Just a note of an idea before I forget it:
Hmmm. Not convinced. I think this might just be treading similar ground to the constellation map on the front page, thereby lessening the impact of the former. And even if I decide I like this, putting it in action will be dependent on time so might never happen.
File under 'abandoned ideas'.
At the moment I'm unconvinced of the value of carrying out visual data collection. To be honest, I've never been totally sold on the idea, but then I've never tried my hand at this kind of thing therefore maybe that's to be expected. When I'm already hard pushed to submit my dissertation by the 'early' August deadline that I've set, this would seem to be an exercise that will be time consuming beyond the merit that I can see it providing.
As a newcomer to visual research I'll obviously need to do some research into how it should be done. And having never carried out this visual analysis, there's no guarantee that I'll be any good at it. Even if it does prove to be something I am able to do effectively, how much value would a handful of images add to the project? This is all over-and-above determining what I data I'm trying to collect and that actually collecting it.
Might I not have sufficient data with the seven interviews followed by observation? Although this is something that Sian is keen for me to try (on the basis that she thinks I'd be good at it)..
So I have two key questions/concerns (over and above whether I'll be any good at visual analysis):
According to my the timeline I submitted within the dissertation Research Proposal, this being late September, my dissertation should be well underway. Instead I'm at a less advanced stage than I was in April. Good work. I've now abandoned two previous dissertation plans for either re-covering old ground or following a route where I don't feel I have sufficient theoretical grounding (visual methodologies).
I'm beginning to think that I approached the research topic the wrong way.
In the first instance, I felt under pressure to come up with a topic to satisfy the needs of the Research Methods assignment. That isn't to say that I didn't believe in my original plan at the time, however my proposed research into how the distance education student visualises the university was conservative (and appropriately so considering the general lack of free thinking time I had during the assignment preparation). In hindsight, there was a certain amount of means-to-an-end pragmatism to my proposed research and, to be fair, it worked - I passed the assignment.
My second plan (which lifted some of the more interesting elements from the first) would, I felt, sustain my interest. With a bit more thinking time over the summer, I was happy and excited about the idea of a comparison between how the distance education visualises and experiences the university compared to how it is represented in the prospectus and other promotional. An interesting idea but, as I quickly recognised when I met to exlore the idea with Sian, under-rehearsed and lacking a conceptual framework.
Third time around I'm taking a different approach and, on reflection, it strikes me that this would have been best all along. It's also the route I've taken with most other courses and assignments so it's a but surprising I didn't reach this stage before now. Rather than trying to conjure up an idea that might work, I've worked through the Dissertation Guide. And then I've re-read it again, highlighting key points. As I do with any piece of coursework, I spent some time considering 'what am I being asked to do here?' The Guide is excellent and makes it seem all the more ridiculous that I was trying to propose a dissertation when I didn't even know what a dissertation was. In particular, I found the suggestion that 'when deciding on a research topic you should have 3 sets of criteria in mind'. For emphasis and clarity, I've presented these in the diagram below.
Obviously, creating a diagram isn't a substitute for coming up with a research topic, but at least I've got a better of what I'm trying to do here and for that reason, I feel better about my dissertation than at any time over the last month or so.
Over the last couple of weeks I've spent a few hours here and there revisiting my dissertation research proposal. My timeline included a period when I could re-focus the nature of my research, based upon the findings that would emerge from the New Geographies of Learning project. As we're coming to the end of writing up the first paper from that project, this has been a good time to consider whether I need to refocus my plans.
The title of my dissertation changes only slightly, replacing distance students for the more cumbersome online distance learner. The title now reads as follows:
Picturing Edinburgh: how do distance students view their university.
After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, my current thinking is that I'd like to refocus my dissertation in a small but significant way. I had planned to consider how distance students conceptualise and relate to their institution. I had also intended to offer insights into student attitudes towards their institution. On reflection, I think I was trying to cover too many strands without making an explicit connection between them. I'm also not sure how I would look into the idea of analysing the relationship a student and university. My current thinking is that I would instead like to consider "how distance students at The University of Edinburgh conceptualise and experience their institution."