Demonstrating criticality in the Doctoral literature review

We have written many posts on reviewing literature—you will find more by using our blog’s search engine. The topic deserves our turning back to it from time to time because the task is challenging. The beginning of the process requires extensive searching in a world that is busy with a myriad of voices—that can be discombobulating, because some research articles assure early-stage doctoral students that they are on track, while others quite terrifyingly show them how naïve and unaware they are.

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Posted in Research, Research methods | Tagged ,

Developing research questions

All research is informed by a question, though how this question is phrased and presented (if at all) no doubt depends on the discipline one is located within. Research questions can guide empirical studies, of course, but they can also guide our literature reviews and theoretical papers. But while one may know that beginning with a question is important, useful even, just how does one arrive at a question to begin with?

This is the question that spawned a fairly well-attended workshop I run, called “Gamestorm your research space”. What is gamestorming, you wonder? I describe gamestorming as similar to brainstorming, but more fun. Doctoral students from across the disciplines, and at varying stages in their degrees, participate in activities that are playful, interactive, fluid, and designed to support students in brainstorming and narrowing possible research questions.

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Designing Research in Education: Concepts and Methodologies

This is a clear introduction to the methodological and philosophical debates in the field of education research. It sets out the key ideas, questions, and dilemmas which inform all research and then, through the careful use of case studies and practical advice from experienced researchers, grounds them in the specific concerns of education and educational studies. Written by experienced academics and teachers the book links broad philosophical principles with practical strategies for designing and conducting ethical and effective research. Perfect for postgraduate students planning their own research in education this book will help you to:

· Understand the philosophical foundations of your work.

· Conceptualise and refine your research question.

· Pick the right methodology for your research.

· Embed ethical considerations throughout your research.

This book is an ideal companion for any postgraduate student or early career academic conducting research across education and educational studies.

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Digital Methods for Social Science

This timely book inspires researchers to deploy relevant, effective, innovative digital methods. It explores the relationship of such methods to ‘mainstream’ social science; interdisciplinarity; innovations in digital research tools; the opportunities (and challenges) of digital methods in researching social life; and digital research ethics.

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Research Strategies for a Digital Age

Practical, relevant, and reflecting the latest technologies available, RESEARCH STRATEGIES FOR A DIGITAL AGE, 5th Edition, provides a thorough, step-by-step guide that helps students increase their knowledge as they develop invaluable research skills they can use for a lifetime. The text blends traditional research methods with detailed instruction on how to use and evaluate electronic research technologies. It equips students with research and documentation skills critical to today’s online environment — skills they can immediately put into action. Students’ introduction to research begins in the academic library: Using online discovery tools in a controlled environment with credible sources enables students to develop research and analytical skills before they expand their search to the vast resources on the Web. Packed with current examples, insightful illustrations, and practical tips, this text helps students get the most from today’s wealth of resources.

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Understanding Research in the Digital Age

A guide to understanding digital research from both a conceptual and practical perspective, helping the reader to make sense of the issues, challenges and opportunities of social science research in the digital age. The book will help the reader to understand how the digital context impacts on social science research and is divided into three main sections:

A Justification & Reconceptualization of Digital Research: The authors explore how far the digital environment is transforming social science research.
Accessing Digital Data: An outline of the characteristics of digital data, temporality issues in digital research and different data sources.
Moving Forward with Digital Research: Examining the practicalities of how to conduct digital research, with examples and suggestions to strengthen the implementation of digital research.

Suitable for Masters and Doctoral students undertaking digital or online research methods courses, as well as anyone doing a research project or dissertation with an online component.

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Writing a Proposal for a Ph.D. Dissertation: Guidelines and Examples

This user-friendly guide helps students get started on–and complete–a successful doctoral dissertation proposal by accessibly explaining the process and breaking it down into manageable steps. Steven R. Terrell demonstrates how to write each chapter of the proposal, including the problem statement, purpose statement, and research questions and hypotheses; literature review; and detailed plan for data collection and analysis. Of special utility, end-of-chapter exercises serve as building blocks for developing a full draft of an original proposal. Numerous case study examples are drawn from across the social, behavioral, and health science disciplines. Appendices present an exemplary proposal written three ways to encompass quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods designs.

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Mapping Your Thesis: Manual of Theory and Techniques for Masters and Doctoral Research

If this book provided a set of rules to be learned and applied, writing a thesis might seem pleasingly easy. But, because writing a thesis is seldom easy, the book instead offers a more complex mapping of the process. The purpose is to raise awareness of the critical choices involved in research and thesis writing for both masters and doctorates. Running as a leitmotif throughout is the notion that no conceptual construct can be complete unto itself. Concepts can only be defined in terms of their dynamic relations with other constructs. It is in this context that the three broad methodological categories informing discussion in the book – exegetic, empirical, and qualitative – were adopted for didactic purposes only: at no time are they considered autonomies. Therefore, not only can they be compared in multiple ways, their shared continuities are often as significant as their differences. Nonetheless, as in the case of different disciplines, differing methodological positions have different textual outcomes. Writing a masters’ or doctoral thesis is not only an inherently idiosyncratic exercise, it is also epistemic and, in the current intellectual climate, rhetorical. The malleability of the disciplinary and methodological vocabularies used in academic rhetorics reflects the manner in which not only words but also styles of writing evolve to suit particular purposes. For this reason, the style of writing and the words used in a thesis will need to be interrogated with the same informed intensity applied to all other aspects of the research undertaking. Only then, with the drawing of a more complex cognitive map, will a definition incrementally develop of what – in terms of a researcher’s own needs – constitutes sound academic discourse.

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A Qualitative Framework for Collecting and Analyzing Data in Focus Group Research

Despite the abundance of published material on conducting focus groups, scant specific information exists on how to analyze focus group data in social science research. Thus, the authors provide a new qualitative framework for collecting and analyzing focus group data. First, they identify types of data that can be collected during focus groups. Second, they identify the qualitative data analysis techniques best suited for analyzing these data. Third, they introduce what they term as a micro-interlocutor analysis, wherein the meticulous information about which participant responds to each question, the order in which each participant responds, response characteristics, the nonverbal communication used, and the like is collected, analyzed, and interpreted. They conceptualize how conversation analysis offers great potential for analyzing focus group data. They believe that their framework goes far beyond analyzing only the verbal communication of focus group participants, thereby increasing the rigor of focus group analyses in social science research.

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The social sciences and the web: From ‘Lurking’ to interdisciplinary ‘Big Data’ research

‘Big data’ is an area of growing research interest within sociology and numerous other disciplines. The rapid development of social media platforms and other web resources offer a vast and readily accessible repository of data associated with participants’ activities, attitudes and personal information on a scale and depth that would have previously been difficult to access without substantial resources. However, as well as offering opportunities to social researchers, this medium also presents a significant range of challenges. Ethical issues are one much debated area where social scientists are having to reassess their longstanding modus operandi, given questions regarding access to personal data and ambiguities regarding its status and legitimate usage. In addition, the scale of data accessible and the possible skills required to collect and analyze it is also a critical issue and is an area that, arguably, has received lesser attention. In its infancy, online research could be fairly rudimentary, employing simple techniques to gather information from weblogs, forums and so on. However, the possibilities now presented by large-scale social media platforms have created the potential for more sophisticated research that often requires specialist technical expertise, involving collaborative work by computer and social scientists working together. This is a scenario that raises its own concerns, not least in terms of forging areas of shared understanding between these disparate disciplines sufficient to facilitate such projects. This article addresses such issues, providing a reflection on the theoretical and practical experience of engaging in online research, from fledgling involvement to embarking on a current collaborative interdisciplinary project. The aim is to provide some insights to other social scientists with respect to some of the potential advantages and pitfalls of web research, while a flavor of the current project, exploring Scottish Referendum and UK General Election-related Twitter data, is also presented.

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Posted in Social media, Social science, Web 2.0, Web-based learning | Tagged , , ,