find a strategic entry to the data…

When I’m beginning a new slab of data analysis I try to locate a strategic way into the overall topic. I look to see if there are one or two things that I can do fairly quickly to create something of an overview of what actually happened. This initial strategic foray acts as a sort of preliminary framing which can then be modified/junked as other pieces of data are dealt with.

In the case of my Tate summer school data there were two relatively obvious chunks of analysis I could do first off to give some purchase on the key thing that we (Tate team and I) were interested in.

Our overall question about summer school is what participants learn from it. We know that some learning that occurs won’t be obvious either during or at the end of the actual week. It may become clear later. However, some learning will happen in the moment and be recognised or be recognisable as such.

We therefore asked participants to do a very rapid response on post-it notes to some prompts related to our question, phrased in the following way:

Learning is moving. Learning with Tate is an invitation to move.
What have you picked up during the week?
Where are you taking it?
What do you think you will do with it ?
How have your feelings moved during the week? from… through… now…
What are you puzzling about at this point?

I collected the post-it notes at the end of the week and sorted them into piles which I packaged up separately so they wouldn’t get confused. This was the first data that I worked on.

The second set of data was taken from my fieldnotes. I had been recording as close to quotations as I could of any references participants made to changes in opinion, or experiences they thought were important, or things that they held to be fundamental. In my mind I called these learning and stuck places. My second task then was to go through my field notes and pull out these quotations for each day. In this initial cull, I did not note down individuals’ names since it was that the more general points I was interested in.

Both of these tasks involved getting what was scattered – on post-it notes and through my field notebook – into two digital word files. And here for the first time I used DragonDictate to do this work. I simply read out the post-it notes and read aloud through my notebook, checking only to make sure that Dragon had interpreted my speech correctly. It is slowly getting used to my Australian triple diphthongs and there weren’t as many errors as you might think (although the Dragonised translation of field notes to filled nights was rather apt).

It was a remarkably quick exercise. I usually dread the process of moving from handwriting to the digital file just because I am such a lousy typist. However, Dragon made this process very painless.

And actually I am sold. DragonDictate is the ethnographer’s friend.

Once in the two digital files, which is where I am now, the next step is simply to thematise and sort the individual phrases and sentences into the right categories. I’m going to attempt to do this with DragonDictate as well.

However, I can already see from reading through both files that there are some clear trends in the moving-learning that people spoke and wrote about. It’s good that something happened eh. The affirmation of movement and finding out more about it will be sufficient motivation for me to tackle the next level of data and analysis – this is much more complex and time-consuming, as it involves multimedia material and artefacts.

I won’t therefore continue regularly posting about this piece of research, although I may come back to the question of analysis of visual materials at some point in the future.

In the meantime, I can recommend DragonDictate to ethnographers out there. It’s really worth a try.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in data, Tate Summer School, voice recognition software and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to find a strategic entry to the data…

  1. I’ve tried this with little success. Did you use the free or paid for version of dragon?


  2. Pingback: Once upon a time there was a Dragon… | Conceptions of Technology

  3. shaileshak says:

    I recently got the Dragon NaturallySpeaking – premium edition 12 (for PC) and used it a few times so far. Initially I spoke carefully and the accuracy wasn’t too bad but at times it typed things that I didn’t say. I got a bit annoyed and started to talk fast, and to my surprise the accuracy reached 100%. With my peculiar Indian accent, I think that was a pretty good result.
    As its help documentation recommends, it will be a good idea to think of what you are going to say in full sentence and then saying it. This comment itself is done using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I had to edit this in a few places after the dictation, but that was fine as I was able to capture what I wanted to say easily.
    Personally, I would recommend Dragon NaturallySpeaking for research related work as I think it helps to transfer your thinking into words easily. So, the top tip is to speak naturally!


  4. Good to see post-it notes as a data collection methodology! We’re currently using them for post-graduate medical teaching / brainstorming around human factors and are planning to start collecting them & undertake retrospective analysis


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