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What examiners like in a qualitative thesis & how software can help us deliver it . Helen Marshall Strategies in Qualitative Research Conference2006. Research question. what are the implicit rules examiners apply as they determine whether a qualitative research thesis counts as good enough?.
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What examiners like in a qualitative thesis & how software can help us deliver it Helen Marshall Strategies in Qualitative Research Conference2006
Research question what are the implicit rules examiners apply as they determine whether a qualitative research thesis counts as good enough?
Literature suggests: • We know little about how examiners think • They want to pass candidates • They are very concerned about communication. • Methodology may be an indirect concern
Tapping examiners’ opinions • In 2002-3, participants sought from two email lists, 30 emails to individuals and soliciting within RMIT • 4 examiners from the lists (RL participants), + 4 from individual invitations, (PI participants) + 3 = 11 examiners • 38 codes eventually collapsed into three trees and a model. • A small number of responses skewed to one institution , but a useful cross section of experienced examiners.
What examiners like • The basic elements are good analysis, good writing and coherence. • They are linked in complex ways
Data don’t just sit there • Interviewee 1 wants to see how the researcher sought for meaning in the data • Interviewee 2 wants subtlety and commentary not simply great slabs of data • Interviewee 3: candidates should abstract from the data while respecting it. • I get excited by people turning something on its head and looking at it in a really new way (RL 3)
Good analysis is reflective:1 • Good researchers are reflective …Readings are always tenuous amorphous & dynamic & good researchers step beyond their own reading... To be valid the interpretation must be justified reflexively. (Interviewee 3) • attempts to unearth different perspectives; recognition of author's own perspective and how this has influenced the way the thesis has been approached, the analysis and the writing up; (RL 3) • balance between respecting respondents’ narratives and chopping them up for analysis (interviewee 1)
‘Sensitive’ = ‘reflective’. Deviant cases suggest reflection • I must see some evidence that there were some instances or cases that (at least when first noted) did not fit or were a problem. These "contrary cases" need to be treated to a cognitive and data based evaluation. If there are questions "left over", that is fine; they simply have to be dealt with in some logical manner.(RL4) • while I am alert to implicit discontinuities, I look for the candidate to be so self-aware that the links are explicit. (PI 1) • Candidates must ‘think what they do’ and communicate what they think.
Good writing • ‘good read’ means an authentic voice, Goodresearch has an assuredness …coming from intensive involvement and the researcher feeling ‘you KNOW’. (Interview 2) • They have injected their own narrative so you have a sense of them not just representing literature and data but actively creating their own story.(Interview 1)
Good writing: presentation • Probably because I am a grounded theory devotee', I like to see visual representation of the data...diagrams, pictures, etc. To me these are more evidence that the student has done the "cognitive work" involved in a qualitative research project. (RL 4)
Coherence -Well theorised and well supported • insights should be picked up and integrated into the theoretical debates (RL1) • I want to see the relationship between the analysis and the conclusions of the research. I make a distinction between data and evidence. Only some data is evidence for the conclusions. I want to see how the analysis led tothe conclusions. (PI) • What is being analysed? Is there plenty of evidence that the data is …on target as far as answering the question posed…. I then look for clear evidence that the ideas presented are in fact "grounded" in the data. (RL 4)
Methodological coherence • What is the researcher trying to find out about and in what form? I then look at the research method used and think about the appropriateness from my knowledge of the method. I am looking for a match between the kinds of issues being investigated and the characteristics of the method being used…Next I look for evidence that what the researcher has actually done is consistent with their theoretical description of their method. (PI1) • the main problems associated with qualitative analysis need to be identified; whether qualitative data is to be quantified or not (and connection back to approach and research strategy) (PI 2)
Overall coherence • On reflection, I guess coherence across goals, espoused method, method in practice, analysis, outcomes and impact on knowledge field is uppermost in my mind.(PI 1) • Good theses often have less clear distinction between data and theory than poor ones so they are good narratives…makesthe thesis more readable and links are clearer. Good theses contain a lot of the student’s own voice. (Interviewee 1)
How can software help? • Software helps us report in how we ‘think what we do’ (via memos, models, audit trails, screenshots). • Write within your project (As a memo if necessary). • Zoom between data and theory within the project (quick checks, searching, using your coded literature). • When writing zoom in on the paragraph at hand with data (nodes/ searches?), then out to the chapter structure (models?) N7 all in the project. NVIVO2 export your model to word.
Examiners want: • Analysis not mere description • Showing your workings • A good story in an authentic voice • A coherent thesis • Examiners want to pass you, and sensible use of software can help them do so!