finding your way forward

I started my little session at yesterdays campus session with the thought that now is the time to start thinking about your topic again.  It is really important to consider a few issues at this time…

1.  Your topic – are you happy with the 1 sentence version you have? Does it represent what interests you? Can you identify what you are investigating in the sentence?

2. Does that lead nicely to a research statement and research questions.  If you answered all the questions, would you answer the main topic?

3. Can you clearly measure what you are trying to look at? Many of you have heard me moaning about not being able to measure certain things in your topic…importance is the most do you measure importance? If you can, then you are limited in how you can present that information…importance, excitement, feelings are all in the eye of the beholder, so it’s only going to be your respondents perceptions you are measuring, not a statement of fact.  Remember, sometimes in medical trials, the people taking the placebo (the fake pill) also get better!

4.  It is often just as important to know why you are not doing something as it is to know why you are. So, before choosing your research methodology, think why you are not using at least 3 others.  This makes your choose frequently a more valid one.

5. In terms of timeframes, have you factored in how long it will take you to do a pre-test of your instrument, how long it might take to get answers back, that on postal or email surveys, the response rate (the number of people who answer it) can be as low as 1% (that means you may have to send out a lot more that you need)?

6. ethics – don’t just think about what’s legal, that about the issues like using data correctly, making sure you can rely on your findings, think about the morality as well as the law!

There is so much on the blogs at the moment, people like Abbi Williams and Michelle Wallbanks have been putting up some really useful summaries of the main research types, others such as Melissa Dyer and Laura Bentley have posted some really in-depth thoughts and critical reflections on their topic and there are some really interesting examples of people using survey monkey to collect some exploratory information about their topics.  As well, Paula, rosemary and myself have got some interesting links to youtube videos, slideshares, wikis and other materials to get your head around what you are doing.  My advice to you (for what its worth) is don’t ignore the research process to entirely focus on your project, because in the long run that will harm your final project.  In my experience it is often the choice of research design that causes the most damage to a final project!

have a great easter


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