Archive | November, 2012

‘I’m a PhD student…..Get me out of here!’

22 Nov

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So way back in June this year, I blogged about a really difficult situation I was faced with – for the second time during my PhD. I stopped data analysis and returned back to my methodological approach.  All explained in this post.

Although 2 months later, I was able to see some positives from the situation, as I posted here, seeing the positives beyond that post has been pretty damn tough. I still have not returned to my data. Rather, I have continued to read, reflect and write over and over again. I became fixated on trying to ‘find’ a qualitative methodology that I could ‘fit’ my study into – one that would please me, my supervisors and ultimately my external examiners. This continued for 6 painful months (although it feels longer). The outcome was (for many lovely reasons) that this study will be a multiple case study.

Ta da – problem solved!

So prior to my supervision last week, I created a philosophical, theoretical and methodological table so that I could identify key concepts and justify their uses for my study and demonstrate how they linked (thank you @planetchampion for that advice). Guess what – while talking it through with my supervisors, I quite clearly managed to explain that multiple case study actually did not and would not work!

After in-depth discussion, and going right back to the beginning, vocalising what exactly my study is about and what my aims and research questions are, it became clear. I was never going to be able to ‘fit’ my study into a neatly packaged qualitative approach at this stage and it was always going to be like trying to squeeze a ‘square plug into a round hole’. Oh, it could be done, but I would need to reconsider just about everything – almost starting over again. Believe me, after almost 3 years, this really wasn’t a route I was keen to go down.

So, the outcome of the discussion was that my methodological approach will stay along the same lines as it was initially because that is the way it was designed! However, while I have been painstakingly considering just about every other qualitative approach over the past few months, I recently came across Interpretive Description. This was first developed by Thorne in 1997 as a response to complex research needs within nursing and other applied health disciplines which are not readily answered by traditional qualitative methodologies (I have tweeted some informative papers about ID recently). This approach aligns with my initial approach, the structure and aims of my study, is consistent with my philosophical and theoretical stance and is considered rigorous and credible. It has also been used by many other qualitative researchers and PhD students. Of course there are limitations and they will of course be acknowledged, but limitations are congruent in all approaches

The positive side of this past year is that I can now very clearly justify why other approaches are not suitable for this study, defend the approach I am using and provide a rationale for every single step (forwards and backwards) I took to get to this stage!

So my title of this blog post reflects how I feel at the moment (not in terms of quitting, but finally getting out of the murky methodological jungle). The past few months have been the closest I have been to quitting. I feel I have been in this miserable, murky, methodological jungle for ages, with no map or compass to help me out (not that I’m any good at reading maps by the way!). This place, I suspect is probably not a million miles away from The Valley of Shit  (@thesiswhisperer)

Anyway, thanks to the support of my family, colleagues and everyone on #phdchat (there are some pretty special people on there!), I kept going.

For now, I think I have found a workable map and compass and am heading the right way to get myself out of this murky methodological jungle. I’m not quite there yet and only time will tell, but for the first time in a long time, I feel I know the direction I’m heading in….

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