Week 7: Guest lecture

Guest lecturer: Glenn Donnar

1. Finding the research topic:
• Look to your world (personal, work, cultural, social, own interests)
• Look for interesting intersections between those areas
• Think about relevance and significance, i.e. research area needs to provide a good answer!
• Does it matter?
• Can I demonstrate it?
• Is it ‘do-able’?

2. Main ideas:
• Refine your topic OR make it smaller! Most research topics are too broad – never be afraid of refining it further! This is how you find the gap!
• You will hate your project at times, but that’s okay. But still, choose carefully – something you’re interested in and that has relevance to you and the research field.
• Your topic will develop and change over time. So will your research question. It will only really be finalised in the final semester when you begin completing the project.
• Work with what’s most important.

• Use your annotated bibliography to work your way around the area.
• Keep testing/refining your own knowledge of the research. Keep testing/keep refining/keep reading into the area.
• When reading deeper into area, the gap will come to you!
• The ‘maybe topic’: i.e. “I don’t think anyone’s tested it in THAT context”… “How is the area already changing/what can be done in the future?”

3. How to develop research questions:
• Glenn’s example: Australian media responses to Madrid train bombing/how could free press change its position so quickly… etc.
• The more information you have/read, the more help this is to finding a niche/gap.
• You need to provide critical stance to others’ work (literature review). If this is too hard, look at opposing work and see how this helps!

4. Key questions:
• Can you do your project in the time given?
• Can you access the resources?
• Can you answer the question?
• How will you answer it?
• Is it significant? Does it matter? Who will it matter to?
• It is too broad? How can I refine it?

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Social media statistics (Australia)

As part of my research for the annotated bibliography, I’ve come across this post on www.socialmedianews.com.au, detailing the uses of social media in Australia (January, 2011).

The stats are measured in terms of UAVs (unique Australian visitors per month).

The top 5 social media networks include:

• Facebook (9.8 million)
• Youtube (6.7 million)
• Blogspot (2.2 million)
• Twitter (1 million)
• WordPress (920,000)

The writer also noted the following:
• Facebook’s figures are roughly the same each month
• Twitter is usually around the 1 million mark
• Myspace is in a steady decline – it came in at no. 7 on the list, with 630,000 visitors each month.

Facebook taking the top spot was more than likely, but I was surprised that Twitter, although in the fourth spot, only gets 1 million visitors per month.

WEEK 6: Housekeeping, Guidelines for the Literature Review

Guidelines for the Literature Review:

What is it?
A comprehensive review of relevant scholarly material, a process of synthesis and critique.
• journal articles
• books, book chapter
• conference proceedings, papers
• dissertations
• collect, describe, evaluate
• identify connections, gaps
• 2000 words, 10-15 references

What isn’t it?
• a listing of all your references
• a chronological summary of every study undertaken in your area

Once you have all your ideas, you can contrast or link ideas which support the same argument. When you look at your concepts, you’ll find that some are connected and some aren’t. The ‘opposite’ arguments are extremely important for the literature review.

You must not just use articles which support your argument!

You need to know all the arguments – the ‘for’ and the ‘against’.

Why write a literature review:

• reveal gaps in organised knowledge in an area
• a way to demonstrate how you might add to/build upon previous research
• help identify major theories in the area
• ensure that no important variable is ignored
• sets up ‘departure point’ for project
• helps to establish and identify the degree/perception of relevance toward the research question
• helps you formulate a clear, precise research question
• offers evidence to readers that you are knowledgeable in the area, i.e. You’re a credible source!

How to write it?

• what kind of claims does it make?
• are these claims supportable in terms of the material analysed or offered as evidence?
• how does the author frame the distinctiveness of their study?
• what ‘assumptions’, if any, underpin the study?
• what type of research paradigm is the researcher working within?

Strategies:

• identify your key terms
• start with the most recent material and work backwards
• check the abstract first (if available) and see if it’s relevant
• keep records of what you cover (full citation)

Actually writing it:

• the funnel structure – begins with broad overview then gradually narrows down toward a tight conclusion.
• broad opening/introduction that indicates the context of the review (general scope, basic organisation or sequence)
• provides clear, logical account of relevant work in area
• tries to identify/group themes
• identifies unexplored ground
• has a conclusion which precisely identifies the major findings, i.e. gaps, flaws, positions taken

What NOT to do!
• don’t simply describe the research you are reviewing
• don’t present descriptions of one piece of research after another, i.e. Smith argued that… Jones argued that… not pasting annotated references into review
• you need a theme, i.e. Several scholars have argued that social media has… (then cite specific studies)
• don’t present all the relevant studies in a chronological manner
• don’t try to include all the literature on the broader topic. Make sure you evaluate what’s relevant!

Useful advice (Salkind, 2000):
• falling in love with an idea can be fatal
• sticking with the first idea isn’t always wise
• avoid doing something trivial (tricky to determine)
• don’t bite off more than you can chew
• remember that a research project is always a conversation between you and other researchers in the field

Week 6 Reading: ‘Exploring Research’

Salkind, Neil D. Exploring Research, p. 49-51. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall: 2000.

This text looks at the two main elements of research:
• selecting a problem (i.e. one you are genuinely interested in)
• defining your interests (i.e. don’t disregard your experiences)

Salkind raises several points, one of which is the reason students choose to enter the research field – to add to their discipline, to examine their own interests or to broaden career perspectives. But the crux of the text appears to focus on the need to choose a research topic which is of interest to the researcher, as this will ensure a smooth process as the project unfolds.

Other points to consider:

– the first idea you have isn’t necessarily that great.
– don’t be too ambitious (e.g. asking every single person in a state for an opinion on a topic).
– don’t do something that’s already been done, as this will only waste your time.
– personal experience/firsthand knowledge may be the beginnings of a research project.
– use ideas from your mentor/thesis advisor, to make sure you remain relevant (also increases access to info from the field).
– see if you can look at what’s next (i.e. variations of this question have been answered, but what’s the next step?)

Further research: news/social media

Articles from Pew Research Centre:

Blogs as digital memorial service (bloggers mourn Elizabeth Taylor).
• Prominence of Japan earthquake/tsunami story on social networks.
Twitter responses to Japan’s disaster.
Blogs in sync with mainstream media.

Other:

Corporations concerned, use of social media. (Source: www.theage.com.au)
• Newspapers and social media use (Source: www.gigaom.com)

Annotated biblography: preparation + research

I’ve spent the morning in the library trying to find resources for the annotated bibliography. Somewhat of a battle finding the actual books (thank-you, lovely people who move books around and make my life difficult)… but generally successful.

I’ve found four sources which I can begin to work from, ranging from texts on youth and new media to public/citizen journalism.

• One which will be particularly useful to my research is ‘Mobile Social Networking and the News’ (Forlano, 2010). Although I haven’t yet read the text in its entirety, I’ve skimmed through it and understand it to be a discussion of mainstream media integrating social networking and micro-blogging tools (mainly Facebook and Twitter). Forlano discusses the merge from one-way communication to a two-way interactive model, analysing the use of online media in everyday life (i.e. changing news consumption rituals).

With particular relevance to my research, she discusses the presentation of news on social networking channels – how this works and how its reintegrated with mainstream media broadcasts.

Week 5: Notes on Assessment, Research Models

In tonight’s lecture, Paul provided a detailed outline of the annotated bibliography assessment and developed a research model using a Second Life doco about male restroom etiquette. We were also given an insight into his own thesis and how we used the framework process.

First, the annotated bibliography…

Why do we write an annotated bibliography?
• to demonstrate the quality and depth of your research sources.
• to provide you practice in evaluating your references.
• to organise useful sources for your research (and eliminate those that are not useful or related).
• to help you hone in on your research topic/question.
• to be proficient in the Harvard referencing style.

What’s the difference between a regular bibliography and an annotated bibliography?
• a regular bibliography involves a list of sources
• an annotated bibliography includes an overview and critical evaluation of the book/article, written in full sentences, includes assessment of usefulness.
• these should all be scholarly references (i.e. no magazine articles or blogs!)

What does it involve?
• 8-10 annotated references, 200 words each!

What must it include? (Try to put as much of this into 200 words.)
• bibliographic citation (Harvard style).
• background of the author(s) – e.g. what discipline, “Cultural theorist, Sinclair outlines…”
• content or scope of the text (its place in the wider scope of research).
• main/key argument.
• intended audience.
• research method (if applicable).
• the conclusions made, if any.

How will it be graded?
• how the text adds to the research field.
• relevance or usefulness of text to your research.
• if the info is logical, well researched.
• if it is broad and balanced.

A sample can be found at: http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/annotated_bib.html
Reference them in this order:
1. Citation
2. Introduction
3. Aims and research methods
4. Scope
5. Usefulness to your research topic
6. Limitations
7. Conclusions
8. Reflections (explain how this works helps/fits with your research)

Developing models (three levels):
• theoretical – big ideas out there, everyone’s talking about it, i.e. what are some of the big theories about globalisation?
• conceptual – identifying all your terms, i.e. use of blogging to construct identity – how is it constructed, what are the social forces, how do people do this themselves, what is an institution, what is agency, what is blogging?
• operational – now that you understand the big questions, how does this affect the way you’re going to approach the question, how does this influence my method?

Example: “What can humour say about the crisis of masculinity?’ – The case of ‘Male Restroom Etiquette’



Theoretical framework:

• ideas, debates, schools of thought
• issues of violence
• theories of masculinity – gender studies, queer studies
• cultural literacy
• behavioural studies – norms, etiquette, appropriate behaviours
• humour – what makes something funny? Why do we use it – to make a point?

Conceptual framework:

• definitions, points of interest, things that need exploration
• crisis, etiquette, masculinity, humour – again, what makes something funny?
• concepts that are involved in your particular case, i.e. YouTube, video production, video humour, animation

Operational framework:
• ideas about approaching the subject
• tools that you’ll use – what will you be engaging with, what methods do you employ?
• audience research – did you find it funny, was it accurate, what do you think about masculinity?
• textual analysis – how do people glean information from a text, what in this video is actually funny/why/what is it about our understandings of masculinity that makes if funny? “It’s funny because it’s true”? – points to the ‘elephant in the room’, things that are “glaringly obvious”.

Paul’s thesis: “How do those in the emerging church conversation use blogging to construct communal identities?”

Theoretical:
• web 2.0 rhetoric – is this the reality?
• talking about religion outside of authoritative structures – things people could not say in church.
• is Australia truly a secular society?
• what is the role of religion in Australians’ lives?

Conceptual:
• blogging – what, how, what does it offer?
• emerging church – questions, who’s in, who’s out?
• identity and reflexive process within spheres of social interaction

Operational:

• research blogs, which to look at, find sample
• how are people using blogs to construct their identities – what do people say in blogs, what they say in comments, how are they designing their webpages, why have they been attracted to blogs in the first place?
• the way people talk about the ’emerging church’ – what do they say about particular issues, rules of conduct?
• interviews, discourse, analysis