Monday, 30 June 2008

OUBS research week

The OUBS is having a research week.
"The week will provide an opportunity to focus on research activities and highlight the research being undertaken by colleagues in the School. The idea is to develop new University collaborations and kick off new research activities."
It also involves the PhD students doing a ten-minute presentation (round-table) to other students and academics.

My table included 3 other PhD students, 2 MRes students (who looked as if it went way over their heads) and 3 academics. I thought the session was incredibly useful for the PhD students, because the academics had lots of advice on:
  • literature
  • methodology
  • linking it all together philosophically
Unfortunately the advice also came across somewhat destructively. So, for example, one student couldn't say what ontology she was following, but eventually thought it might be critical realism. Unfortunately this didn't match the way she'd said she'd designed the research with interviews, although the research question might have matched her philosophy. She suggested that she might really mean empirical realism, but got told that was a tautology - her face puzzled perhaps because she didn't know the word - but the discussion might have lead her on to reconsider how she justifies her research.

Another student's presentation elicited: "you've got no foundation". I thought that was a bit scary, specially if you're a third year student writing up your case studies.

A third student had changed her research question only two hours earlier having been in a session with a leader in her research area so there was some talk about whether she should change, and how the literature in her area was ripe for criticism.

I was last. Two PhD students had left. The third was unwell and the MRes students' eyelids were drooping. They bravely stayed for the end of me talking, but then discreetly left while the academics discussed my research. They suggested looking in depth at Bourdieu, and at the trust literature, and also to speak to academics in the field, such as Alan Cochrane who is here in the Social Policy unit, Geddes at Warwick, Joyce Liddle at Nottingham Trent.

I was glad of feedback on my proposed design because something was niggling: the number of case studies and use of questionnaires. Instead of 5-6 case studies with only six interviewees, use questionnaires first to get background, job titles for example, then interview lots more people but fewer case studies. That avoids the maths, which doesn't fit in philosophically and gives more depth to what I find from more people; it looks more at the relationships.

Now I've got actions or advice from:
  • the round-table discussion
  • supervisor feedback #1
  • more supervisor feedback that came in after handed it in.
  • the mini-viva I'll have in July
So I should end up with researchable research. :)

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