writing home and away

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I’m working away from my desk, as my out of office assistant puts it. But I’m still very much working.

I’m writing out of place. I don’t have my usual working set up. And not just for a couple of days but actually for quite a lengthy period of time.

I’m writing on a netbook and not my big computer with the giant screen. So I’ve done all of the obvious things you do when you’re planning to work somewhere else. I have everything stored on cloud and backed up on a USB. I have the most likely books I need to use, in digital versions of course. I can access the library journal collection via Browzine. My marking is sitting on Moodle and I don’t even have to download the assignments.

So this all ought to be fine right? Well no. I’m grumpily realising that there are some compromises that I actually don’t like making.

For a start.  My netbook mirrors my desktop screen. Good eh? Well no.  I have a very particular way of naming and positioning folders on my screen so that all of my current work is bang in the centre – I can’t help but see the do-it-now folders when I first turn on the machine. These are the reminder list you have without having to make the reminder list. All the regular tasks are  placed on either side. The middle says THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING NOW. The three columns with space in between looks OK on the big screen and this arrangement works for me.

Organising your screen display can be useful.  Knowing where things are really helps your work mood.  It’s like having your kitchen benches organised so that everything is in its place and you don’t have to waste time trying to find the kitchen towel.

So just imagine taking a tidy big screen – and then shrinking it. Shriek. Gasp.

This is not tidy writ small. It’s actually really hard to find things as they are now in new places on the screen. What’s more, there’s too many folders and they overlap. It’s hard to read the file names.

This visual disorder puts me in a slightly agitated state whenever I sit down to write – that is, every morning. I now begin my day by hunting out where I am in the crowded file display in front of me. Yes, yes, I hear you say, just combine some. Of course I could just sort things further, but then I’ll have to do the same in reverse when I get back. But I might have to do this if I continue being jarred by the very look of my workspace.

And next. The screen itself is small. Working on a big screen means that you can get a lot in front of your eyes at once. Working on a tiny netbook means the reverse. As I am writing this, I now can’t even see where this post began. While this lack of overview doesn’t matter so much for blog posts, I find it is pretty irritating for more sustained writing where reading back over what you’ve written to check for flow is an important part of composing – well it is for me anyway.

So do I lash out and buy an additional screen? Well probably. Eventually. Maybe sooner if I keep getting bothered by this limited see-scope.

And just don’t start me on the space I’m working in. I’m on a table shared with other people, eating, reading, listening to music I don’t like, there’s even television on some occasions. I’m sitting on an ordinary chair. I’m absolutely used to a posh Aero chair which keep my back sorted, and a proper solitary office. I really don’t do this new arrangement well.

Of course it’s manageable. It’s just not what I usually do. I realise that, like a tennis player- yes that’s been on while I’ve been trying to write –  I have a set of routines and rituals associated with writing. I notice when they are missing. I can’t help but feel out of sorts  when my accustomed ways of writing, thinking and reading change. I’m very much a writing creature of habit.

I’m just not sure how people who write in coffee shops actually do it, but I guess this is its own kind of ritual where change rather than same-old-same-old is the norm.

As is often the case, a change of scene has been a bit of a disruption. I’m thinking about the embodied practices of writing. I’m remembering that how we write, where we write, the kit that we have and how we organise it, underpins how we feel about the writing that we do. And perhaps how we actually do it.

And I’m thinking that some of the writing advice about developing a daily writing practice focuses rather too much on time, rather than space, stuff and body.

But that’s enough of that. I clearly can write, albeit a little out of sorts. And there is of course one compensation. On good days I can work outside on the balcony. There is still a table and a crappy chair.

But there is The View. And bird song. And once a day, sunrise.

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Posted in academic writing, academic writing as work, office, space, writing routine | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

I’m writing a journal article – what literatures do I choose?

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I’m often asked about the literatures sections of journal articles. Not your literatures based paper of course but your standard empirical paper.

They only want a short section! I can’t cram everything I’ve read into a few paragraphs – how do I know what to put in and leave out? What criteria do I use to select?

This is a good question. It certainly isn’t possible to jam an entire thesis literature review into a journal article.

When reviewers read a paper that tries to cram the literatures octopus into the jar* they wonder if the writer is simply afraid to let go of the lengthy survey they’ve already done. They just can’t face starting over. Or they haven’t yet understood that something different is needed for the journal article And for these reviewers, nothing says “newbie” louder than a really long and un-selective essay about all of the literatures.

So what to do?

Well here’s some pithy advice from Tom Boellstorff, writing when he was Editor of the journal American Anthropologist.

Boellstorff points out that a journal article must make a novel – that is a new  and original – contribution. Just like the doctorate. And the argument for novelty can only be made through reference to the literatures. Just like the doctorate.

But with less words.

Like many others, Boellstorff thinks of the journal as a conversation. You need to show that you are pushing the journal conversation forward, he argues, and you can’t do that without being aware of what’s already been said. This is not simply referring to the existing scholarship, he points out, but engaging with it.

Boellstorff says that there is no set formula for working with literatures. So that’s good and bad news. It does mean that all writers have to work out for themselves what to include and exclude. And you get to do it your way.

But, Boellstorff says,  the most successful authors in his journal generally do these things:

  1. They show that they are aware of classic literatures germane to their topic
  2. They engage with recent scholarship germane to their topic
  3. They emphasise scholarship that they find useful and/or inspirational, showing how they build on this work
  4. They don’t spend time tearing down the work of others in order to show the value of their own contribution
  5. They avoid “namedropping” disconnected authors simply for the sake of showing they know them
  6. They show the existence of a community of scholars working on an issue and they demonstrate how their work fits into that community and carries the conversation forward.

I think these are a pretty helpful six  points – they do provide some serious clues about what literatures to include and exclude, as well as the appreciative stance to take.

I hope you find them useful thinking points too.

 

Notes:

* This is a great metaphor and comes from a participant in a Kamler-Thomson workshop, reporting in our doctoral writing supervision book.

Reference:

Boellstorff, Tom (2010) How to get an article accepted at American Anthropologist ( or anywhere) Part 2. American Anthropologist 112 (3)  353-356.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

Posted in academic writing, journal article, literature review, literature reviews | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

academic writing is visual

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Writing is a visual medium

It may seem odd to say that writing is visual. Writing – and academic writing in particular –  is about words and what they say isn’t it? Well of course it is. But the way in which we engage with words can be pretty seriously affected by the ways in which they are presented to us.

You see, a page is an arrangement of two elements – there’s the text, made up of words, and then there’s the place where the words aren’t – white space. And the more solid the block of words are, the less white space there is, the more the reader is likely to see the page as difficult to get into.

Of course, academic writers often don’t get a say in all of the decisions made about how their writing will look. Somebody else – the publisher of the book or journal, university regulations – may well have already made some decisions about font size, margins and galleys, and perhaps even the required use of numbers for paragraphs. The number and hierarchy of headings may also be a given. Using proprietary web platforms such as this (WordPress), also limits the design features that can  be used.

But even if there are limits, it’s still helpful to think about the visual elements of your writing.

Say a writer is working to page limits and keen to jam in as much in as possible. They decide to reduce the size of the top, bottom and side margins. They squash more words in, but at a cost. Their page might seem pretty inaccessible to a reader. Then, they use the smallest possible font, or one which is quite cramped. And this only adds to a reader’ s fear that they are about to enter a dense grey fog of verbiage.

Thinking about your writing as visual means that you begin to think about how the information is presented on the page, in particular considering what makes the writing feel inviting, what makes it feel accessible and comprehensible. When you do this, you begin to think a little like a designer.

So here are a few things to consider – my basic LTG of the visualities of academic writing:

L is for Layout

Step back from the page – squint. Look at how the page appears to you. Is it one solid mass or is it broken up into digestable bites/blocks? What do your eyes tell you? Is this a verbal crowd that the reader has to battle their way through?

How have you used white space – do you have generous margins around the text? Is it broken up into sections and paragraphs? Have you crammed images into the available space so that they appear to be one with the words, instead of another and separate medium for conveying information?

Does the page appear balanced? Is your eye drawn to one part of the page and not the rest  – is this actually what you intend? (The optimum page designs are often said to be the F pattern or the  Z pattern.)

T is for Text 

If you are writing in English then your readers’ eyes travel from left to right. Then it is generally easier to read text that is justified on the left and is evenly spread out – text that is justified on both sides often has uneven spacing so it takes a little more effort for eyes to track – and understand what’s being said.

Font matters. Apart from choosing a font that is relatively familiar and easy to read and not too small, the key issue is not to use too many fonts at once. Frequency in font use makes text hard to read as it’s a bit confusing. What does each font mean? Commercial publishers sometimes use different fonts for headings and the main body of text but they keep the number to a manageable number. It’s worth looking to see how these publishing graphics work.

It’s also really important to look at each page and ask yourself whether readers can easily find the most important information on that page.

Writers can point readers to key information through using multi-media in which words may be one element. Images, figures and diagrams can provide evidence and detail. They might also provide complementary information. Bullet-pointed lists indicate key points. Numbered lists show steps, priorities or chronologies  – this then that, then this then that. Flow charts show processes. Maps show relationships, territories and borders, flows and positions. Hyperlinks show connections. Footnotes and endnotes show evidence and also connections.

Using easily located media to provide information is important. Which brings us to..

G is for Guidance

Headings are the reader’s guide-ropes.

Headings help the reader to find their way through a text. Writers can give readers navigation tools which assist them to understand what is coming up – key ideas, major points and themes.

Headings are usually organised in a hierarchy of importance – chapter title, section heads and sub headings for smaller points and themes. Hierarchies of importance are signalled through the size, style and alignment of heading fonts that you choose. You can set heading formats ahead of time in standard word-processing software or use those that are already pre-set.

So there you are. LTGs. There’s much more to the visuals of writing, but that’s a start. I hope I’ve said enough to make the point – that the appearance of text is significant as it goes to how well we communicate our thinking and research results.

Poets think a lot about visuality. They consider line lengths and breaks and what these do to the way readers encounter their text.  Web designers also have to think a lot about how people read a screen. And as academics become more digital we also need to become design savvy.

But the visual matters even in ordinary old academic writing – like that grant bid where it is tempting to cram as much as possible into a limited space. So perhaps, just perhaps, there is too little discussion of the visual in discussions of academic writing… ??

 

Photo by Jenny Smith on Unsplash

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getting to grips with new literatures

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Over time all researchers build a knowledge base about their key interests. A large part of this knowledge is a core set of literatures. They/we do need to keep up to date, but they/we can rely on – and use – our incrementally expanding personal library of literatures. However, every so often, researchers have to deal with a completely new topic and brand new literatures.

My colleague Lexi Earl and I are currently writing a book about school gardens. Learning gardens are pretty popular at the moment. They are promoted by celebrity chefs and by environmental scientists alike – and many schools believe gardens are a great place to learn about the processes and practices of cultivation and/or to appreciate the natural world.

Lexi and I have done some research, school garden case studies, and we now have plenty to say. But we thought that we needed to start our book, contracted to Routledge,  with some historical discussion about school gardens, because now is not the only time when they have been popular. We had a hunch that there might well be something to learn from what had happened before.

So this meant that we had to find a load of new books and new articles – well, I mean new to us. And that meant …. reading. And lots of it.

We were pretty keen to find primary source material as well as literatures from contemporary educational historians. And so there’s been a fair bit of archival searching as well as the journal and book based searches we are used to doing.

We are immensely grateful to the generations of librarians who have catalogued, conserved, digitised and weblogged the books and reports that we are using. The British historian Raphael Samuel often argued that doing history was a collective endeavour – the introductory thanks to the army of librarians that make writing histories possible are just too little recognition.  That’s certainly our experience too.

We have had to come to terms with this historical material fairly quickly. But this history chapter is mine to draft first of all so I have done most of  the primary source reading. Lexi is focussed on other reading about current school garden issues and so she is adding additional points into my draft.

But I haven’t just done any old kind of reading. I have been reading with a purpose – we already knew the key areas we were interested in from our case studies. Because we are taking a genealogical approach (Foucault), we are interested primarily in how gardening in schools is and has been understood and categorised, as well as practiced.

I approached the historical texts with five key questions:

  • What’s the purpose of a school garden? What’s the problem for which school gardening is the answer?
  • What is the garden – what is important about it (size, plants location etc)
  • What school subjects is the garden connected with? What is the disciplinary basis of teaching?
  • How is the garden organised?
  • What successes and problems are encountered in establishing and sustaining the garden?

I then recorded details of each text in bibliographic software.

Then I wrote the answers to our questions into a landscape table. Below, an example of the record of one key book  – designated key because we saw that other historical texts referred to it, and it was also referred to a lot in contemporary accounts. You can see here that I’ve bolded the major point that this book talks to, and I’ve highlighted bits I think I might use in the draft chapter

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After I’d read all of the texts and recorded details on the table, I then wrote some very short notes on the answers to our questions. These were more in the form of a synthesising memo than an outline.

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I then

  1. decided on the argument for the chapter, (a Tiny Text), you might use mind mapping to get to the argument
  2. decided on a structure – I divided the material into three big sections (in this case, philosophy, historical accounts, contemporary accounts) and then I
  3. wrote an outline.

Finally I started to generate text. A first draft. This drafting process did involve shifting some things around in my initial outline. But mainly I had to keep going back to the table to ensure that I brought all of the material about any single point together.  I also frequently went back to the digital books.

So the drafting was actually working with at least three and sometimes four documents on the desktop – table, memo and original text as well as the developing first draft. If you are a Scrivener user then this all happens within the software. I’m not, largely because I like to insert the references as I go, so my Endnote is always open too.

You can see what a small section of this first draft looks like.

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You will see that I have presented some historical “evidence” which I go on to read critically to see: what is presented and how, what is put together, what assumptions are made, where there are tensions or differences, what is missing, what the consequences of thinking in this way might be and why this might matter.

And of course this first draft might be completely changed as I start to revise. Who knows how much the final version will look like this? 🙂

But please don’t think this is how you must work.

A concluding caveat. I am often asked how I work with literatures and will I show and tell. So I’ve done some. But I do try not to do a lot of display of my own processes, as my methods are bespoke to me.

And a confession. I’ve been doing this a long time. In this kind of overview work, I tend towards pretty minimalist noting  – I actually spend much more time thinking about the questions I want to ask of a text than writing notes. When I am teaching people how to work with literatures I generally use more notes and write more memos. When I do my own work, I’m a bit lazy, I rely on my short term memory probably too much, and I tend to shortcut some written processing.

And most important – this is not the only way to do literatures work. I am pretty sure that Lexi does this differently  – I have seen her taking a print-it-out-and-highlight, notes-on-the-printout-and-then-themes- in-a-memo approach.  That works just as well.

No matter the techniques used, both our approaches will mean that our final text is firmly connected with the literatures through our critical reading  – and our work will read seamlessly as if we are one person writing!!!

But that’s another post.

 

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Posted in academic writing, Endnote, literature mapping, literature review, literature reviews, note-taking | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

tracking the path to research claims

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All researchers make claims about their work.

Remember the phrase staking a claim? That’s what we are actually doing when we claim something. We are metaphorically placing a marker in a field that we are prepared to stand on, stand for –  and defend. We plant that marker at the end of the account of our research. We’re here, we say. This is where, why and how I’ve got to this point.

So… What does claiming look like? Well, we researchers always claim that we make a particular contribution to what’s already known about our topic.  We sometimes claim that we provide new insights, alternative approaches, different interpretations, innovative methods, novel results. We might also claim that our work has the So What Now What factor  – there are significant implications that arise from the work – there’s a need for more or particular research to be done, for law and/or policy to be changed, for practitioners to do some different things and/or not do others.

What’s also important is that we researchers make our claims in and through writing. And any account of the research we’ve done should provide a traceable pathway from start to finish, from warrant to claim. When they get to the end of our text, readers must understand what claims we’re making and how we got there. Along the way, we need to show – evidence – that our ending claims are warranted and justified.

Making claims can be a particular challenge for doctoral researchers. It is hard to summon up the chutzpah to make a firm claim. PhDers sometimes dodge the issue by concluding their thesis by restating their results and perhaps offering short and vague suggestions about potential consequences. Alternatively, occasionally nearly-docs overstate what they have done, making sweeping generalisations. Or – a particular bugbear for me – they conclude their thesis with recommendations – as if thesis readers, particularly examiners, are in a position to act on what they say.

In order to make reasonable and defensible claims, all researchers have to do three things:

( 1) make sure that the claims match their research tradition, design and its results. So for instance, we can’t claim that policies need to change if we have only a handful of interviews, but we can claim that such research raises questions that need to be investigated further. Another example – we can’t claim causality if what we have are correlations.

(2) make sure that the research is trustworthy – we have to provide sufficient details about what we did and why, and make sure this information is available to be checked – so we always provide an audit trail with relevant details of data and analysis – perhaps even the data set itself.

(3) summon up the courage to get off the fence and own our expertise, while acknowledging the inevitable particularity, and the limited scope of our research. We recognise our blank spots – the things that the research design, methodology and methods just didn’t allow us to do.

Examiners look very carefully in the thesis for the argument that leads to claims. They read forwards and backwards tracing the path that leads to final claims.

Here are some of the things that examiners ask while they are reading a thesis:

  • Is sufficient data presented to support the claims that are made?
  • Has the full data set has been used – or not, and if not, has the researcher made it clear why and how this data was selected for presentation in the text?
  • How is the data, analysis and interpretation presented? Quotations? Tables? Images? Graphs? Diagrams? Have the implications of these forms of presentation been recognised and taken account of?
  • How have multiple data sources been brought together? Are alignments, misalignments and tensions with these data sources recognised and dealt with?
  • Are the claims congruent with the data and analysis presented? Can I trust the researcher?
  • How is the data and its analysis connected with relevant research, theory and literatures – and possibly the social and policy context?
  • What evidence is presented in the text that the researcher has spent time reflecting on the significance of their findings? On their research? On their development as a researcher?

These are general questions of course, and as such they need to be made bespoke to discipline and research tradition. Supervisors can help doctoral researchers consider the particularities related to their claim-making.

Revising the thesis for submission can usefully include claim-tracing – going backwards through the text from the conclusion to check that there are no missing parts to the the argument path, it’s not a maze, there are no gaps or time -consuming detours.

And the examiner questions listed in this post are a place to start.

Photo by Lili Popper on Unsplash

 

Posted in academic writing, argument, claim, claims, evidence, revision, revision strategy, thesis, thesis revision | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

2019 was…

… the year of the book series. So I thought a little end of year discussion about book series might be in order.

Book series require a very particular kind of editorial work.

Editors have to have a good analysis of the field, they need to know what is and what isn’t already covered. And this field analysis is not just at the start when series editor wanna-bes convince a publisher that their idea is good. You have to keep up to date with what is being published. You also have to have a view of where the field might go – and where it should go. “We need less of that and more of this”, thinks the series editor.

Series editors have to understand what their series will do. Series need a purpose and a point of view. Some series are knowledge building – usually through monographs and edited collections. Knowledge building books not the same as trade books or text books; these are designed to support readers to understand and do something- think of methods or advice books, these are ‘trade’.

Series editors need to know their potential readers. This not only means who they are (researchers, students and/or professionals in a particular area ) but also where they are located. Once you know the who, what and where, the series editor can make sure that books will connect, ring true, appeal. Ideally, the series editor also wants to get authors from the range of target locations.

Book series editors have to have good networks. They need to know, or know how to get to, potential writers. Of course, sometimes series editors are approached by keen authors with ideas for a book. Occasionally the publisher will also get a proposal that they think will fit in the series. But mostly, series editors hustle. They get out and invite people to write. They hear someone present at a conference and talk to them about a possible book. They approach people they know and ask them what book they’d like to write. They suggest topics. They match-make co-authors.

It’s these things – place in the field, mission, readers and potential authors – that any book series proposal has to cover. A publisher must be convinced there is a need for the series, a market, a credible set of authors and enough ideas to make up an actual series, not just a couple of volumes.

So to my year.

I have one long standing knowledge-building series which I edit with two colleagues. Our series is not a huge seller, it’s quite niche – critical leadership studies in education. We don’t publish a lot, only one or two books a year as we don’t think there is the market for more. So series editing isn’t a particularly onerous task. As I write this post, there is one book in press (2020), two being written (2021) and another proposal nearing completion (2022). So there is a slow stream of books.

This year we had to have a bit of a think about whether we would, should, could continue with the series. A stocktake. Where were we up to and was it still worth continuing. Since we started, another publisher has begun a similar series. A competitor or companion? We had to ask ourselves whether there was there room for two of us. Would we just be duplicating effort? But it seems we still have ideas for potential writers and topics. So we decided to persevere for a bit longer. This series is not yet at its use-by-date.

Fanfare at this point. This year was the year I also said no. Well kind of. More accurately, I gave up on a new series. A publisher had suggested the possibility of an arts education series and I had asked two colleagues if they were interested. We had a couple of meetings (not easy as we live in three different countries) but I think none of us were really up for the work involved. So at this point this series is a no go.

9781138339149But letting go was not simply about that series. No, it was also because 2019 was the year when a new (advice) book series really kicked into gear.

The Insider Guides to Success in Academia.  Helen Kara and I collaboratively edit this series. As the series title suggests, it’s designed for doctoral and early researchers. We’ve commissioned eight books already – and the first one is now published, hooray, two are in press and another two are being read before being revised. We expect to have five books published by this time next year. And there are another three already under contract and several proposals on the way. (Cross fingers they all turn up, you know who you are and you know we’ll chase you up).

This series is more work than the first. For starters, there are just more books. But our editorial process is also pretty hands on. Helen and I hunt out authors and topics and look at proposals, as you’d expect. But we have also introduced a “beta reader” stage where three people read a penultimate draft and give feedback. And we feedback too. Because beta-reading isn’t a process usually done by our publisher (although it is by others) Helen and I have to manage it. We find the readers, get the manuscript out and back in. And then we give the combined feedback to authors. But beta-reading is not like a reviewing process, it’s more informal, and everyone knows who has written the book and who has commented.

9781138362598Helen and I are in relatively frequent contact about book series issues. We talk largely by skype, even though we live only a few train stops away from each other in the Midlands. It may seem silly for us not to meet face to face, but we are both busy women. We do occasionally manage to meet halfway, and we also meet with our publisher once a year.

Helen and I are both really pleased with this series. It’s our great pleasure to help these new books into the world. They are, like most of this series, new approaches and/or on important topics much less well travelled.

And I guess that’s ultimately why we do this series editing stuff. It’s certainly not for the money – like all academic books the royalties for series editing in no way take account of the amount of time we spend. But there is something very satisfying about shaping a series. It’s a creative process – a kind of curation of a collection which together makes a more substantive contribution than any one book could do on its own.

A good series does have an identity. It stands for, and as, a particular point of view on a field. So in its own distinctive way, editing a book series is another way to contribute to the wider scholarly conversation.

Roll on 2020 and all those new titles!

Posted in academic writing, book series, co-editing, editing, Helen Kara | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

a festive gift from patter – a checklist for revising methods chapters

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PhDers sometimes find writing the thesis methods chapter a pretty tedious business. But the methods chapter is a key part of the examination process – it shows that the researcher knows how to research. You see, examiners make their decision – yes or no, this person can be Dr – on the back of this chapter. It’s not all that matters for sure, but get this chapter wrongish, and doubts arise, questions are asked, corrections loom.

Examiners are looking for the evidence in the text, and any accompanying appendices, that will allow them to tick the box that says the researcher can DO research.

And when examiners decide on methods, they are acting as stand-ins. They speak for both the discipline and the wider scholarly community. When they bring their knowledge of ‘standards’ to their evaluation of a doctoral text and viva, they aren’t reading and deciding as an individual, but as a gatekeeper.

So examiners read the methods chapter very carefully.

It is helpful therefore for doctoral researchers to understand some of the concerns that examiners bring to their reading. Understanding what examiners are interested in can guide the revision of the thesis. PhDers can make sure that all bases are covered before handing in.

So here are some of the key things that examiners look for.

The Researcher:

  • Is the researcher’s positionality made clear? (This may not be expected in some disciplines)

Research Design:

  • METHODOLOGY

Why was this methodology chosen? What does it have to offer? What claims does this methodology allow and disallow?

  • METHODS

What methods were chosen? What data are to be generated and how will these help answer the research question? Given that data are partial and particular, how are the inevitable blank spots acknowledged?

  • SETTING

Is the choice of setting explained? How does this context connect with the research question? Does the rationale for choice recognise the limits as well as the benefits of this context?

  • SAMPLE

Why was this sample selected? Was a particular approach used to make this choice?How was this done? If it is necessary for the reader to understand particular details about the sample, are these details provided and clearly signposted?

  • DATA GENERATION

What is the data? Are there important implications arising from inclusions and exclusions? When, where, and how was data generated? Was a theoretical or conceptual framework used and is this explained – or referred back to if it is presented earlier? Are the tools used available to the reader? Is a clear audit trail provided?? Were there any particular considerations or issues involved?

  • ETHICS

What approach is taken to ethical concerns – is this explained? What approach to anonymity and confidentiality has been taken? Were there any particular ethical concerns that arose during the research and how were these addressed?

Analysis:

  • APPROACH

In what tradition is the data analysis? What are the implications of using this approach?

  • PROCESS

How was sense made of the data? Is this made clear? Is (some of) the working available to the reader? Are the workings defensible/accurate?

  • TRUSTWORTHINESS

What steps were taken to ensure rigour? Is it clear how the full range of data is to be brought together? How has theory or conceptual framing informed the data work?

Now these don’t make a complete list. Nope. Sorry, there’s more. Specific disciplines and research approaches will add their own criteria. Supervisors know these and can add them in.

But these are at least a head start – and maybe a heads up.

 

You might also find these older posts helpful:

the audit trail 

methodology isn’t methods

three key things about methods chapters

 

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