Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Open Research Online and new blog

To pluck the fruit from the next tree, I'm looking for new opportunities and blogging them at http://carpediempostdoc.wordpress.com/.

Before I go, remember that I've uploaded my PhD thesis to the Open University's Open Research Online (ORO) repository.

Then continue here.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Moving on

I'm starting a new and optimistic blog as a post-doc here. I don't know if I should be staying with Blogger or moving to Wordpress. It's easy to get content into Blogger but I've used Wordpress a little for my OUBS 'Winding Up' blog, liking some of its writing features, but more importantly, also liking reading other's Wordpress blogs - if it gets your more readers and hence more feedback, then it's worth the move.

I'll come back here to report progress of my colleagues here in the OUBS. For example, our EU colleague is back, up and running with his PhD. Hurrah!

Canadian colleague has to submit by the end of October or go part-time. Last year, someone else went part-time which cost around £1500 (per year), but for my Canadian colleague, as a non-EU student it costs even more - around £5000, so he is well-motivated to finish. Canadian colleague has been the enthusiast for others' success for several years now, arranging little parties and get-togethers over a celebratory glass of champagne. At last, his turn approaches and I look forward to celebrating with him and for him.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Blog finishing

This was a blog for my PhD. New posts won't be about that PhD process, so I'll blog somewhere else. Shortly I'll put up the link for that new blog, the experience of post-doctorate - with or without the experience.

Of the four post-grads in the Open University Business School that started the full-time PhD in October 2007, three of us are successful. Here's what's happened:
  1. I'm through and finished
  2. Colleague who did the MRes with me has successfully passed her viva with corrections, and that means she is successful. Congratulations to her, despite her wanting no fuss :)
  3. Canadian colleague is valiantly writing up. He registered a month later so he doesn't have to submit yet. The rules are that you must submit your dissertation by midnight of the last day of the four years, or none of it counts. You'd have wasted the four years. However, if you go part-time, then you have some more years before you must submit. The problem is, going part-time requires an expensive registration fee, and it means there are visa issues for non-EU students and Canadian colleague doesn't want to do that if he can help it. So go you, Canadian colleague. Get it written.
  4. EU colleague cleared his desk - we've been told to clear our desks for the second year PhD students to move into. I don't know what he's doing, just that he's had problems.
In total, it's a comparatively successful year group in that half of us have submitted and got through, with the promise that 3/4 of us will be successful in the forseeable future. Several earlier year groups had students that didn't make it within the four years, perhaps because they got married, had a baby, went back to another country, went part-time, or returned years later to complete. So our year group is doing well. Why? Perhaps because:
  • we had good supervisors that directed our reading, gave rigorous and prompt feedback on our writing, encouraged our project management
  • we came with the new OU MRes, or with substantial research experience
  • the university supported us by providing relevant courses on research methods, academic reading and writing, presentation of work, networking.
  • we were lucky with data access
  • we worked 35 hours a week on our research
I know my colleagues will take issue with some of these suggestions. Over four years, you expect to have some bad luck and hurdles. In the year group that started the MRes with me, five years ago, some had to change supervisors, some had difficulty getting data access, some have been ill (I had cancer), one got married, another divorced, one had a baby, another's child was seriously ill. You can also have good luck, for example, like finding good access to data, choosing the right supervisor, living close enough to make the most of the experience, and enjoying academia. I had good luck.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

New journey needed

Having attended the graduation ceremony at Versailles, celebrated the achievement with kir, now I need a new journey. I want a post-doc research position, but unlikely to get it without publications, so the next few months I shall spend harvesting papers from my PhD research and submitting them to journals on the public sector, consulting, IT and knowledge. Cross fingers.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Wound up and finished

With family, we went to Versailles for the degree ceremony. Why Versailles? Because the OU is so open that it has its students all over the UK, not on a campus, and it even has a fair number of students in Europe, particularly MBA students in Brussels. Therefore, its degree ceremonies can be in Portsmouth or Manchester, Dublin or Versailles. It took more effort to get to Versailles than to Milton Keynes, but it seemed like an opportunity for a real celebration - I'm not doing any more degrees - this was a special degree and a special place.

We stayed in a lovely hotel in the centre of Versailles, and ate a couple of memorable meals, with good wine. It was lovely to be there with husband, son and daughter and to be able to treat them a bit after their support for me the last few years.

I sent postcards to parents who've praised me for my late academic development and to my supervisors who encouraged me.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Lethargy sets in

The part time job I've had since April finishes next week. My post-grad registration finishes next month. I've nothing to do and nothing to say, and I'm nearing the end of a dismal day and there seems to be nothing beyond. I wish something would fall into the pond.

See http://www.poetry-online.org/noyes_daddy_fell_into_the_pond.htm

Friday, 19 August 2011

Clear your desk

New students are arriving in October.

I must find a new occupation, a new means of publishing, a new affiliation. I've been told to clear my desk so they can move the continuing post grads to it.

I must find a new desk.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Conferred

The degree was conferred in absentia at the meeting of Congregation on 9 August 2011. I have the certificate.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Winding up

There are several finishing points for a PhD:
Tomorrow I take the copies to the Research School, and I'll contact some of the gatekeepers to my case studies to offer them copies too. On Tuesday, I'm told that the university has congregation at which they agree the award of degrees, and thus the degree of PhD will be awarded to me in absentia. Then the Research School will invite me to attend one of the degree ceremonies, which being the OU could be in the UK (Portsmouth, Milton Keynes, London Barbican for example) or in Dublin or Versailles. How nice.

But the winding up is a long process. It's taken six months since submission, six months of juggling other things in my life, including new paths - winding up one and looking for a new path.

A new path might be a post in the OU - I'd like that - perhaps I'll find an opportunity to develop research from my PhD, something to do with government IT perhaps stemming from last week's Parliamentary committee report. Now that would be exciting - a new start after a long finish.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Bound copies

That's it then. I've just emailed my pdf format thesis to the printer for printing and binding so that I can deliver the copies to the Research School next Monday morning, just in time to meet the date for the next conferring of degrees next week. If all goes to plan, I get the title in just about a week's time.

End of an era. Bye bye to my thesis.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Met academic requirements

I have an official letter:
"I am pleased to inform you that the University's Research Degrees Committee has confirmed that your thesis meets the criteria for the award of a research degree. You have therefore met the academic requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of The Open University, with effect from 27 July 2011."
Yah! Go me! I have to get bound copies of the thesis to the Research School in just over a week if I want the degree awarded in August, otherwise I have to wait till the end of September.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Publications

Lecturer jobs require a publication record but I don't have a publication record, yet alone such a record in A* and B* rated journals. How do I get a publication record when I no longer am a research student and don't have a research job?

For the time being, I'm pootling around having fun as a user experience developer on a new OU network for learning, SocialLearn. Sadly, this is not a research associate position and doesn't officially provide the experience or skills that a lecturer needs.

I could:
  1. make a participant study of relationships between users and contractors who are developing the web site. That builds on the business research I've done for my PhD
  2. research the user experience - that builds on research studies in a different field

Friday, 8 July 2011

Corrections done

I've given in the corrections. I hope the examiner is happy but I believe I've unequivocally addressed all the corrections that the list required.

I worry about my writing being too cryptic and consequently perhaps being misconstrued, but it wasn't worth taking any longer because the extra time was unlikely to improve my writing and content.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Another viva done


Sophia is through her viva with minor corrections. Soon she can go home to her family in China where she has a little boy that she must miss so much.

The photo is of her with her internal examiner after the viva.

It has taken her many years of perseverance and effort to complete this PhD, including marrying, then going home when it was nearly written because of problems with the block of flats she lived in, having her baby, waiting some years and then coming back to England in November to finish the writing. She deserves the congratulations.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Cricket team

Critical realism and cricket are topics PhD students have debated over coffee, though I must admit that cricket is of more interest, causes less angst and fills many more coffee breaks than critical realism. Perhaps this is because several of the full-time PhD students enjoy sport, especially team sports, and we have students from ex-commonwealth countries like Pakistan, New Zealand and Canada. Such students have enthusiastically got together a cricket team from the OU Business School (now called the Faculty of Business and Law),

Every year in the early summer there is an inter-departmental 6-aside cricket tournament in the OU. The website is here:
http://www.open.ac.uk/personalpages/b.m.cook/cricket/index.htm

The OUBS has entered a team, “Ne Plus Ultras”, for the first time this year, which has progressed to the final that takes place tomorrow. If you're on campus, you're welcome to come down tomorrow if you’d like to support the team, watch some cricket or just have some lunch in the sun. The Sports Pavilion bar is also open for food and drinks. The cricket pitch is by the sports pavilion on the north east side of the main campus, a minute or two from the central walkway.

I promise not to discuss critical realism.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Another student submits

Another stalwart student of our year submitted today. See her relaxed and sunny beam.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Academic media video

At last I've been given the link to the video I did about my research. Here it is.

Its subtitle isn't quite correct because:
  • First, I’m not a doctor yet, although I will be in a couple of months as I’m through my viva.
  • Secondly, the words refer to the OUBSS, not the OUBS – too many esses!
But it's heaps better than my attempts in 2010, and it does allow me to summarise my research. And I'm an extra in a maths video here.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Doing corrections

Are these corrections to my thesis or amendments? I've corrected all the little bits, the details of references and cross-references, a typo here, or a missing couple of words from a quote. I've addressed the the bullet points in the examiners' report, and drafted a response to their list of corrections explaining what I've done,how I've amended the writing and the logic of it.

The process is that you send your thesis to the internal examiner with a table indicating what you've changed and where, so that it's easy for them to refer to. Then if they don't like anything they are able to tell you easily and you can have another go. I'm so nervous about my changes that despite already having had a go at them, I've not yet sent them off, but am rewriting my response.

Apparently, the examiners can ask you to do only what was in their report, so once I've persuaded them I've done, I'm through.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

No award

It transpires that I'm not eligible for the award after all. Like chocolate competitions say you mustn't be employed or a family of an employee of the company to enter, for this award I must not work for the Open University. Yet I work as an Associate Lecturer (AL) for the OU, and since I submitted my thesis, I've had a contract to work on the SocialLearn project in the Knowledge Media Institute (KMi).

When I think of all the times I've heard Open University post grads complain that they don't automatically get the chance be ALs so they don't get the teaching experience that the Joint Skills Statement requires of them, they'd not be impressed. (I blogged on their skills here. ) I don't think any other ALs would be impressed either. I've won the skills, but lost the nomination.

It's particularly silly because the HEFCE Joint Skills Statement of skills training requirements, now replaced by the researcher development framework, says that a post-graduate student should obtain teaching experience, which is just what I did through my AL work.

Director of research studies isn't best pleased because, she says, research students are encouraged from the start to follow the HEFCE Joint Skills statement which outlines skills expected of PhD students, including teaching. Opportunities for research students to gain the vital teaching experience needed if they are to get an academic job are very rare at the Open University. Other universities look for teaching experience in PhD qualified recruits. As such the OU encourages students to seek AL roles in order to augment their experience, and so they are employees of the Open University for their time as ALs. This is needed, is something required of them and yet AOUG apparently penalises them for taking this action. Furthermore, although I am currently working, I have gained that short term employment in KMi because of the strength of my completed PhD research.

As the award is for performance as a research student, current employment status is irrelevant and it's not like a chocolate competition.

Student award

To my pride, pleasure and surprise the director of research studies has recommended me for an award from the AOUG, an award that goes to a final year student. She says it's due to my
  • recent recognition via conference papers,
  • constant engagement with social media and communication tools to speak to wider communities about your research,
  • service as an AL "alongside your studies and your active role in the programme".
I don't know what the award involves but I'm flattered to be nominated, especially given the struggle I had in the MRes year to write essays, and the difficulty I had to persuade the PhD interview board that I was a worthy candidate.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Management Consulting Division conference

I have just spent some days in Amsterdam at the Management Consulting Division of the Academy of Management biennial European conference held at the Vu University, where I was presenting a paper, the first time I've presented a paper at such an august forum, so somewhat nervous.

At my viva, the examiner asked me where I could present my work and I mentioned this conference, but he seemed to think it a mere practitioners' conference and asked if I couldn't present at an academic venue. That floored me for a moment because I didn't realise that he didn't realise this was a branch of the AOM, the Academy of Management. You can't get much more academic than that, can you? and it's international. Fortunately, I had enough wit to point this out tactfully, and he seemed reassured.

It was the most stimulating conference I've been to because it was all so closely related to my research, and I've come home raring to finish my corrections and even with other ideas as to how I could have developed my research, or written the thesis.

Academics from Europe and America discussed consultancy, consultants, their relationship with clients, their identity, image, future and impact. As a profession, consultants seem a navel-gazing lot, but it is interesting to note that many conference participants were practitioners who wanted to know and understand theory in order to apply it in practice. Hence, many of them considered themselves as hybrids being both academics and consultant practitioners. However, this hybridicity emphasises to me that much of the research on consulting is from the practitioner’s not the client’s perspective, and there is a dearth of research on this perspective.

Remedying this dearth somewhat, Vu University’s Master’s students, taking the consultancy module, presented posters on the client-consultant relationship from qualitative data they had collected through interviews with clients in a Dutch public sector organisation. They’d identified an iterative process of the growth of trust in the client, finding that soft skills were important to the growth of trust in the middle phases of a project.

The conference seemed well organised, for instance, at the research-based sessions, the three papers presented seeming to slot together well.

I presented my paper in a session on consultants as sense makers, at which there were 14 or so participants including names you recognise from journal publications. Questions included
  • one on clarification of adapting behaviour. Did it cover adapting a mindset, which was something I hadn’t explicitly separated from physical adapting of project processes when I analysed, nor did I immediately have an example to mind.
  • the way I represented some cycles. I should probably change double headed arrows to two single headed arrows. As the questioner had earlier presented an applauded session on diagramming, I think I should take his advice. He did, thankfully, also comment positively on the model.
  • Finally there was a question on tensions, because I hadn’t clearly explained it was a normative model. I elucidated by describing an earlier scenario of an initially unsuccessful case that lacked interaction, and then adapted its conditions and behaviours.
A stream of papers that I didn’t fit in to my schedule was on the value of consultancy, something I think I could have developed more in my thesis, value of engagement and its relationship to value of consultancy. In similar vein, Andrew Sturdy gave a key note lecture on the impact of consultants, the tenor being that their impact is rather less than the industry itself argues for – a critical academic indeed. Wouldn't he have been an interesting examiner for me!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Dressed to present

How should one dress to present at a conference?

Next week Management Consulting Division of the the Academy of Management is having its biennial conference in Amsterdam, where I'm presenting a paper written with my supervisors on my PhD research. I'm hoping not just to get good feedback on the paper, but new ideas on where to go next and how to develop it, something I can share with the supervisors in order to write a publishable paper for a quality journal.

For the viva, I wore in my best suit, hair freshly washed, makeup professional and under stated. At previous conferences I've been a student, but now I'm through the viva, shouldn't I dress professionally to present at a conference ?

Thursday, 26 May 2011

SocialLearn team

I'm working on a project called SocialLearn and am with a team of people again, not all alone, like the PhD researcher is. I had a few days off aftr my viva, and when I came back, I was sitting at my desk, watching people move around and thinking that perhaps they were all going to a meeting that I didn't know about when they all stopped round and gave me a card and a clap.

It's going to be a good team to work with. I'm looking forward to getting to know them well.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Minor results

My viva yesterday resulted in PhD with minor corrections.

I followed the Ten Tips for getting through your PhD Viva more or less.
  • I had a good piece of work
  • my supervisors choose examiners who liked my work
  • I knew my arguments
One of the amendments is to put in the introduction some alternative ways I could have done the work - that's always awkward because there are a thousand different ways to discard and would make a thesis ten times longer, but I need write only a couple of sentences I understand.

An interesting question they asked was if I'd ever come across such a cyclic model of engagement from a consultancy, being as consultants are renowned for producing their own models, especially two by two matrices. But no, I haven't, and I doubt anyone else has because my model came from thinking about Nahapiet and Ghoshal's model of social capital, and was empirically developed from the case studies. I haven't fully explained it on this blog partly because I wanted to keep the details until I was ready to publish. Soon they will be published in
  1. my thesis in the Open University library
  2. the MCD conference paper.
After it all, we quietly celebrated in the office with fellow students, anyone passing by and a bit of bubbly.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Silver PGs

Vitae has PGs blogging here. A recent blog there on Silver researchers - do they offer a contribution to the postgraduate community? has elicited over a dozen comments from older post graduates. As an older post-grad myself, I appreciate the blog and the discussion since I'd not thought of myself as too old to start the PhD when I applied because it was something I'd always wanted to do, wanting the process, the opportunity to research, and learn how to research better than I had done when I'd had other opportunities. I think I have contributed ot the post graduate community - in the OUBS, in the university and to the wider community through this blog.

However, it came as a surprise to me to receive career development training because I'd never had that before - perhaps why my 'career' has not ever taken off. My school didn't do career training. Girls were going to marry and be mothers, so they could go to university perhaps, or teaching, or if not bright enough for that, then nursing or clerks in the civil service. That was my 'career training'.

It'll be nice if I get a research job after this - I've enjoyed the PhD and would love to do further research. A career position would be a bonus.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Colleague submits

My Chinese chum has submitted. This is special because she has had a baby on the way through her PhD journey, had to move back to China, wait for her baby to be big enough to leave with her relatives and then come back to England to complete her degree. She's rightly proud of her achievement.

Following hard on her heels is my Canadian colleague, who was much delayed in collecting his data, but is now analysing and writing up at speed. He'll be working right up to the last minute of the four year student registration. Go him!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Viva preparation.

Preparing for a viva is a different task from preparing for an exam because you, rather than the examiners have set the syllabus, so you have to anticipate the questions, but it's the examiners who create the questions, and you have to anticipate what questions the examiners will create having read what you wrote. Is that complicated?

Amongst things I've done to prepare are:
  • found generic questions,
  • collected specific questions from my mock viva,
  • imagined the questions,
  • written answers to generic and specific viva questions
  • discussed with my supervisors,
  • reread my thesis,
  • stuck post-it notes in it
  • found and read papers written by the examiners
  • had a mock viva with some horrid questions about how I could possibly have used that theory without citing GuruWhatsisName, and how do I reconcile a philosophical perspective with how I've done the research.
  • identified the weak points in my thesis (I think, I hope)
  • learned answers by heart
  • listed corrections (I heard my examiner say at a speech to PhD students that he expected them to have a list of corrections so I'll have a short list of the typos if he asks )
  • presented to my fellow students
  • prepared a conference paper with my supervisors - a new experience from which I learned much
Help is available on the web at various sites:
As the viva draws closer, I want to revise more, but also I'm fascinated by my new part-time temporary job researching the use of a new web site for social learning, and that work draws me in more each day as I get to know the job and meet people.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Revising and writing papers

Phew! I just uploaded a conference paper "Cycles of Engagement", due in today!

Revising my work for the viva started with
  1. reviewing generic viva questions,
  2. then the more specific ones that came up in the mock viva.
  3. A third approach is to write a paper for a conference, and that's been the focus of my work over the last couple of weeks.
Of course, this conference paper for the Management Consulting Division biennial conference has got my supervisors' names on it, and deservedly so. After speaking with someone from the MCD at the Academy of Management conference last August, I was encouraged to present at the PhD consortium, but once I approached the MCD they suggested I presented a paper at the full conference. I wrote a proposal, and they accepted it, to my surprise and delight. But I shouldn't be so surprised, because now at the end of my PhD, I know what I have to say, so perhaps I wrote a sensible and interesting proposal.

After the mock viva, my supervisors offered to help me to write this paper, and I'm glad they did, because, in the last few weeks, I've learned a lot from the way they write. One supervisor addressed the challenge of how to put all the richness and detail that makes a PhD study what it is - into just 8000 words, restructuring the original paper I wrote; the other has greatly improved the flow of the argument. Whenever am I going to learn to write like this!

Why write a paper before your viva? Because it:
  • helps you to identify the key points of your thesis,
  • makes you reread parts of your thesis,
  • helps you spot typos and mistakes before the examiner points them out to you
If the conference were before my viva, I'd also have practised speaking the points I'm learning by heart for the viva. But the viva is in May (probably) and the conference is in June. Look here for the paper if you want to read it because it's a good summary of my work.

I'll welcome constructive feedback, so do contact me through this web form.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Advanced academic media training workshop

As a practice for my viva, and future activities, I registered on the OU's advanced academic media training workshop, having taken the initial workshop over a year ago here. I'd realised at the Bottom Line studio that a one-minute piece to camera with all the lights focussed on you is almost parallalisingly scary so I needed to improve. If you're logged on to the OU system, you can read about the training here.

In the morning we covered a two-minute interview with questions we'd anticipated and given the interviewer beforehand. Then we spoke "down the line". This means that you have a tiny earpiece, face the camera and respond to the questions you hear in your earpiece in an otherwise empty studio. The advantage of this set up is that if a news channel wants an Open University expert quickly, the OU expert can immediately work in this studio to answer questions from someone in another part of the UK, or Europe or anywhere in the world, without having to be in their studio.

Then we went out in the fresh spring air to produce our pieces to camera en situ. Mine was in a car park, and why a car park? Because I was talking about engagement, and some of the best engagement happens in unexpected places like car parks. It was only a one minute piece, and I'm prepared it, and learned it by heart, so took only three takes.
  1. The first got chucked because I said 'good morning' and shouldn't, but it gave me time to learn to take a couple of steps before talking
  2. The second got chucked because the last line was lame
  3. When I get the link for the best take, I'll post it on this blog.
We also took the opportunity to put together a piece for an OU mathematics openings course where one of us explained what maths could do for understanding patterns in the world, like those in fern leaves, and the fun of learning together (I became a film extra).

After lunch, we practised auto cues, discovering its disadvantages and the consequence need to 'perform' , act up a bit and to read quickly. Then we planned a story board for a piece of media with a running order and shooting script. This was discussion and a bit theoretical but gave me ideas for something to do in my new research job, (the one I started part-time, temporary last week,) and the advice from our excellent trainer, Janet Summer, improved and extended our conception of how to tackle such a media piece. Also look out for:

Monday, 18 April 2011

Justifying my methodology

What's the relationship of realism to positivism and interpretivism?
thus asked my mock examiner. So I went back to reread Tsoukas (1994) on realist perspectives and have again sunk in the mire of methodological approaches, perspectives, philosophies and epistemologies.

This web site has a nice diagram of the overlap between the three approaches or perspectives or ontologies.
  • Realism overlaps positivism in that it accepts social structures have independent existences. "Like positivism, realism accepts social structures have some form of independent existence that is experienced as ‘external' to individuals. These structures act upon us - pressurising and constraining our behaviour."
  • Realism overlaps interpretivism in that what we regard as real is significant. "Like interpretivism, realism accepts that what we regard as real is highly significant. E.g. if I believe myself to be middle class, while every indicator of social class holds I am working class, this will have important consequences for my behaviour."
For my research on engagement,
social phenomena exist whether or not people are aware of them so engagement can be taken as a real phenomenon even if people are not aware of it. It still exists and affects their actions.

Critical realism is an epistemological (not a research or sociological) perspective that responds to critisism of the positivist perspective. "It's a response", says Mingers, "to the difficulty of maintaining a realist position in the face of criticisms" (page 380). My erudite supervisor tells me that
'the "critical" label comes from the associated idea that such "real" phenomena can however only be known through using conceptual frameworks, so our knowledge of these real phenomena is always provisional, or subject to challenge when new concepts come along. So knowledge of this real social world has to be held "critically".'
Critical realism is "a way of resolving or dissolving" issues around positivism and extreme constructivist positions {Mingers, 2004: 374}.


Mingers, J. 2004. Real-Izing Information Systems: Critical Realism as an Underpinning Philosophy for Information Systems. Information and Organization, 14(2): 87-103.
Tsoukas, H. 1994. What Is Management? An Outline of a Metatheory. British Journal of Management, 5(4): 289.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Where does my PhD sit?

At this year's 2011 conference of the UK Association for Information Systems, the keynote speaker, David Wainwright of Northumbria University, presented a lecture on the PhD Odyssey: Information Systems, Adventure and Adversity by comparing the PhD journey with that of Odysseus, full of troubles, trials and tribulations, an apt analogy. One of the Odysseus' distractions was Circe, a villaneous and bewitching goddess who turned Odysseus' men into swine. Wainwright's argument was that a PhD student can be betwitched by the focus of the PhD. He presented a diagram, which from my notes I sketch here, where the implication seems to be that your PhD focus might be in any one of these blobs. It's an interesting diagram because it incorporates so much of the overlap between areas relevant to information systems, the central three being
  1. Digital Media
  2. Information Systems
  3. Computing
My initial reaction was that my research sits in the business management blob, but perhaps it actually sits in the interaction between management practitioners and computing practitioners, because although I start from the use and adaptation of IS for organisations, what I'm really interested in is the relationship of people in different organisations on the same project, and such people include management practitioners and computing practitioners, often the computing practitioners being external. So my focus isn't in a blob, but in the interaction between blogs.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I acknowledge

The journey to achieve a PhD is a marathon. Decades ago, I set myself this target and many people have helped me on the long way with practical and emotional encouragement.

The most recent support came from my two supervisors. They encouraged, berated and trained me through exciting and intellectual conversations. I enjoyed their realistic, enthusiastic support and their complementary approaches so that my research developed in ways I’d never have guessed.

I thank our erst-while director of research students for accepting my original na├»ve proposal for the Masters in Research Methods and then allowing me to continue onto the doctorate. What faith the man has! I thank our erst-while project assistant Shelagh for her practical help. I thank my fellow OUBS students for our coffee-time seminars where discussion has ranged from soccer to supervision, from cricket to critical realism. They’ve helped me get alternative angles on progress and research. I thank also Minh, LizT and other unseen commentators on this PhD blog for their electronic encouragement.

A big thank you goes to my anonymous participants for providing that all-important access to their organisations, for giving me their time to provide insights to their experiences of IT projects.

I set aside my domestic duties (not so sadly) to complete this research, so I thank Cherry for cleaning round me while I typed, my lovely husband for doing all the cooking and shopping the last few months, my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my son for reading and feeding back on earlier drafts of this thesis. I thank my late husband too – we used to talk about IT project management and the public sector client. To him I owe the original idea for the research.

Later, after the viva, you can borrow my thesis from the OUBS or OU library, or download from the ORO - assuming I pass.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Why is it important to focus on the public sector?

My research looks at engagement on public sector IT projects, so
Why is it important to focus on the public sector?
This might be a viva question and I can say that I justify this focus in the literature review (page 14) where I've written:
IT projects are important to the public sector because they are a key means of implementing government policy requiring often rapid changes to how the public sector department functions and provides services.
But maybe I've justified only the focus on IT projects, not on the public sector. The public sector makes policy and implements it through IT. Examples of failures of such implementation are:
  • Libra system for the magistrates courts
  • the National id scheme with an initial budget of £3 billion that went up to £5 billion.
  • in 2003 the government introduced two credits: Child Tax Credit and Working Tax credit. The Inland Revenue's IT supplier created a new IT system for processing the tax credits, a system that went live in April 2003 with problems that took ten weeks to solve. Volumes were higher than expected and the testing window had been cut. Both suppliers and IR senior managers had to account for the fiasco to a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.
Public Sector IT continues to be problematic. The day after I submitted my thesis, a Public Administration Select Committee was interviewing IT expert witnesses on good governance and the effective use of IT (pd report is here). Witnesses pointed out that IS is there to implement government policy and government business change.

Hence, I see a need to focus on the public sector.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

What do you mean by social capital?

I use Adler and Kwon's definition of social capital:
"the goodwill that is engendered by the fabric of social relations"
but Putnam who also identified bridging and bonding social capital, conceptualised it as
"arising from a stock of networks, norms and trust"
My research draws heavily on Nahapiet and Ghoshal's paper, which refers to Bourdieu's concept of social capital as the actual or potential resources that can be accessed through networks of relationships, and that potentiality is important in a situation like a project where participants haven't yet interactedl, and social capital has yet to be mobilised.

Although there isn't one agreed definition of it, social capital theory is relevant to explaining relationships so it's relevant to what I've been researching, but social capital theory doesn't go far enough in explaining ab initio relationships where people have not yet interacted and exchanged social capital. To explain such new relationships we need a theory that extends on the theory of social capital.


Adler, P. S. & Kwon, S.-W. 2002. Social Capital: Prospects for a New Concept. Academy of Management Review, 27(1): 17-40.
Nahapiet, J. & Ghoshal, S. 1998. Social Capital, Intellectual Capital, and the Organizational Advantage. Academy of Management Review, 23(2): 242-266.
Putnam, R. D. 2000. Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York ; London: Simon & Schuster.
Putnam. 1993. The Prosperous Community: Social Capital and Public Life. American Prospect, 13: 35-42.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Why is engagement important?

Engagement is important
  • to gain commitment
  • for influencing
  • for bonding
  • to lubricate the wheels of IT implementation
  • to align individual work with business strategy
  • for understanding
  • for feedback
  • for good communication.
and a common cause of government IT failure is lack of effective engagement with stakeholders.

I notice that the government has just had another Parliamentary Select Committee Enquiry on government IT: Good governance and effective IT. A hearing on 8th March is watchable here and the minutes of 15th March are here.

And that is since I handed in my thesis, less than a month ago.


OGC. 2002. Common Causes of Project Failure. London: Office of Government Commerce. http://www.ogc.gov.uk/documents/cp0015.pdf
Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology. 2003. Government IT Projects - Analysis of the Problem In POST (Ed.). http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/pr200.pdf

Friday, 1 April 2011

What attracted you to this project?

I looked at the client-consultant relationship in the public sector because public sector clients were paying too much and not managing their suppliers. The evidence for this came from media and from a series of reports that the National Audit Office published in the mid 2000s. The evidence was that
  • IT projects were not being managed
  • consultants were not being managed.
I put the two together, identified an NAO report that said that engagement between clients and consultants was important to a project relationship {NAO, 2006}, but found no academic research to cast light on such engagement. So here was a project asking to be researched.

What piqued my original interest arose from my MBA research in the early 1990s when a consultancy firm asked me to research the market for selling their services in the NHS. I thought the NHS managers ought to know what they were paying for and how much they ought to pay.


NAO. 2006. Central Government's Use of Consultants: Building Client and Consultant Commitment, Vol. Supporting paper 1. London: HMSO.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Generic viva questions

Rowena Murray provides a set of questions for the viva, both in her 2003 book and in this pdf file from Strathclyde. Supervisors sent me a copy of Andrew Broad's Nasty PhD Viva Questions, which you can find as pdf here.
Before my mock viva, I attempted written answers to all of these, which was interesting because of my initial and my thought-out reactions. For example:
What is the area in which you wish to be examined?
Er, no thank you. I don't wish to be examined. No! Start again.
In one sentence, what is your thesis?
My thesis is that engagement between people is a cyclic and self-reinforcing phenomenon that can be analysed in terms of six interacting behaviours and conditions that form cycles, that might be described as threads, banners or wedges.
But these were generic questions so not as useful as the specific questions that my mock examiner thought up after reading my thesis, like for example,
Why is engagement important to be studied in a public sector context?
I addressed such the question of why the public sector here two years ago, because of
"the conviction that government is given crucial work that society very much needs to have performed well"
Why is engagement important to the public sector? Because a common cause of project failure is lack of effective engagement with stakeholders (OGC, 2002) and in the public sector, engagement is “a critical element of a consulting project” (NAO, 2006a).


Murray, R. 2003. How to Survive Your Viva : Defending a Thesis in an Oral Examination. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
NAO (2006a) Central Government's use of consultants: Building client and consultant commitment. IN NATIONAL AUDIT OFFICE (Ed.). HMSO.
OGC (2002) Common Causes of Project Failure. National Audit Office and the Office of Government Commerce.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Mock viva

"I don't agree with you"
announced my mock examiner. Thank goodness it was a mock because I hadn't explained myself well enough, though I did have the argument in my thesis. So by facing a mock exam, I came to understand what they mean by 'defending your thesis'. My mock examiner was terrific at asking nasty questions, questions that I hadn't imagined, and none of her questions were on the list of generic nasty questions that I'd practised, but the practice helped me to articulate my defence.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to blog some of these questions, and my more considered responses. Blogging must help me to work out what I want to say, and if you readers think of any issues, do ask.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Exam panel

Today the research school tells me that they now have the exam panel, so only today did they send off the thesis to the examiners. That means despite my giving two months notice that I was going to submit in February, despite my delaying till the 7th March, despite them having the thesis more than a week now, they sat on it and did not send it off immediately. I am not impressed by this useless delay.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Short sentences

Your writing style is cryptic
advised my supervisor.

My fellow PhD student and Open University blogger, Minh, has blogged on writing for his PhD here and here, for instance. Now, Minh, like me, has an IT background and, like me, has a tendency to produce short sentences on the grounds that short is better, but his supervisor, like mine, has asked for longer sentences and dislikes the clipped style we go for. Of course, we follow our supervisor's advice, but wonder and grumble.

However, I've begun to be persuaded of the value of longer sentences. I like a short sentence. But that very shortness raises questions in my readers' mind, for instance:
  • Why do I like short sentences?
  • Under what circumstances?
  • And what do I mean by short?
My supervisor says to make it easy on any reader by answering those questions, and I can't answer them if I write short sentences. I could of course write a series of short sentences:
I like short sentences.
Short sentences give one idea.
One idea is enough to cope with.
But the problem with that approach is that it sounds dogmatic and unreflective, which is not what I want my reader to think, especially my examiner. It's a style that doesn't explain enough, focused (which I like) on one purpose, but suggests the writer is not considering alternative points of view, and considering alternative points of view is something that a PhD student must do and demonstrate the doing thereof.

So I'm convinced about the PhD needing a writing style that uses longer sentences, and my supervisor's comment:
"Your writing style is cryptic"
is now self-evident!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Implications for practitioners

Busy day:
  1. Computing tutorial given in morning
  2. Go to campus to office to collect final print of thesis to read again on Sunday
  3. Go out to black tie evening event
I get home between items 2 and 3 to have a phone call from a practitioner who's read my thesis, and has feedback for me. Wey hey! Am I pleased.

He tells me that I should use the six components of engagement to develop a checklist for specific actions on each component, so I get a set of ideas and develop practical guidelines in a handbook for practitioners. How cool is that? It sounds like a potential publication because he believes what I've written.

Now I just have to edit my thesis a bit in time for Monday.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

I think I can, I think I can

I think I can submit. I think I can submit.

The little engine that could was a story of a tiny train that struggled up a hill with a load of toys for children, puffing
"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can."
I read it to my children, and it inspires me too. Wikipedia reminds me of its last lines:
"As it neared the top of the grade, which had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly. However, it still kept saying, "I--think--I--can, I--think--I--can." It reached the top by drawing on bravery and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself by saying, "I thought I could, I thought I could."

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Light at the end of the thesis

Just as this PhD student sees the light at the end of the thesis, a passing academic asks me:
Do you know what a bureaucrat does when he sees light at the end of the tunnel?
Orders more tunnel!
Don't tell my supervisor that.

See the Piled Higher and Deeper cartoon here.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Submitting

I'm bored. I've done nothing for days, just waiting for feedback from supervisor#2.

I told supervisors and research school I was submitting in February, but supervisor #2 has offered to reread two chapters, and his comments are detailed and useful, so I'm waiting for his last feedback due on Tuesday 1st March, and I've delayed my submission until 7th March. Then it's go, go, go.

Unfortunately, this week I also have
Between Tuesday and Monday 7th I must check off each comment from supervisor #2, squash Word's idiosyncrasies like document map bugs and print out three copies of my thesis for the research school, to hand in along with their EX13 form (done). I've dealt with my supervisor's comments before. I can beat the Word bugs. I can print the copies. I shall submit a week tomorrow.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Grades of PhD degree

A doctorate from the Open University may ultimately be a pass or fail, but there are five grades given after the viva:
  • Award of the degree
  • Corrections and modifications
  • Substantial amendment
  • Major revision and resubmission for re-examination
  • Alternative recommendations for PhD candidates
  • Fail
Straight award with no corrections is rare. The most likely result is minor corrections and modifications, for which you get a couple of months to do them in. Substantial amendment is still a pass and you get six months to fix the deficiencies. With amendments you don't have to get reexamined. I am not contemplating the lower grades.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Social Networking pays off

I have wonderful Facebook friends. Four years, a young fellow post-grad encouraged me to join Facebook, which I'd thought was for my children. Since then, I’ve been idling away my time on Facebook, seeing it as a transitional activity between useful academic and productive research work - an alternative to playing cards. Now it pays off.

A few months ago I broke my hand, and typing one handed on Facebook, I bemoaned the delay to my thesis whereupon several friends offered help. Last week I took up the offer from three of them, also post-graduate students – though in other places – to read my cross-case analysis, a chapter that I started writing last April, and have struggled with. Even my knitting was never as entangled and useless as this chapter has been – supervisors have read versions of it again and again until they can’t read it any more. My three Facebook friends agreed to read it against the brief:
  • does it flow?
  • has it said something sensible about each of the four research questions (with a comment on supervisors’ different perspectives)
  • any typos, grammar problems or missing words
My friends have responded very helpfully and encouragingly with comments mainly about where they got confused, but also where I’ve said something interesting that I could pull out more and how to do that. They've also picked out 'an' when I meant 'and' and 'temporarily when I mean 'temporally', so done some proof-reading too.

This has really encouraged me, not only that I’m writing so someone else understands, and that my research has interest but also that I now have a justification for using Facebook. Social networking isn’t idling away time but an important activity!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Word bugs - document map


For a doctoral thesis you have to write a l-o-n-g document with several chapters, contents, appendices, so you need to use styles, but Word 2007 sometimes changes styles such as captions to a high level, which messes up the document map. I think I've found the trick solve this problem.

Go to Word options, then proofing, and choose the auto correct tab. Then AutoFormat As You Type. Untick 'Define styles based on your formatting'.

I've shown the relevant window in the picture.

However, you still have to unmess the captions. The quickest way to do this seems to be to select a piece of normal text, right click its style box, and choose update style to match selection.
Then watch your document map refresh itself back to what it should look like.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Examiner chosen

They chosen my examiner, contacted him and they've accepted. They've yet to choose the internal examiner.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Numbering thesis paragraphs

I'm writing this blog while my Word crashes. :(

I thought I'd try again to number the sections within each chapter, like so
2 Literature review
2.1 Introduction
2.2 public sector procurement

I found instructions at http://www.shaunakelly.com/word/numbering/numbering20072010.html
and followed them down to modifying the style for my second level headings, where it has crashed. BANG, WALLOP! Silence.

Oh, bother! I'd really like to list my headings like this because I think it would make it easier to work out where you are in the middle of a long chapter.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Conclusion

In conclusion, this thesis provides useful insight that enhances understanding of engagement.

Advanced word processing

My colleague's sitting next to me updating her references to her diagrams manually. She's checking each one and changing them in her 90,000 word long thesis. And she's writing up her contents manually. Yeuch. I showed her how to
  • right click any new diagram,
  • choose caption,
  • add it in and
  • check its style is 'caption' so it goes centre and with the required line spacing. Then I
  • use insert cross reference to refer to the figure, and
  • add the page number if it's a figure in an appendix.
  • A quick scroll page (using view document map) to the list of figures in contents,
  • right click and update. Yep - all forty figures fine.
But this is not the time to learn advanced features like this - learn them in third year and keep practising. Here's a link to a pdf from Durham University on "Creating Long Documents Using Microsoft Word 2007" - it looks useful, simple and short (20 pages).

I would like to learn and easily do chapter numbers in the way that I did twenty years ago with AmiPro. That was a nice word processing package.

My colleague says (tongue in cheek) this isn't all my own work - I've been too technology-assisted!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Final thoughts

I want to write the final section that addresses the closing thoughts of my research. I can't! I'm just waffling, and I'm not allowed to write:
I've done enough. It's good enough. Just give me the doctorate!
Writing has been a struggle for me all the way through this process.

Research aims were achieved in that the researcher has developed and empirically validated a model that shows how participants engage on IT projects. The research aims have been achieved in that this researcher has written a heck of a lot of words.

By presenting empirical research with case studies of five IT projects, this thesis has detailed perceptions of how engaged IT project participants build relationships and get work done. By collecting and analysing my case studies (and thanks ever so much to my participants) I've got this model of engagement. It's quite neat really.

This thesis set out the findings that addressed the research question by developing a framework for engagement. Yes - that's what I meant to say above.

Engagement was seen to involve conditions and behaviours in a self-replicating system. That's the model I mean.

Suggestions have been made in this chapter as to how client management can manage the engagement process with their external consultants. But will practitioners believe me?

The results of this research fill a gap in the literature on understanding engagement. Like who cares anyhow?

By focusing on the process of building relationships rather than the outcomes and products of engagement, it identifies how engaged behaviours can produce value through exchanging and building new intellectual capital. I reckon that bit's new and clever and I'd just like to write it right.

This thesis has shown that the essential behaviours that emerge are sharing, sense making and adapting which interact and self-reinforce.
Actually, I'd like to write about it being an autopoietic system, but I don't use that word much so bringing it in now in the last section is a bit of a shock.

and then bla, bla boring bla

This thesis provides useful insight that enhances understanding of engagement.
It does.

I want to write this now. I've got other stuff to get on with, like life.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Progress

We have progress.
  1. The draft my supervisors have just read is the penultimate draft. I’m acting on their feedback, and getting the thesis to supervisor #2 in two weeks time, who will return his feedback by 1st March, aiming at small, not restructuring points so that I can submit within a week of that. Good.
  2. We’ve discussed examiners and made a decision.
  3. Finally and interestingly, we haven’t got a date for a next meeting – there won’t be any more. Howzat?
That means I'll have time to work on the paper I'm submitting to the Management Consultancy Division for their biannual conference in June. That's the first conference paper I've ever submitted.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Fourth year visa problems

My fellow fourth year Canadian colleague is having visa problems. Knowing this PhD is funded for three years, he trustingly and naively requested a visa for three years, and it is now up for renewal, but of course, like most PhDs, the research is not completed in three years, which is why you are registered as a full-time student for four years. Regular readers may remember my Chinese colleague had visa problems here.

So CC spent the hundreds of pounds needed to apply for a renewal. Unfortunately he had misleading or contradictory advice so his application was turned down because he hadn't included bank statements, and was told there is no appeal! How can that be? CC went to the university research school for advice and he is now reapplying, but it's taking him days of effort when he should be writing his thesis, and it's making him very grumpy. I can hear him at the next work bay, '*!' 'whiskey' *%$!'.

Unfortunately, another final year student has similar problems. She should have completed around 2007, but in her fourth year had problems with her flat, and with a baby on the way went back to China. Last October she came back to complete her thesis, and went home for Christmas. Now she can't get back because of visa problems.

It can't be doing the university any good, and it's certainly costing the research school in time, and perhaps money. It looks like a university needs legal experts to lead its non-EU students through the visa application process.

It's a shame because the university has so many students from abroad. I share coffee time with a New Zealander, a Canadian, a Pakistani, as well as EU residents from Germany, Holland and Ireland, and that experience of different cultures is refreshing, an experience I benefit from too.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Monolithic versus heterogeneous engagement

Monolithic versus heterogeneous engagement
It took me several attempts just to pronounce the words when I read my supervisor's comment. He points out that according to my data this is what the consultants seem to be doing. Monolithic engagement would be if you thought that all the key parties of an organisation behaved the same. A consultant varies his engaged behaviour depending on which parties he is working with, and that is heterogeneous engagement.

I don't think the words are quite opposites, but it's enough to give the idea that too much engagement with one part of the client system at the expense of another can be counterproductive because it can look like colluding, not being independent. And other parts of the client system may appreciate a degree of impartiality or detachment.

It's almost self-evident, and Czerniawska has written that one of the reasons for hiring a consultant is for the independent perspective, but that is not quite the same as being neutral with the various different key parties of the client organisation. That's rather interesting, isn't it?


NAO (2006) Central Government's Use of Consultants: Market Analysis, HC 128 HMSO, London. Accessed from http://www.nao.org.uk/idoc.ashx?docId=FCE46453-0541-412F-AF7A-6BC039849507&version=-1
Czerniawska, F. and Smith, P. (2010) Buying Professional Services : How to Get Value for Money from Consultants and Other Professional Services Providers, Profile Books Ltd. in association with The Economist, London.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Plasticine


I've got 'O' level plasticine. We talk about dumbing down education now, but my education included 'O' level sculpture. I call it plasticine because rather than sculpting, for which we had few materials other than plaster of Paris, we used clay, which is only a grown-up version of plasticine. With clay, you can cut out a few bits here, and squeeze in a few bits there. I loved the feel of the clay on my fingers. That work required craftsmanship.

Editing a draft thesis requires crafting too. I am moving bits here, and putting something else there. Cutting and pasting. Adding sentences or paragraphs to improve my argument, and to address my supervisor's detailed comments. Maybe eventually, one day I shall look back with as much pleasure on the experience as I do on my plasticine days.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

New pastures

Yesterday evening, after work, a few of the post-grads met for a hasty reunion before we move on to pastures new. We were two from my year, two from the year ahead of me (second year when I started), and two from the year before, i.e., those who were my third years when I started. Two PGs from the year below me also came along, so it was a very good, collegiate atmosphere.

My two 'third year' colleagues, are now doctors. One has two jobs, a research job with the Open University and a teaching job somewhere else. The other, my Chinese friend, regular readers who remember the trouble had to get her visa renewed, will be as pleased as me to know, has a job in supply chain management at a well-known company in Swindon.

Both my 'second year' colleagues have landed pleasing jobs as senior lecturers in universities close enough to commute to, so can keep their families in the same schools and jobs. One is through her viva with minor corrections, and the other is still hanging in there on a part time basis.

Of my 'junior' PGs, I like the attitude of one who tells me he is going to go for a job in his discipline in the country of his choice, or possibly as a lecturer in that country. Here is a man who knows his mind and ambitiously chooses his options.

The grass of these new pastures looks green; it's time for me to head that way too.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Croquet

Croquet is a game of strategy, in theory simple - you just get your croquet balls through all the hoops in sequence. In practice, it's vicious. Your opponent can use his balls to roquet yours away from the hoops, in totally the wrong direction. So you might be sitting there, complacently leaning on your mallet, just in front of a hoop that you're ready to go through on your next turn, and your opponent is already through it with at least one of his balls and should be ignoring you.
It's his turn.
He doesn't ignore you.
He uses his balls to hit yours, the one you were about to put through the hoop and he sends your ball in totally the wrong direction, forward of the hoop, far away, and it's going to take you ages to get back, and now since he's hit one of your balls, he's allowed another turn. So he can move forward and you're left way behind.

I feel like my supervisor has just roqueted me. He's read and commented in detail on my cross-case analysis chapter, which is great, and I'm really pleased, but he's seriously questioning my conceptual framework, which means I have to do a lot of rethinking, then set out my arguments to address the issues he's identified, and it's going to take me ages.
Am I done yet?
No, so write well, (which is better than "No, and the requirements have changed" so throw it all out and start all over (See http://xkcd.com/844/))
And it isn't really croquet, because supervisor's not playing PhD anyhow. He's already through all his hoops.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Critical

I take a critical realist approach. Critical philosophy might be different. The "critical" of the critical realist is an answer to criticism of the totally positivist approach of a realist. Now I understand that my supervisor was telling me my approach is not philosophically critical. She's right, and I can still be a critical realist, can't I?

Critical realism is "a way of resolving or dissolving" issues around positivism and extreme constructivist positions {Mingers, 2004: 374}. "It's a response", says Mingers, "to the difficulty of maintaining a realist position in the face of criticisms" (page 380)

I understand that critical realism has strata: the real, the empirical and the actual, and I've tried to adapt Mingers diagram, above, to show how I think my research fits into these strata.

Yet Mingers addresses five criticisms of critical realism, and the fifth area is "the nature and extent of critical realism's claim to be 'critical'", which means "in the political sense of bringing about change in society" and that brings me back to my supervisor's argument that my work is not critical in that sense, the sense of challenging the status quo.

So oh dear! I'm arguing against myself. I have too little knowledge, enough to start arguing, but not enough to argue myself out of the spot my supervisor has put me in. Bother!


Mingers, J. and Willcocks, L. P. (Eds.) (2004) Social Theory and Philosophy for Information Systems, John Wiley.