Opening up old files & a new research question via the whiteboard

I am getting into the part of the M/M chapter where I describe my research process. In one way this is fun because I’m getting to write about something I have done rather than theory theory theory which gets intellectually exhausting (for me, anyway). I am revisiting the initial analysis of my data that I did about a year and a half ago which is a whole other challenge. Sometimes it’s wonderful, like when I find a document of lucid description and organized data that I didn’t know I had (this is like finding $20 in a jacket pocket or old purse!). At other times it’s really frustrating, like when I find a document with a promising title, ‘Initial Analysis’ for instance, only to find that it is empty, save for a title and a few half-arsed notes. A good part of what I’ve been doing this week is digging through all this stuff and collating the good notes. I actually have quite a lot which is nice! I did a pretty thorough coding before I went on Mat. leave and now it is time to document it and start putting together the tools for the detailed analysis. Oh, and I have a deadline of next Thursday to submit a draft of the chapter. Yikes. It is definitely time to clear out those files and to develop an easy file naming system. I have put it on the to-do list.

I have also continued to use the whiteboard and I have an idea for how it can play a specific and useful role. Yesterday, I used it to rethink my research question a bit. I wrote out the existing question (‘How do bloggers assess and understand value in blogs and blogging practices’) at the top of the board and then really focused on thinking about whether it asked what I am really asking of my data. It may sound silly, but the question has always bugged me, and I haven’t been able to clearly delineate my sub-questions. I ended up switching out my question word from ‘How’ to ‘What’. This shifts the focus from a process of meaning making to my interpretation of the meaning itself. It helps with defining the methods. I also found that, after I had made that change, the sub-questions popped out really easily. My research question now is ‘What is it that bloggers value in blog texts and practices?’ and my sub-questions are: a) Is this contested? How? and b)Is this contextual? How? I’ll see how it goes over with my supervisor but I’m happy with it.

My whiteboarding yesterday was  so successful that today (while Z was napping and R occupied with building another Lego house (her ‘houses’ are quite mausoleum-like) for her favourite pony) I put the new question at the top of the board and then began to organize the steps of the thematic analysis leading into the discourse analysis for my methods section. This helped to focus me and I sat down and drafted the section quite quickly. So, my idea is to commit to updating the whiteboard every day. If I do nothing else I will wipe and re-write the whiteboard each day, moving my project forward one board at a time. Let’s hope that it can help me get to some semblance of a draft by next week!

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