Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the category “Thesis countdown”

Week 0 – Wrapping it up!

Today’s post is brief because I’m literally counting away the hours before must have everything written by this Friday, January 19th. After that, I work on the little details — table of contents, formatting, cross-checking consistencies, and small revisions from people who have been kind enough to review parts of my chapters for me. I finish all the writing this week, then will release these chapters for further comment, since I want to ensure the integrity of my work.

I have my very last chapter to write this week. Once that is finished, I know that graduation will finally be on the horizon!

Adopting a saying from my dear friend Marcy, “It takes forever, then you’re done.”

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My One New Year’s Resolution

While 2018 brings new promise, and a rebirth of old meshed with new, I continue to chip away at this thesis until it is finished.

At this point, it feels as if I’m lost in the deep woods, and I will emerge when the work is done. I’ve grown quiet, which is not an unusual practice for me in the winter, but unlike my normal pattern where my work blooms in the spring, I only have one month left to complete this monstrous task ahead.

In the past week, I have continued to type sections of my thesis. It is perhaps, a more arduous task for me because I am very particular about detail and clarity. Also, the Builder’s Brewery community holds me to a higher standard — my work must be rigorous and accurately reflect the views of my participants.

I learned something very valuable this week, though, in that I am blessed with the ability to go back to the Builder’s Brewery community when I need help! Two nights ago, I was stuck on trying to explain the common phenomena known as lag in my thesis. It bothered me that I did not know enough of the technical terminology to write about it. So, I hopped into Second Life, and asked the folks at the Builder’s Brewery. By the time I left, I knew so much more and felt far more confident about writing that section, because of everyone’s help that evening.

This week, I continue to write, knowing that each day and each hour is even more precious as that timeline nears. My dissertation has moved from the (expected) 150 pages to being over 230 and growing. In part, this is because of my attention to detail and rigor.

What’s funny is that for the first time in many years, I approach 2018 without a list of resolutions. Instead, I have focused intently on just one: Finish writing the thesis in January 2018.

Staying Grounded

We connect the dots better in our brain with things that we might think are silly or insignificant at the time, but we really don’t realize it until we see what other people have created with the same techniques. Then it opens our minds to other possibilities.
~Sen Maximus

This week has been dedicated to being fully immersed in my data and building upon the credibility of my research. While my data collection nearing completion, I must be meticulous about the trustworthiness of my study. Unlike quantitative studies which rely on statistical analysis in order for data to be valid, qualitative studies ensure rigor, or what’s called trustworthiness, through ensuring credibility, dependability, and transferability (see Bloomberg & Volpe, 2008; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; and Marshall & Rossman, 2016). Credibility refers to how well a researcher’s interpretations match and parallel their participants’ reflections.

In order for my work to be credible, I member check my findings. This means that I go back to the people that I’ve directly quoted and/or interviewed to make sure what I’ve used is an accurate and complete account of their thoughts and experiences. I interviewed eleven key informants from the Builder’s Brewery community. In order to member check my work, I sent each person a copy of the transcripts from their interview, as well as the excerpt out of my thesis on what I had written about them. Each person will have an opportunity to read, comment, and add or correct my data to make sure that what I’ve studied is accurate and true to what they’ve shared. This process takes a bit of time, because every transcript must be numbered by blocks of quotes so my informants can easily comment on my work. However, it’s very important to my study that the information in my data is accurate and also that I have their permission to quote the things that they’ve shared with me.

Another thing I am doing this week is processing my survey data. I will be sharing some of the findings from my work to the BB community and again, open a line of communication for people to comment and respond. Although my data collection is nearly complete, I want to make sure that I haven’t overlooked something glaringly important. I could not do any of this research without the help and support of the Builder’s Brewery community, which is why I feel that they should be involved as much as possible in this process. Besides, I’m really excited to share and give back to the community!

In addition to sharing parts of my data this week, I’m also comparing and connecting the work from my theory building with other learning theories that have been used with past research. It’s important that I build off of the work that has already been done while I figure out just exactly where my intellectual contribution will be. So for this week, instead of focusing on the rewrite of one chapter, I’ve focused my efforts on working the completion of Chapters 5, 6, and 7!

Literature cited:
Bloomberg, L.D., & Volpe, M. (2015) Completing your qualitative dissertation: A roadmap from beginning to end. Los Angeles, NY: SAGE Publications.

Lincoln, Y.S., & Guba, E.G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G.B. (2016). Designing qualitative research. (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Dissertation updates and other things

I’m sure there are people who have been following my work are wondering where I’m at now, with my dissertation writing. These past few weeks have been extremely busy for me as I focus on making the deadlines for graduation in May.

As of today, I’ve written Chapters 1-6 of the 7 chapters of my dissertation. I need to wait until I’ve completed the formation of my theory, which makes up Ch. 5-6 before I can finally write about Ch. 7. Every chapter undergoes several revisions before they are good enough to submit to my committee. Right now, I’ve finished the first draft versions of Ch. 1-3, 5, and 6. I’ve completed the second draft revision of Ch. 4.

So, what’s next on my docket right now is working on the second draft revisions for Ch.s 5-6. Both of these chapters summarize my findings and learning theory, and there are a lot of holes I have to account for in them. My theory constructs are still very tentative, so now, I must work on making them more concrete and grounded into the data. This week, I dive back into the data, with a focus on:

  • Developing themes from my interviews
  • Member-checking with members of the BB community by making sure that my observations and interpretations are accurate with my key informants
  • Polishing up my code book
  • Developing definitive constructs for my theory
  • Summarizing the findings from my survey

Right now, it feels like I’m on a treadmill, and I just have to keep running to make things in time. Apologies if I haven’t surfaced in a while, but rest assured, that I’ll be sharing bits of my data in the next few months!

Wishing everyone happy holiday productivity!

 

Week 4 – Presentations, Proposals, and Conferences, Oh MY!

My apologies for not being able to keep up with my blog posts! With November 30th looming closer on the horizon, I feel like my work is funneling down, and I’ve had to quicken my pace just to keep up!

Last week was the first of many presentations that I am doing on the learning model derived from my dissertation study. As a hybrid between the folks at the University of Rochester’s Learning in the Digital Age (LiDA) community and a Zoom session with over 25 people from the Builder’s Brewery community in Second Life, it was an amazing collaborative experience! I walked away with many ideas as I continue to clarify my language, strengthen my arguments with evidence, and make modifications to my model. The exciting thing is that so far, it seems that I’m pretty much on target with what people are saying, and that my interpretations are in agreement with what people perceive. This is imperative for the qualitative work that I am doing!!!

This week, I’m completing the final edits to a manuscript (accepted for publication!) from my previous work with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s COMETs program. I’m also submitting two (of four intended) conference proposals about the findings from my dissertation. Additionally, I have one more full chapter to work on (yikes, it’s the big finale chapter!) before going back to do total revisions. So far, things look good, but it’s always going to be a scramble to get everything written in time!

Hopefully, I’ll be at a point where these updates come more often.

Hope you are having a wonderful week!

LiDA talk

Week 9 – Thesis Countdown

One of my mentors in Second Life, Jadyn Firehawk, told me that my dissertation work was like a braided river. You have rivulets and streams — places where water trickles to dry, but when you look at the big picture, the river continues to move. She said that this was like the dissertation process in that we cannot cover the entire river bed at one time. Instead, you must choose which rivulets to run, and continue to progress forward.

As I work on the analysis and writing part of my dissertation, I find that I must spend less time in Second Life. While data collection is interesting and fascinating, and there are so many people I feel I should talk to and connect with, my work would be meaningless unless I graduated.

This week, I have continued to work on the different places and practices found at the Builder’s Brewery. In order to do so, I have woven together data collected from photographs, memos, survey responses, and interview responses to paint a picture of the Brewery and what people do there. It is a very slow process, because I may have to analyze long stretches of data several times to pull out the different patterns from it. However, each pass through my data forces me to become more familiar with it, and what it tells me.

I must submit Chapter 5, my findings chapter on the Brewery’s site descriptions and practices, on Tuesday. Afterward, I must do the heavy lifting of making sense of the learning theory that I have developed based on my findings. This week, I will also begin the process of member-checking — sharing parts of my written thesis with community members to ensure that I have accurately represented and described what I have found.

I have 61 days before the full dissertation draft is due.

 

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Photo Credit: Sam Beebe

 

Week 10 – Thesis Countdown

I turned in the first draft of Chapter 3 to a classmate of mine, as well as my advisor. Chapter 3 details the methods of my study. This week, I’ve focused on writing out a strategic plan for how I will complete my dissertation as well as accomplish some of my personal goals for the year. It seems that I’ve been investing a lot of time planning, as of late, and for good reason. When I think of the entire dissertation process (the writing of eight chapters), it’s very intimidating. The more I plan and write out the details of how I intend to finish, the calmer I feel. A friend told me once, that you cannot eat an entire whale at one sitting. Instead, we must consume it slowly, one little bite at a time. It take a bit of planning to figure out where to bite next!

By Monday, my next bite will be into Chapter 4, where I talk about my research site. I’m looking forward to writing this chapter, because it details the rich history of my site, its culture, and its people. I’m using documents collected from the site, the web, as well as personal accounts to construct my story. This will be my first attempt at answering my research question: What forms of learning emerge through the practices found at the Builder’s Brewery?

This week, I begin to tell the story about the Builder’s Brewery to the world. Believe me, this is not a story that you will want to miss!

 

BB - Sim 1

Photo credits: Sen Maximus

 

Week 11 Thesis Countdown

Last week, I’ve interviewed over ten community members from my research site! Although I may need to do a few more interviews, this week is dedicated to writing the methods chapter of my thesis, parts of my findings chapter, and the theoretic analysis of my interviews.

The process of analyzing interviews can be rather slow. First, I contact people to see if they are interested in interviewing with me — these have been people who have offered to interview, or they are people who indicated on my learning survey that they’d be willing to interview. In order to select people, I do what is called purposeful sampling. In other words, I find people whose particular experiences (or lack of experiences) can help me understand particular questions that I have about the model I am developing.

Unlike research that we are used to (such as the physical sciences), qualitative research is about understanding how people define things on their own terms. Thus, even a simple term like “learning” may mean different things to different people. My interviews are to get at what people come to understand as “learning,” and how they learn at the Builder’s Brewery.

Once I’ve contacted people, and they have given me consent to interview them, I conduct a 1.5-2 hour interview. To help prepare my interviewees, I give my interviewees example questions ahead of time so that they know the things that I’ll be asking about. These interviews are recorded, while I’m also taking down notes about what they say. Afterward, I go back to the recording and transcribe the interview, so that I can pay attention to the exact words that participants use. These words and terms make-up the skeleton for my model.

Once I have the transcript and my notes, I code them. What this means is that I break up the interview into blocks, where each block signifies some code, or refers to a certain experience. I may have to go through transcriptions several times like this, because each time I go through a transcription, I may see different things.

Afterward, I put all my interviews side-by-side, and look for overarching themes and commonalities as well as differences. These get recorded, too, as thematic codes. This is what goes into my learning model.

Week 12 – Thesis Countdown

I’ve been busy these past two weeks with interviews and survey analysis! So far, I have interviewed six people from my community, and intend to interview a few more.

A few people have asked me about my research, and I’ve noticed that many people do not have a good understanding of the grounded theory methodology that I use. This methodology is very different from traditional research methods, in that I’m using an abductive process to create a theory of learning from the data that I’ve collected. Unlike the tradition of designing quantitative experiments and testing hypotheses, the theory-building process in my methodology is entirely qualitative, and is not based on experimentation or statistical significance. Instead, I collect data from a variety of sources, such as observations, participation, and interviews, to interpret and find patterns within these data to try and understand individual learning experiences. These patterns are then tested for trustworthiness by member-checking, and a process called triangulation (seeing whether these patterns hold across multiple time points, data sources, conditions, and situations).

This week, I will be analyzing my interviews thematically — I look at what all my interviews have in common, and also where they differ. By analyzing these data thematically, I can then compare it to my survey data to see whether these patterns hold true for everyone, or whether these are unique instances for individual people.

Also for this week, I’ll be doing a few more classroom observations, as well as continue teaching at my site.

 

Week 14 – Thesis Countdown

Although I am still collecting data from my research site, I’ve started to think about how to organize and write my thesis. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my blog, I have been doing research in Second Life for my thesis since April.

My data collection has three different phases:

  • Phase I – included detailed observations and field notes of classes, events, and chat logs from my site. In this phase, the intent was to understand the site, the community, and the activities that were happening at this institution in Second Life. I then began to develop a coding scheme to analyze my data and to develop a learning model from my analysis.
  • Phase II – I am currently in phase II of data collection, which includes surveys on what people do, and how they learn in Second Life, as well as detailed interviews with community members. During this time, I’ve started to interview different people within my community to understand their experiences and perspectives. These data are also coded, but with the intent to further develop my learning model and to refine the patterns that I am seeing. At this stage, I’m also testing for variations in my data, exceptions, and alternative explanations. In other words, my data collection and analysis is intended to further develop and test the validity of my learning model.
  • Phase III – Next month, I will be in the final phase of data collection. During this time, I will be rigorously testing my model, and deliberately looking for instances where perhaps my model does not hold up. I’ll also start the member-checking process – whereby, I will share my findings and observations with community members to see whether what I have learned and observed is an accurate representation of their learning experiences.

During my current, Phase II, of data collection, I’ve conducted three interviews. I’ll continue to contact interview people throughout the month. At the same time, I’ll be analyzing the transcriptions that I gather from these data, and comparing them with and against my survey data as well as data from Phase I!

As far as the big picture… there are 96 more days left before my November 30th deadline to get my first dissertation draft completed. That leaves me with 14 weeks left, and my goal this week is to write a draft of Chapter 4, which is the methods chapter of my thesis.

 

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Bloomberg, L.D., & Volpe, M. (2016). Completing your qualitative dissertation (3rd ed). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE

 

 

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