Research

Feeding the Biga

This new page on my blog is reserved for thought development and positionality as I research my dissertation topic. I’ll be using the hashtag #MyResearch here as well as in my social media posts to identify them clearly. The posts continue at the end of this entry.

I’ve begun a new page here on my blog dedicated to my thoughts during research, and, for the first time, am writing in WordPress without drafting a Word Document. I also plan not to over-edit my writing as I want to capture my thoughts accurately.

Already I don’t like my writing.

In March, I wrote a blog post titled Don’t think it; say it about my experiences as a guest on Yecid Ortega’s podcast, Chasing Encounters. I’ve decided to make my learning journey public as I process ideas and readings in preparation for my comprehensive exams. The idea was inspired by @IaninSheffield in his dissertation. As I read it, he referred to a blog that he kept as he moved through the research and writing process. Exposing myself opens me to criticism and questions, but let’s have at it.

A few weeks ago, during one of my OISE marathon #writein sessions, I came across Ian Greener’s book chapter on ethnography; I’ll return to that. In the chapter, Greene mentions Latour and how important he is to read when conducting ethnographical research, especially when pertaining to field notes and notebooks. Latour (2005) describes his notebooks and relationships between them. I want to take an ethnographic narrative inquiry approach to my research, so I left Greene momentarily and chased the reference down the rabbit hole of academic reading.

Latour refers to keeping notebooks during ethnographic research to avoid uncertainty because everything can be data. My thoughts:

  • should I get a second notebook? (I already have one for my PhD; I kept one close to me during my MA and it was essential)
  • should I have a spreadsheet?
  • should I also have a calendar?
  • What should I keep in the calendar?

Latour answered my questions; he says telephone calls should be noted; a first appointment with one’s advisor; the first corrections made on a grant proposal; the first list of boxes to tick in a questionnaire (2005). He lists 4 types of notebooks an ethnographer should have on hand for collecting their data. One of the notebooks is a log that should be maintained as regularly as possible; otherwise, ideas and things will be lost. I have a red calendar notebook, but it runs out of days soon, so I added:” buy a new calendar for research” to my Post-It note. I started to think of what I might add to my calendar. I regularly bookmark tweets that I want to return to, and had started bookmarking research-related ones a few months ago. I realized I should put those into my calendar. I started doing that, and have completed entering every bookmark for the past two months. I also realized that I have research-related emails and WhatsApp texts with my research buddy – those need to be documented as well. This raises an ethical question – should I be naming her? What aspects of the exchanges do I note? I decided to look only at the times we’ve discussed my work, and not hers.

A second notebook Latour mentions is one I already have – it is for gathering information to keep items in chronological order that will be distributed to different categories (maybe sections of a lit review?) later. Raul Pacheco Vega’s blog and tweets have been an essential resource for me since my MA research. He blogs about his writing process, as well as his reading process. He also features an enviable collection of stationery goods, which he reviews in his Twitter feed as he explains his reading process. I began taking notes on a Google Sheet with references; I expanded my Google Sheet to include other sheets with different topics: methodology, course readings; posthumanism, etc. I also made sure that I had updated my downloaded copies of journal articles in OneNote, where I prefer to read and annotate on my iPad, and Mendeley on my laptop, which is connected to the Word Mendeley plug-in. In this way, once I begin writing my literature review, both my copy editor and I will be grateful to former me for having kept such good records. At least, I think future me will be impressed with former me.

The third notebook that Latour mentions is one I already have as well, but some of it is scattered in different physical spaces – my backpack, the pocket of my notebook, and in my desk drawer. Latour calls it an “ad libitum” notebook. He says that ideas, paragraphs, and metaphors can come upon you suddenly during research, and these need to be recorded somewhere. I know I’ve written excellent paragraphs while running; it’s a shame I never captured them. Latour warns that if these ideas aren’t provided an outlet (to voice, to vent, to test out) then they can be lost or ruin data collection.

Latour’s fourth notebook doesn’t apply to dissertation research, and so I’ve ignored it. I also wrote in my ad libitum notebook that I want to return to his book again and resume on page 136. He claims that keeping all these meticulous records is the only way to be more objective. It certainly provides me with tasks to complete when I don’t want to write.

And Greene’s chapter on ethnography?

He refers to two extremes in research:

  • all qualitative research is ethnography; and
  • an ethnographer needs to spend an extended period of time in the field they are studying and immerse themselves completely (2011).

However, he states that ethnography does not have to live within either extreme; it can be an inductive process with a small sample and should provide people’s words with rich descriptions. There won’t be a chronological summary and the reader of an ethnography will have to devote some time to exploring and thinking about the research, much like scrolling through someone’s Facebook albums. I’m exploring a critical stance for my approach.

This post is unremarkable in its structure and writing, but I imagine that if I keep on top of thoughts, readings, appointments, and processes, I won’t be struggling a year from now, desperately trying to remember where I wrote something while scrambling to collect smudged papers and Post-Its from around my house and the bottom of my purse.

I also started to write about ethics and ethnography, but I think I will put this blog to bed now and continue with ethics next time.

References:

Greener, I. (2011). Designing social research: A guide for the bewildered. Sage Publications.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford University Press.

#MyResearch Posts

Tracking my Process May 31 2019

In this post I describe the different methods I use to track my reading, writing, and file saving during my research.

On Reflecting, writing, and reading June 21, 2019

I mimic my notebook entries on my blog in the three outlined topics.

Independent Reading and Research, Week 1: Data Tool Analysis July 2, 2019

I catalogue a series of data mining tools for analysing tweets.

Qualitative Research, July 15, 2019

I review a qualitative research methods text as well as NVivo.

Social Media and Society Conference Summary, Day 1, July 21, 2019

I summarise NodeXL, a social media data analysis tool.

Taking My Research Offline, July 22, 2019

I write about the process of preparing to work on my research offline.

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated. Ethics and My Research, August 6, 2019

I discuss the ethics of conducting research online and what I’ve learned.

This Might Take a Long time, August 17, 2019

I write about the process of conducting a data pull with a social network analysis tool.

Speaking to my peer group, August 29, 2019

I write about making my research accessible to others.

Finding the words: Si fragile, mais ça marche, October 1, 2019

I write about my literature review and searching for a theoretical framework

Citation practices, using databases, and literature reviews, October 7, 2019

I describe the process I’ve used to find papers, and some thoughts about Google Scholar

Staying grounded, December 11, 2019

Where I write about writing anxiety, including myself in my research, and netnography

A Modest Proposal, February 22, 2020

In which I describe how I’ve organized my proposal/dissertation document

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