There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than for you to write for The Voice, write in a journal every morning and night, write creative stories, write blogs, write a dissertation, etcetera, etcetera?basically, for you to become the ultimate writer you possibly can be by writing every and any chance you get.
Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.
Voila! The Study Dude made it (gasp!) to the third part of the series of The Dissertation Journey, by Carol M. Roberts. This book is, without question, the best purchase you could ever make if you plan on entering graduate studies. The Study Dude gives every chapter of Roberts’s book two thumbs up and hopes it grooms you into the stellar graduate student you were born to be.
Analyze Qualitative Data
Have you ever had reams of qualitative (non-numerical) data that caused your eyes to gloss and your mouth to set agape? What if you did interviews for a thesis or a book idea, and you come to the point in which you need to analyze the content. How do you even begin to tackle such a project?
If you are like me, you long to write books, design courses, and make podcasts. The ability to analyze qualitative data could streamline you into writing original work at the outset. In my graduate program, I used qualitative software called NVivo, yet my computer at the time wasn’t up to specifications, so I had a lot of crashing and inoperative functions. Plus, the process I used for analyzing the data was too cumbersome, as entering every minute detail gets very tedious after a while. Yet, NVivo, if used properly, can be an excellent tool for data analysis?especially if you integrate it with Roberts’s (2010) approach to analyzing qualitative data:
– Use software, sticky notes, and index cards as aids for analyzing qualitative data.
– Read all of your interview, focus group, etc., notes in full. This is an important first step.
– Choose any one of your pile of results (for instance, one particular interview) that is either most convenient, most interesting, or most pressing, and analyze what the gist of it is, ensuring that you take notes in the margins of the document.
– Here is the fun part: isolate the main topics and themes that emerge. Group together topics of a similar nature. Put them in a column, and link to each one a letter of the alphabet. This becomes kind of a key to reference. When you go to the actual interview or other research instrument’s transcripts, put down the letter of the alphabet that corresponds with the topic that the sentence in the transcript pertains to. See if any new surprising categories come to mind that you could either further group other categories into, or that occur to you as new potential topics not yet covered in the column reference you built, as outlined above.
– You can even “draw lines between your categories to show interrelationships” (p. 159).
– Put all the “data material belonging to each category in one place and perform a preliminary analysis” (p. 160).
– Recode, if needed.
As the inquiring Study Dude that I am, I saw later in the book a strategy for working with quantitative data that suggested cutting up each segment that belongs to a certain category (organized by research question) and putting it in that category. Eureka! Why not do the same for qualitative data, and place each line with a corresponding alphabetized code into a pile for that respective alphabetical letter. Maybe cut the interview up (keeping an original copy intact), and put them on cue cards, referencing the particular interview subject on the back.
Also, maybe when coding for the letters, you could come up with an alphabetical letter combination (two letters) that correspond with the keyword’s first two letters. There could be some crossover, so you might want to go with three letters or more for when there is a conflict of the same letters appearing for different keywords such as “theory” and “theology”. But make sure you keep your reference key as to what the letters mean close at hand?and have more than one copy.
When you write a thesis, you will typically have a topic in mind, and the more keywords you generate on the topic, the more ammo you have for creating your research questions. These research questions will guide not only your data analysis but also the actual format for your paper’s thesis.
With that said, what stimulates the Study Dude in presenting findings is the idea of making models, tables, and charts that illustrate major themes, connections, and patterns. Once you have your models, tables, and charts together, you should first organize them, and then add commentary afterward (Roberts, 2010).
I once saw a book that delved into the philosophy of science that hosted all kinds of neat diagrams that illustrated concepts. The book was laden with such illustrations, and ever since then, I have had a hunger for learning how to conceptualize such models?especially with the ease the author demonstrated.
As the Study Dude, I hope to find a book on modelling in qualitative analysis to help stimulate your senses on how to turn complex ideas into illustrations or diagrams, but until then, here is some preliminary ideas on how to turn your findings into a scintillating thesis chapter:
– organize your findings by research questions, perhaps starting each section on findings with a keyword or two or so pertaining to your research question of focus.
– You can also organize by “themes, categories, or patterns” (p. 174)
– This idea is a gem: Make your tables, charts, and graphs first, all illustrating the findings, and then arrange these beauties in a logical fashion. From there, you only need to insert your words either to explain them further or to rearticulate their stand-alone meaning in textual format.
Doesn’t that sound like more fun than a graduate student should be allotted? You can go to lynda.com (to which you have a free SU membership), and watch some videos on making graphs in Excel for export into Word. You won’t regret it. I was quite good at making graphs for statistical data when I worked in market research, and I assure you, you will burst at the seams when you see how you can make those little graphs look pretty awesome with some tweaking of colors, shading, and alignment. How I miss those days. Yet, with another potential graduate program looming, those days may return, not just for me, but maybe even for all of you, my beloved friends.
Here’s the fun: Publish and Make Products out of Your Research
When I think of the idea of making products and publishing research, I salivate. Yes! Nothing could be more enjoyable than taking interviews, making a course or writing a book from the original data, and watching with pride as your creation goes viral.
I recently bought an expensive digital camera and a high quality voice recorder, and any chance I get to make and edit information products is an opportunity for joy. Once, I made a multimedia/performance piece for a conference, illustrating my research, and it was one of the highlights of my life.
Roberts (2010) lists some titillating ways to publish and create products out of your original research:
– Show off your intellectual prowess by making a presentation at a conference. You’ll need to submit a proposal and access transportation/accommodation funding from some funding provider associated with Athabasca or your faculty, but it will all be worth it.
– Do a major rewrite or your dissertation to get it in the format ready for publication. Then publish on http://www.dissertation.com or talk to seasoned published authors to get a possible introduction with a publisher. At the very least, you can peruse journal publication requirements from their websites, find suitable ones for your research, and make the adjustments accordingly.
– Submit a poster of your research that highlights elements such as introduction, methodology, findings, conclusions, etcetera, in a visual, graphical format. If you love art or design, or just perusing the arts and crafts shops, this is the way for you to go.
– Go hog wild and celebrate by making tantalizing products, such as “training programs, handbooks, manuals, new programs, and videos” (p. 198). Take your original research and turn it into something off of which you can start making money.
I’ve also seen people publish their dissertation and sell it through Chapters bookstore just as is, which might point to a newfound trend. Whatever your position, you can publish your research, gain a reputation, and even make a profit from it. Are you salivating yet? I certainly am.
So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.
Roberts, Carol M. (2010). The Dissertation Journey. Thousand Oaks: CA. Corwin.