I haven’t found those people yet. I’m sure someone must be writing about it. Not sure how much time I’ll spend before developing my own systems.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Anyway. None of this process is helped by an extreme lack of sleep and hormones running wild, so. Might just call today a win with the whole IRB resubmission thing and cut myself a break.
Anyway, soon, I’m planning to write a proper Dissertating in the Open post about writing and defending your dissertation proposal, so stay tuned!
I was trying to figure out how to scrape data from YouTube for my dissertation & then I remembered I have MaxQDA which will do it for me & now I’m looking @ 410 comments for 1 video that were downloaded automatically in less than a minute & it’s so beautiful I might cry.
Sometimes I ask myself why I’m doing a PhD and what I’m getting out of it. This is actually a long set of many smaller questions. Why did I apply to a PhD program in the first place? Why did I enroll once I was accepted? Why have I not quit after any of my many, many PhD freakouts? That’s most of the Why questions. Then there’s the What questions. What was I hoping to get out of it when I applied/enrolled? What have I actually gotten out of it? What do I hope will come of it?
I don’t necessarily have answers for all of those questions, but I can kind of get at some of them.
I had been thinking about doing a PhD eventually just because I like going to school, honestly. And because I loved listening to people talk about their research when they visited for job talks or whatever (I was working at the university where I’m currently a student). But I never quite understood the discussion of their methods, and I wanted to. And I also wanted to capture good work people were doing in the world and find ways to share it. So the reasons I thought I wanted to do a PhD were those: understanding research methods better, documenting good work in education and libraries, communicating that work. And the reasons I applied WHEN I did were because all the other people in my department at work had been fired, laid off, or transferred. It was me and several graduate assistants closing out the department’s contractual and grant obligations, and I was fairly certain that once those obligations were handled, I would be laid off, too. So I moved up what was a someday thing to a today thing, and enrolled because I don’t much apply for things I don’t actually want.
Why haven’t I quit? Stubbornness. Attachment to the flexible schedule. Because I don’t think I will feel like what I’ve gotten what I came for until I complete the large-scale research project that is my dissertation. And a little bit because my mom has coursework credit toward two Master’s degrees she never finished, and I have seen her regret.
I have gotten a lot of what I came for. In particular, I have a deep understanding of qualitative and participatory research methods that I definitely didn’t have when I came in. I understand ethnography and grounded theory in a way there was no time for me to understand during my MSLS research methods course. And I’ve gotten some other stuff: an immensely flexible schedule that allows me to be there for my kid almost any time he needs me, the opportunity to work on a federally-funded grant project, an understanding of antiracist work thanks to that project, time to work with people I am always excited to work with, and time to actually do research.
Since I’m ABABD (if all goes well, I’ll only have my dissertation left to do after I defend my proposal on February 3), alongside actually collecting data and writing my dissertation, I’ll be exploring my next steps for after graduation. There are a few theoretical tenure track jobs for which I might apply, but given the fact that I want to keep my family geographically co-located (in the same house, even), it’s unlikely one of those will come up and be an option for me. So what are some other things I’m hoping this PhD will have prepared me for? Working at a research-focused organization. Working in research communication. Working as an academic librarian in a discipline familiar to me: education, library and information science, Classics, theater. Working as an editor for academic presses, academic publications, or scholars. Working as an independent information consultant and researcher. Combining independent research with web development somehow.
So, I don’t know what I’m going to do next. I’m sticking with what Karen Kelsky calls the “flexible opportunity model.” I could do a LOT of different things. My current plan is to build up my options for consulting/freelancing while also keeping an eye out for institutional work that looks good.