Sunday, October 31, 2010

Critical Discourse Analysis

Reading Teun A. van Dijk’s “Principles of critical discourse analysis” I was struck by the attention that the author paid to power relations. In my past experience with discourse analysis (finally, something I have experience with), I have found this focus on power relations to be pertinent.

The following quotation seemed to me to sum up the most important part of the relationship between discourse and power relations: “Critical scholars should not worry about the interests or perspectives of those in power, who are best placed to take care of their own interests anyway. Most male or white scholars have been shown to despise or discredit such partisanship, and thereby show how partisan they are in the first place, e.g. by ignoring, mitigating, excluding or denying inequality” (Dijk 253).

The idea that male scholars would “discredit such partisanship” is one that I personally found true in my own research. In undergrad, I spent a fair amount of time taking English classes in the women’s studies field and researching in the field. Frequently my male classmates (and once in a while male teachers) would claim that my research into the marginalization of female writers was not necessary--they claimed just as van Dijk explains in the above quotation that their was no inequality in the way women writers were treated throughout history. This attempt to ignore an existing inequality, in addition to their frequent attempts to discredit a field like women’s studies illustrates the author’s point about the importance of power relations and critical discourse analysis.

About research diaries ...

Happy Halloween :)

Just a quick thought on research diaries to end the week. After the class discussion this week, I have become uneasy with the thought of keeping a research diary. The example of the man who died, and whose diary was read and research subsequently reanalyzed really made me think. To me, this situation ruins the research. It is the author that becomes a research topic, rather than the actual work s/he did.

Knight on Reflective Inquiry, Image-Based Research Techniques

Knight's short discussion about reflective inquiry was interesting to me as a former literature student. I know that Knight, along with most of our other readings, are coming from the field of social sciences specifically, but it is interesting to me to think about the great extent to which certain fields within the arts, like English , are largely performed through what might be called reflective analysis (except in most undergrad courses where the ease of teaching fledgeling scholars some form of "new criticism" results in little to no secondary reading).

It would be interesting to take a close look at how funding affects the ways in which producing brand-new findings in the art vs the sciences. Sciences usually require a large budget, and stakeholders want to see where their money is going. Having original findings to justify a budget would be preferable in this case.

Finally, I also felt that Knight's treatment of image-based research was scant; considering that my research area is heavily concerned with using digital images as scholarly aids, I was excited when I saw the heading, but was quickly disappointed to read nothing that was relevant to my interests. All in all, considering how popular image-based research such as visualization techniques is getting, I expected much more coverage in this area.

Titles are for people who are creatively able

I actually thought the Knight material this week was a little slim, and the two articles (the artifact one and the critical discourse analysis one) were great supplements. (Is the Knight coverage of DA slim and the Luker coverage nonexistent because they privately think discourse analysis is unimportant?) I found it thoroughly amusing that discourse analysis is allegedly thought of so poorly in the social sciences (can this be true?), since it sounds much more manageable to me than field work of any kind. ("Field" work always conjures up images, in my mind, of strapping on your hiking boots for a three-week stay in the wilderness, struggling to figure out which plants can be used medicinally and which will kill you. No one here gets out alive, etc., but perhaps I am just lazy.)

Two thoughts about the readings this week: My first thought while reading Knight and then the Thomas (artifacts) article was how simply the criticisms she alleges are levelled against artifact analysis could be levelled agianst ethnography, focus groups, or any other research method we've talked about.  To this extent, I thought her assertion that research methods "only provide data that may be interpreted as reflecting [an individual's meaning-making-and-subsequent-application] processes" (685) to be an important recognition for any researcher seeking to de-legitimize discourse analysis or artifact studies.

[Insert personal anecdote: I was once part of a research study that combined interviews and focus groups. The researchers had sought out people in a "support group" setting who were dealing with a sensitive issue. Nearly every person interviewed and/or in the focus group told the researcher some combination of the "truth," what they thought the researcher wanted her to hear and what they thought presented themselves in the best light. I came away wondering what sort of research this could possibly produce, or if social science researchers were somehow trained to detect when a group of people are lying through their teeth. I was wondering if this is what Knight meant when he said that research participants might "fake good" (108). End anecdote.]

Although discourse analysis still requires the researcher to take into account the "positioning" (can't think of a better word) done by the subject/producer of the discourse/artifact/etc, the process of dealing with a "researcher" in any official way (being interviewed, being studied, etc.) is typically removed. This might eliminate some aspect of power-positioning that happens when people are faced with someone that looks/sounds/seems "authoritative." (This isn't to say the two are in any way equal, or that one can be a substitute for the other. It's just a different set of problems, I suppose.)

Second thought: Whereas "artifact study" might be a method of discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis doesn't seem like a "method" on its own. It seems that one might incorporate any number of discourse analysis "methods" to produce a critical discourse analysis? For example, it would be possible to incorporate image or artifact study or document analysis to produce a critical discourse analysis. This is probably totally obvious but by virtue of it having popped into my head it is being recorded here for all to see.

FINALLY: What are the rules around the ethics of discourse analysis? I'm thinking of the paper given to us for Assignment 3. I imagine that with a little bit of determination it would be pretty easy to find this Facebook group, presuming it still exists, and locate all of the people the authors were talking about. I don't think consent was mentioned in the article, and since the group is "public" perhaps it isn't necessary. I know this is only one particular kind of discourse analysis, but it kind of stood out to me.

Image-based Research

After reading Knight's article, I was shocked to see just how little he focused on image-based research. I was even more shocked to discover that he did not even mention artifact research as some students at the iSchool are in the Archives or Museum stream, where exhibits and research are drawn from images and artifacts. Although a History major myself, I never really saw the usefulness of images but after reading Thomas I began to understand the importance they could hold. Also, I believed that artifacts were limited to material that was found on archeological digs and didn't even consider using other cultural material for research, such as Thomas mentions TV shows etc. This type of research method would be valuable to use in order to strengthen your research and give the reader prime and current examples.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

People thinking about people

Sorry for the ramlyness and possible lack of sense, my brain short-circuited three days ago and the electrician hasn’t been in to fix it yet…

I found Thomas’ article to be wonderfully relevant for me as it dealt with the study of artifacts, which as a historian has always been my favourite method of study for obvious reasons. I found Thomas’s criticism of scholars like Mead - who assert that the study of artifacts is insufficient in studying human culture in comparison to ethnographic studies that measures behaviour - to be very pertinent as Thomas once more touches upon the recurring theme of this course, the issue of truthiness. Thomas specifically points out that the criticism by other scholars of the study of artifacts, in reference to them as reliable sources for attributing cultural meaning, is an issue of interpretation in relation to the data. Yet as Thomas astutely demonstrates all data regardless if its gathered from ethnographic studies or artifacts is subject to interpretation. A notion I have always personally believed; everything is subjective and in turn interpretive. As such it always makes me wonder why some people choose to attribute greater value to one method over another with the belief that it offers more objective results when it is the context, as Thomas says, which alters the value of the method.

Sometimes I think that interpretation or rather the lens/rules through which we interpret data is of greater importance than the method of its collection. To that end I’d like to share with you a quote by Douglas Adams from his Mostly Harmless that I found relevant … and I just thought it was funny and wanted to share.

“I know that astrology isn't a science,” said Gail. “Of course it isn't. It's just an arbitrary set of rules like chess or tennis or, what's the strange thing you British play?” “Er, cricket? Self-loathing?” “Parliamentary democracy.” The rules just kind of got there. They don't make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves. But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of stuff about people. In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all difference it would make. It's just a way thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin emerge. The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary they are, the better. It's like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are. It lets you see the words that were written on the piece of the paper above it that's now been taken away and hidden. The graphite's not important. It's just the means of revealing their indentations. So you see, astrology's nothing to do with astronomy. It's just to do with people thinking about people...”

Monday, October 25, 2010

A descriptive science...

As a bear of very little brain I continue to be somewhat uncomfortable with ethnography. That's after having covered some aspect of it in almost all of my classes, mind you. Despite Luker's nod to Foucault and acknowledgement of doxa, etc., the notion of "field" research somehow rings a little false in my mind. (Although I will acknowledge the two assumptions I was making when reading this chapter: First, that "field" research meant human-human interaction. I was somewhat surprised when Luker mentioned her friend who was a primatologist doing ethnographic work with baboons. I think part of my discomfort with the notion of "field" research is that it seems a little bit like putting the human "other" in the zoo. I suppose that, of course, I could extrapolate that ethnography could include animals or any number of other environments, but I keep focussing on the human environments. Second, although Luker has made acknowledgements aplenty of the need for social scientists to be careful about exerting the "special kind of power" that social science has over readers/consumers of the research, I was encouraged by the Shaffir article which says that ethnography is meant to be descriptive, and "attempts to... diminish the subjective component" of that research are folly. Equally interesting is the expansion of ethnographic research to include the researcher's motivations for pursuing the study, which does seem to remove some of my concern about the possibility of privileging the account of the researcher at the expense of "the whole story." I'm an English student, and I guess my concern is that an ethnography runs the risk of reading like a good novel.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Content Analysis

Reading through Luker this week, I was pleased to see the section on content analysis. Finally after all these weeks, I see something that is a little more familiar and relevant to my project. I have a background in humanities, English and French specifically, so while I understand the experiments and interviews, they aren’t concepts that I’ve dealt with in this capacity before. Content analysis is more similar to what I would do when analyzing a novel or poem in undergrad and likely will play a part in research I do in the future. It’s comforting to know that there are options other than face-to-face research, which is not my cup of tea.

I though it was interesting to note that Luker says that content analysis has “a long and honorable history,” but has “fallen somewhat into disuse these days” (187). Despite her claim that it”can be useful for making points that are difficult to make in other ways,” she only spends a little over two pages discussing it. Whereas she devotes 6+ pages to focus groups, app. 13 pages on interviews, and 11 pages on participant observation. Her lack of attention to content analysis seems to reflect its state of disuse.

Ack... the joys (?) of volunteering as a guinea pig...

And every time I think I've got everything organized... something else comes up.
Writing the proposal for last week helped - made?- me focus on something. But as I mentioned in class, it's ridiculously difficult to decide how much of the 'method' is important to flesh out in the actual proposal. The more I talk with various profs and other thesis students, the more I figure this section is actually sort of critical (and yes, I know it's silly to think it isn't, but so little focus lands here when you're explaining things to people that it's also easy to just... not... think... about... it). In speaking with one just-finished thesis student, I learned that she had a "thesis group" to bounce her methods ideas (and fine-tunings) off of all the way through. No wonder. The number of issues that must come up... I imagine that even in the best case scenario, the kinks that develop would be almost heart-stopping.
How indeed do I anticipate problems with a methodology that hasn't even been published as such yet?


This week I have decided to post a short summary of what I found most interesting about sampling. Like most topics in this course, I had underestimated the complexity of sampling. It seemed so simple ... grab some random people and off you go! Wrong... One aspect of sampling that I found most interesting came from the Luker reading for this past week (Ch. 6 p. 100). That is, undertaking a huge (think national) sample is very expensive. As we know from our SSHRC proposals, research is highly dependent upon grants. Therefore money is often limited. I thought it was interesting that many projects choose to use already existing data on populations. By doing this, the research is forced to take on whatever bias accompanies a specific organization's data. Luker gives a great example of a survey which was so outdated it had only three options for race: white, black and other. I will not be conducting research on this scale, but I think it is some food for thought. Choosing to use an organization's existing data would be a very difficult decision, because it will set the foundation for the rest of your research and could make or break your project. Will this bring into question the validity of your results or the neutrality of your position as a researcher?

Happy Sunday,

Ethnographic Profiling

I believe a few others voiced this opinion in a different context, but I agree nonetheless that this week's readings really helped put work in other courses into perspective. As most of us know all too well, assignment 2 in INF1001 (due last week) was to analyze Susan Leigh Star's article "The Ethnography of Infrastructure" (American Behavioral Scientist, 43.3 (1999): 377-391). One of the questions that seemed to be coming up frequently among other INF1001 students I spoke to was "ok, so what exactly IS the ethnography of infrastructure?" Indeed, in Star's article it is very difficult to tell what her methodology really is, despite the fact that she suggests that methodology is the focus of her entire paper. It was nice to have readings this week that looked at ethnography from different angles, and especially to read Luker's distinction between full-fledged ethnography on the one side and participant observer on the other, to actually get a sense of how ethnography can be carried out, and, more importantly, in relation to Star's article at least, what constitutes doing ethnography and what doesn't.

Don't Diss Research Methods!!!!

It took me a while to understand the purpose of taking Research Methods, however the more assignments I have to do for my other Information classes the more grateful I become for enrolling in INF1240. In my undergrad, I would always conduct my research using the same methods; mostly critically analyzing what other scholars had to say about my research topic. Luker's readings this week talked a lot of interviews and why they are helpful and how to properly conduct them. This was useful as for INF1300 I was required to interview someone who has never worked in a library. This was one of the toughest challenges as everyone I know has at some point in their lives worked in a library. The few people in my life that have not worked in libraries did not want to be interviewed as they think libraries to be "boring". This reminded me of why it is important to answer the "so what?" question. Luker mentions that interviewers need a "hook" and asking people to let me interview them because they are my friend and should therefore have a obligation to my library cause was not good enough. Finally, once someone agreed to be interviewed it was a difficult process as the person providing me with the information that I desperately needed seemed to have the 'upper hand'. I always believed that the interviewer would hold the power and this experience allowed me to see the interview power struggle in a different light, one that I would have never thought.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Peering through that Window

Please forgive my lack of updating for the last two weeks, but between thanksgiving and drowning in assignments this blog had completely slipped my mind.

I just finished interviewing my brother for an assignment in INF1300 (those in that class will know what I'm talking about). I found it to be an interesting experience. It was fun, but a little difficult. I found I kept trying to lead him into the answers I was looking for without even meaning too, because I wanted the data I was getting from him to fit the picture in my head of how I was going to construct my paper later on. Thankfully he is my brother and stated his opinion regardless of what I was trying (even unintentionally) to get him to say. However I began to think of how it might of gone if we hadn't been so familiar with each other. Would another person perhaps be more easily lead?
We briefly touched on in class (and with Knight) the issue of interviewees trying to anticipate what "right" answer the interviewer is looking for, thereby contaminating the data. At first I thought this to be a character weakness of the potential interviewee but now I think this has more with the interviewer and there unintentional fishing or leading. I'm also inclined to wonder how much might be portrayed not just by words but tone, facial expressions and body language, all those little ticks that happen that you don't contentiously notice but the other person might.
Since interviewing would be essential to my research topic, I wonder if it wouldn't be more prudent to get a third party to do the actual interviews rather than the person who has an emotional investment, so to speak, in the outcome of the data. Thereby reducing the possibility of data contamination?

The Search for Gold

This week’s required readings presented various research methods that we could incorporate into our SSHRC proposal (or for all future research). As I was doing the readings, as useful as they would be for the future, I failed to find numerous parallels with the methodology I chose to incorporate in my proposal (getting a little worried?). Nevertheless, something that suited my research question was documentary analysis. According to Knight, this method is entirely legitimate for a study and thus a paper can be based on these documents alone (104). Therefore, for my research paper, I intend to analyze a Toronto Public Library architecturally. In doing so, this can only be achieved by reviewing physical documents. Although, as Knight points out (107), various archives and thus documents are available online (which he is surprised that this form of research is not done more often-yet this method is was I mostly learned and utilized in my undergrad-am I a minority? Kind of hard to believe). Nevertheless, I am very sceptical (based on my initial research) that I can find all the documents I require (for ex. floor plans) electronically. Time for some digging…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


That is my identity as I conduct research for my proposal.

Luker explains in chapter 8 that being a member of the society you are researching introduces the problem of overlooking what the outside observer would find quite strange.

But Stebbins explains that' fitting in' means that the observer is prepared to write a scientific account of that social world. Failing to fit in results in a bad field study.

As an active YouTube user - How can I continue to 'fit in' with the YouTube society but at the same time maintain a distance that allows for proper ethnographic research?

Any suggestions? :(

Monday, October 18, 2010


I found it quite interesting, as I wrote my proposal this week, yet very difficult to propose a research question. As I was writing my paper I was tempted (and partly hoping) that I could just elaborate on my ideas into writing the full research paper instead of just writing a brief summary. Although I know that not everything is set in stone, there was this pressure to get the thesis idea right the first time.

An issue that Shawn previously posted about raised the dilemma of categorization of our proposals and the difficulty of writing about something that we not yet have started (i.e. in her case in the methodology section). This is something that I was similarly struggling with. How can you propose something if you have not fully researched your thesis extensively (as you would when your writing the research paper). As well, it seemed as if the stress associated with this proposal seems to resemble the emotions that I will be feeling with the final research assignment (maybe experiencing a déjà vu for when I will be writing the final paper?). Nevertheless, Ive given my thesis plenty of thought yet will this [my effort] ever be enough?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shirk def. 1. a. intr. To practise fraud or trickery, esp. instead of working as a means of living (OED)

Hi ladies,

Late as usual ...

I enjoyed reading your posts regarding the assignment. I too struggled with the concept of categories, but in the opposite way to Shawna - I know we come from similar academic backgrounds, so I can't really pull the "I was taught to write this way" card, but I always come at a task like this with the idea that making the argument seem organized is the job of the rhetoric, not a set of headlines. I don't think this attitude put me in a particularly good position this time.

What I'd really like to talk about in this post is an issue that Shawna and I are experiencing, and maybe others in this group are as well: the SSHRC eligibility requirement that states that those who already hold a Master's degree are ineligible for funding. Now, if you have a good argument for this regulation please post it, because I am truly puzzled. As my (likely soon-to-be) thesis advisor pointed out, the value of all post-secondary education is changing, and there is a rising trend of people going back to school for additional graduate degrees. Therefore, as time goes on SSHRC's seemingly arbitrary regulation will exclude more and more deserving (not necessarily speaking of myself) people from getting the funding they need. Both my advisor and, as he mentioned to me in conversation, our TA, are writing to SSHRC asking them to justify this regulation; I think those of us who are affected (or who simply want answers) should do the same. After identifying the right person to direct inquiries to, I will post the info for anyone interested in adding their voice.


As I worked on my proposal last week and this weekend I was reminded that I am the most indecisive person ever. Once I’ve decided what I want to research, the rest will go fairly smoothly, but actually nailing down a topic, is almost always the toughest part for me. Anytime I’ve had to do an extensive research project this has been the case--whether I have too many ideas or no ideas at all--it always proves difficult to pick a topic. I find it tough to figure out if I’m looking too broadly, too specifically or researching something that isn’t going to lead anywhere.

This time around, not only was it picking a topic, but like some others have mentioned, but talking about my proposed methods. While I know these aren’t set in stone, having to write them down makes me feel much more nervous about it. It’s tough to know if you’re picking the “right” methods. And for some reason, writing it down makes everything seem much more final.

Of course I did finally narrow things down, but the process of doing so, as usual proved difficult.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Question regarding proposals

How many categories are you guys throwing in there? I have two categories that divide "Background" (as in, what I've studied to place my research in context) and then "Research" (what I'm proposing to do). I feel like there might be some overlap in these. I find it funny that some of the studies Sara provided us with were category-heavy and others (like the disability one) had almost no categories at all.

I am a person who likes to CLASSIFY and ORGANIZE things (caps lock emphasizes my intense like for organizing stuff into headings). Plus I think it makes the whole proposal easier to read.

I initially made a post where I included both my sections from my proposal and asked for comments, and then deleted it for fear that I'd be plagiarizing myself if I handed it in on Monday but had already published it on the internet. (Cite it Right has confused me more than ever, it seems.)

My other huge problem is with the "methodology" section. Is it just me, or is it difficult to have anything other than a very broad "guess" at the methods that may be required to complete your research? I am so tempted to write in the "Methodology" section, "I am going to do research" and just be done with it. However, in the interest of not failing, I will not do that.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Funny that the issue is methodology...

This will be even less focused than everyone else's posts... sorry everyone. This is stream-of-consciousness at it's best/worst.

I think I'm in the same boat as Shawna-- I don't want to write my (hopefully somewhat more focused) question down because... sheesh... then it has been *written down*. Which changes it, somehow, from being my 'this is great!' idea to being open to people giving me that skeptical "what?" look... you know the one.

I'm struggling in trying to figure out what precisely to do with my methodology here. How detailed do we really need to be? And... what if it changes? What if I decide in a year- a month- a week- that the method I picked today really doesn't suit the project/question as much as I thought it would? Where do I go from there?

I guess... I don't want to write anything down "officially" because then it makes it final. And I don't feel I'm nearly ready for *that* step.
Maybe that's why this is a required project? To make us do something we'd otherwise dance around?

Monday, October 11, 2010


Hmm.. my brain registered today as the last day of the weekend ... aka what is normally a Sunday ... and that it was time to blog. Unfortunately, it is already the start of a new week. I propose to discuss something from the previous week anyway in order to get my thoughts out.

This past week I found the face-to-face research style very interesting. I know that in class we had a nice discussion over empathy vs. sympathy etc. when conducting interviews and it made me think of Knight Ch. 3. He states that the researcher/person conducting the interview has a large effect on the person being interviewed. For example, whether the interviewer is male or female can change how the person being interviewed reacts and answers them. Knight questions whether or not this is threatening the science behind the research. Of course, he also presents the alternate view. Is face-to-face inquiry so awesome because one can form a relationship with the subject and discover new information?

My opinion is that it really depends on the situation. As an example, my mind kept flashing back to the movie "Kinsey." In this movie Liam Neeson plays the role of Alfred Kinsey, a man studying human sexuality in the 1940s. One scene depicts Kinsey training his interviewers. They must practice keeping a straight face, and a professional attitude when asking people very personal questions about their sex life. I believe the point of this attitude was to make people feel like the research was for science, and that it was not going to be attributed to them in any way. Therefore, they could say the truth without shame. One might think, however, that because it is such a sensitive topic you should try to gain the subjects' trust rather than remain aloof and scientific. Face-to-face seems to be very tricky, but I think that it is a great way to gain valuable insight into research.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

In looking at some of the SSHRC Proposal examples, it was brought home to me how specific one should be in outlining one's intended research methods (this may have been a topic of conversation during class in week 4, but I was unable to attend - sorry if I am treading beaten ground). At the same time, Knight's detailed description of the sorts of inquiry methods one can undertake with human subjects allowed me to think about the ways in which I might be able to structure my own research. At face value, my research interest is mainly in discovering the potentials of developing software applications for use in a specific field of study; during my last post, I pictured my research in this area to focus mainly on the digital resources already available and to draw conclusions about areas for development/improvement, but now, and especially in light of discussion in INF 1003 (Information Systems, Services and Design) about the importance of consultation in the development stage of an information system, I realize that I will need to also come up with a more comprehensive strategy, employing one or more face-to-face inquiry methods, for discovering how researchers in the specific field of study I am attempting to develop resources for might use the tools I hope to create.

Looking into the Abyss

[Apologies for the lateness of the following entry, which relates to material from week 3]

Luker's very honest examination of the difference between a research interest and a research question touches a few nerves with me (and I'm sure I'm not alone). It is difficult, especially at this early stage in the course of my studies in information, to face the gulf between keen enthusiasm coupled with a growing cache of background knowledge, and a clearly-defined set of goals that are simultaneously comprehensive and achievable. I also find it somewhat difficult to associate my particular case, which has the long-term goal of developing new digital research-tool applications, with the sort of inquiry Luker describes, which almost exclusively has as its goal the development of a theory about the ways some phenomenon that already exists in the world operates. The discrepancy made me realize that as I develop my research topic, I can benefit greatly from developing clearly-defined avenues of inquiry into how applications similar to the ones I intend to develop have either succeeded or failed, and, as an adjunct, examining the similarities and differences between pre-existing projects and my own intended one both as a means of clarifying the parameters of my project for myself and creating a "pitch" to convince others that it is a project worth developing.

Using theory as a starting point...

I've just had time to reread the research proposal last week. I'm automatically drawn to anything that uses theory as a starting point, so I was hooked by the Haraway. However, what made the research proposal successful, I thought, was branching from theory into something more concrete -- and personal -- to the author. The fact that the introduction alone makes reference to 7 authors (or author teams) (not including Haraway) shows that the student has a strong background in the subject, yet clearly recognizes where his or her research is needed.

I like the way s/he uses uses cyborg theory as a jumping-off point for discussing disability studies. I do find that in my own research proposal (which I will write about soon, I promise, but I am a bit nervous about putting it in print for all to see -- feels so final!) I've started with some theory and used it to jump into a topic which is kind of evolving as I study it.

I often feel like I should be writing more, but as usual I've exhausted the word limit so I'll quit rambling and let someone else have a turn.

Knight and Focus Groups

After reading Knight's article for this week, I was very surprised by his comments regrading in his view the limited benefit of focus groups in research. I feel that he discourages students from using this method although it could be useful for some. I know first-hand that some large consumer companies have used focus groups to further conduct their research and often compensate individuals huge sums of money for their participation. In my experience in a focus group, there were a variety of questions; some were open-ended and some were simply yes or no. My focus group did not go "off track" as we were all there to discuses the product. I think Knight should have over all been more open about focus groups and he was us to keep an open mind for other methods of research.

Talking it out

Luker never lets me down. This past week I was worrying (like so many others) about my research proposal. Then, just when I needed it, appeared "Appendix One" - "What to do if you don't have a case." (229). It just so happens, I don't have a case :( In the appendix, Luker suggested talking out your ideas. We also did this in class, and I felt like I would have liked more time. So, I spent a lot of time this week talking to my family, asking for their thoughts and opinions. I find this really helps develop ideas! I think my biggest mistake was that I didn't write the ideas down right away. Since these conversations emerged out of inquiries into my homework situation or over dinner etc. I wasn't prepared with writing materials. Now when I think back to television shows where people recorded their thoughts, like Scully on the X-files, I think ... hey, maybe they were on to something ... I will definitely spend more time talking to my family and friends about my research ideas. Hopefully it will help me develop a great research topic.

Of Cyborgs, Transhumanism and my own Questions

I found this proposal to be extremely impressive, her wealth of knowledge on the subject is evident from her citations as well as her preliminary studies in her undergraduate work. It’s interesting to see how she takes her primary interest of cybernetics and turns it into a question on accessibility and power. I do wonder about her bias given that it is such a personal topic for her. I think it would give the whole paper an interesting perspective but I’m not sure if it would enhance or diminish her findings. I suppose I would depend on how she chooses to approach it.

It makes me wonder about my own choice of research topic. Admittedly issues of gender and equality are personal for me in that I suppose I do live through them, but so does everybody else and I rarely think of my own life/reality in those terms all the time. I wonder how this will affect my bias?

Anyway, I think I have my research question now it’ll probably get tweaked again but I think this will be the gist of it.

“Will the increasing use of technologies, like computers, in classrooms and professional settings, specifically in the information sector, help in breaking down the gender barrier?”

Okay that’s a bit too wordy but you can see where I’m going with it right?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

SSHRC Proposal Conclusions

The SSHRC proposal that I looked at in class last week focused on bibliographic metadata. We outlined the proposal as containing six steps:

1. Who am I? What is my program?

2. Broad subject of research, general area

3. Introducing key researchers and research areas, more specific, including goals

4. Methodology and research questions

5. Who cares? Practical uses for research

6. Conclusion, summary

These steps make sense to me and allowed me to see the importance of starting broadly and becoming more specific as the proposal progresses. While doing this, it seems important to call attention to the importance of your research throughout. I think the way the author did this in his/her proposal was particularly strong, particularly reinforcing the necessity of his/her research in the conclusion, so as to leave the reader considering the necessity of this research. I have a better idea of the information that needs to be included in a SSHRC proposal, now I just have to have a more concrete research question.