I’ve been pretty quiet in the last couple of days, since things started to speed up, and soft planning of the previous week turned into more focused preparation with more tangible outcomes. Since things are progressing on multiple fronts here is a little rundown of each individual pursuit:
Where to start? What to ask first? Substance vs. method
My main takeaway from the 1st planning week was that whilst I started to feel immersed more and more in the world of student reading, and I felt that I did quite a bit of background reading, I simply still didn’t know what to ask from students. I felt that I am ahead with methodology and I have a clear picture of how I want to do things and why, but I still missed the substance, the core set of questions that I would like to ask and know more about. This didn’t necessarily meant that I couldn’t think of questions to ask, on the contrary: I had too many of them, covering too many topics. After thinking about it for a while I had concluded that I needed a higher level approach than individual questions, and so themes were born. I wrote down all the initial questions that I could think of, getting them out as quickly as I could and grouped them according to what would be the most appropriate method to ask it. After this exercise I ended up with a long list of questions organsed into several tracks. I grouped the similar ones (with sort of an affinity mapping, but quicker/simpler) and identified a couple of themes which seemed to run across multiple questions. Here are my themes:
- Everyday life
- Actions / Activities
- Social interactions
I will be using these themes to guide and serve as lens to look at student reading as an experience. All enquiries will touch on these themes as a baseline, and will look for human factors within the everyday life of students such as needs, behaviours, motivations, experiences, values, and desires. Instead of focusing on particular preconceived questions, I will use these themes to guide interviews, run through diaries, and set the framework form my focus group.
This fitted well with my other endeavour, which was to leave space for serendipitous exploration, and at most only semi structure things. I didn’t want to script or plan all aspects of this research, I think the most interesting things come from unexpected places, and this type of approach models real life better I think.
At this point I was happy with the substance. I felt I had good focus points and I was confident that I could explore each individual theme in greater detail, with the exciting view that the road within each theme will most likely lead me to interesting places and situations. Oh, and I am expecting that the best fun will start when the connections between these things will start to surface. (if ever, but hoping)
As I mentioned previously I was very pleasantly surprised with the student response so far. I have close to 300 quite diverse students, who are willing to help out, and most of them are prepared to sacrifice more time than an online survey. I am hoping this has to do more with the genuine interest in the topic than the incentives, (which are pretty good I think) but either way it shows that students are willing to contribute and participate in formulating thinking and design within the university, the only thing we need to do is to ask them nicely. I worded and sent a general “to do” email for all participants, and adjusted the signup form to display it after filling it out. If I think back to the last week, probably at least half of it was burned on recruitment organisation. Something which can never be underestimated on any project…
Interviews are now scheduled with 10 candidates for the next 8 days, with all the invitations sent out, from which 5 confirmed attendance. I carefully selected 10 completely different students, in terms of age, time spent at the university, studied subject and gender. I had my 1st participant in for an interview today and had a great time with lots of insights. Audio recording all interviews and later making detailed notes of the audio.
Personal and book diary preparation
Both personal and book diaries are now ready and will be printed tomorrow. I working on distributing them and making them available online at the moment, with the aim that they should be available to pick up from tomorrow.
I have sent out invitations for 8 participants, carefully selected again for difference, from which I have 1 confirmed participant now. The preliminary
I started library observations in parallel at the English Faculty Library. It is a nice environment with nice people and lots of things to pick up on, so making heaps of notes. I am only doing this for 2 days, so I am pretty passive and static at the moment, but would like to engage more and generally be more mobile from next week, where all the parallel things ease up a bit.
Online survey and Hangouts
Apart from thinking about them a bit, not much progress has been made. Hangouts will be scheduled soon, but the online survey is planned at the very end of the study period, so I don’t even think about it for now.
This week I am interviewing mostly, so from the next post I would like to move away from planning and project preparation and focus more on reading related things in my posts. Oh and the weekly whacky bag is filling up too!