Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trying to decide between two topics for my EdD research

After dithering around all year I have my EdD research down to two topics. I am not sure which way to go, so would really appreciate your feedback.

My first idea is looking at the outcomes of the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. This is a free online conference for midwives that is about to go into its fourth year. This research would look at how health professionals connect with each other using social media; how they engage with informal learning; how e-learning is used for professional development. And into this also comes issues around open access, life-long learning, volunteerism, connectivism...all my favorite subjects and subjects that are just starting to appear in scholarly publications.

The other topic that has just cropped up for me is somewhat do health professionals use social media for e-portfolio, reflection and professional development? What I would really like to do is track my learning and professional development via my blog which has over four years of data and comments to explore. What I do not know about credible is self-analysis in research...and how do you go about it? Into this topic would come much of what I have talked about for the first media, connectivism, life-long learning, confidentiality, collaborative reflection, risks to health professionals.

The difference between the two topics is the first one is about other people and their learning and the second topic would be about my learning. The appeal of the second topic is that there is little literature taking a long term look at e-portfolio and blogging, especially from the practitioner's point of view. Most the literature about reflection etc looks in the short term and in the education setting. The data is already there so I do not need to worry about recruiting participants. But I may need to go through an ethics process to include the comments that people have left on my blog. The first topic is highly relevant as health professionals are looking at alternative and cheaper modes of learning for professional development. I think the outcomes from research into the VIDM would interest managers and organisations as well as health professionals and educators.

I really am in a quandary and would really appreciate any thoughts or feedback......

What is the sexiest topic? What would contribute the most to education and health literature? What do you think would gain me the most fame and fortune? What do you think would be most "credible" and help my career development the most? What do you think is the most do-able?

Image: ''


Sara Murray said...

Not being in the midwifery field, I can only give you general feedback. However, I think the first topic has more guts to it. You're looking at the measurable benefits of something that's already happening, with a view to improve/extend upon it presumably. Yes, the second appears to be 'easier', but a single case study approach might not be enough for an EdD.As part of the first topic, couldn't you also include data from yourself?

Hallmum said...

This is an interesting debate and your questions at the end are indicative of 'research' per se and how the scholarly community perceives it- as in Sara's response. Why are you trying to do a piece of research that is going to be more 'sexy' going to make you your fortune? If you were wanting to do this you would be doing a PhD and a randomised controlled trial! My point is why shouldn't we as women/midwives/educators do a piece of research from the perspective of a woman/midwife and it not be as acceptable and valid? IMO before having read Sara's comment I was going to say go for the second option-autoethnography is perfectly valid and there is a body of research out there that you could look into. You could be very creative with this and in no way do I consider this the 'easy' option as it is very exposing- as I can tell you from experience! However I can see the purpose of this would lead into the use of e-portfolios and would inform the literature around this. Just some thoughts for now .

Hallmum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hallmum said...

btw love the picture on the site

Pam said...

I wonder if your comment 'easier' actually means more engaging for you. I think that you have to stay true to yourself and satisfy yourself first as this will transmit through the information you provide to the profession as a whole and will be more beneficial.

I recently sat through a midwife presentation, who declared she was a 'statistician'. She wanted to collect as much statistical information around birthing (although annoyingly she kept saying 'deliveries') as possible so clinicians could provide women with as many numbers as possible. My point is that we need more research that moves away from this dominating hierarchy of research.
Go out on a limb Sarah stay true to yourself and examine what is going to make you most passionate.

I am currently reading Ramsden's thesis and I will share a few quotes you may or may not find useful,
"Reflective topical autobiography may be seen as a method which investigates the responsibility of the narrator to explain his or her own role as human conduit for ideas based on personal experience."
"In her broad discussion Johnstone warns that “researchers who are brave enough to write about their own emotions risk being ridiculed, dismissed and marginalised” (1999, p. 26), but encourages the search for the existential moment which Moustakas and Perry (1973) describe as a sudden understanding of life where one is aware of the rightness of a value or conviction or decision."

Anne Marie said...

I thought that auto-ethnography should be prospective. I'm not sure how it would work in this retrospective way.
Have you thought about theoretical perspectives for the first suggestion? Could actor-network theory help?

Anonymous said...

I think it's vital to ask yourself "why am I doing this study?" - the answer to this question will help to guide your choices, just as your research question guides the methodology you choose.
PhD's, even if very very good, often languish in some forgotten journal if they're published at all, so if your aim is to change the world, this is probably not the way to do it! BUT if your purpose is to answer some question/s you have about something, then you need to go for the project that gets you really excited and enthused. From my experience (& probably everyone who has ever done a PhD!), by the time you get to the end, you'll loathe the topic, so it's vital to at least START with something you're passionate about!

moira stephens said...

I have to agree with Anne-Marie - I think that a retrospective auto ethnography would be difficult to argue as an EdD. The former however could really contribute to the body of knowledge in the here and now. There are many exciting ways forward in exploring/examining all sorts of impacts & changes in the way that people communicate, share, learn, exchange ideas through the VDM. this work situated in midwifery would be absolutely so useful to other specialties & disciplines. Unpacking it ( & I think that there a number of angles that you could focus on about the how's, why s & wherefores) could really clarify a path for global conferencing without destroying the planet ( or bank balances!). This could be robust, meaty & a valuable contribution.

Kathleen Fahy said...

Sarah, I think a feminist poststructural approach to reflecting and analysing your blog is relevant and acceptable if you get the significance right. Maybe the study would be strengthened if you used an action research approach and worked to help others engage in similar practices.

It is significant because xxx 'blogging as a way of reflecting on experience and uploading relevant documents has wide applicability for midwfiery students and midwives who engage in continuing professional development and practice review.



Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all for your comments which I really value. I'm not feeling too well at the moment, but will get back to you all properly in a couple of days. You have all certainly given me food for thought :)

Peter said...

Both of your topics sound interesting - and as you note, there is a lot of overlap between the two. What you are looking at reminds me somewhat of my own research way back in the day, in terms of the general areas (using technology, reflections on practice, etc) and trying to find suitable methods and techniques to make the whole thing sufficiently rigorous.

I would say that either are valid and do-able, providing you come up with, and are able to justify, suitable research methods. Many researchers from the harder end of the scientific continuum would be against the 'N of 1' approach implicit (or explicit) in the second area - but then, such research is very common in the more sociological/philosophical end of the research continuum.

I suppose that, to some degree, it depends on issues such as what is most likely to sustain your interest, activity, enthusiasm over the period necessary to do the analysis, writing, etc. (I this is an issue many people do not pay enough attention to, and is a common reason people give up). Another issue would be whether your have supervisors (and also examiners) who are going to be on the same wavelength and understand what you are doing if you go for some of the methods that may be needed.

I suspect that the first topic area is more likely to have impact in the wider field (I suppose also it depends on how important the 'academic rat race' is to you) - and you probably could weave some of the issues from the second topic area into the first.

I would go with the first topic. I think it is good that you have spent such a long time thinking about it - you may call it 'dithering', but I suspect, as it will have been going round and round in the back of your mind all the time, if you look back, it is more than that.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you all for your comments. To be honest, I feel more conflicted than ever. But for the time being I have to write a literature for my EdD course work so will keep it general, looking at the health professional's use of social media for learning...that should slot in with either of the topic I chose to pursue.

@Hallmum and Kathleen You are both editors of academic journals - what do you see as most "publishable"?

@Sara I'm off to see my supervisor next week and have a chat about what work would best fit the EdD format

@Pam Either topic is what makes me passionate which is why I am in such a quandary...more thinking required over Christmas, I suspect.

@Anne Marie The theoretical perspective is what is getting me stumped at the moment, so any suggestions gratefully received. I have always said I want to look more closely at Connectivism and "test" it in a context other than education. I think this theory fits with either topic...all I got to do now is really understand what Connectivism is all about!

@healthskills I have come a long way this year - I was going to look at topic to suit other people...for pragmatic reasons...but have decided to suit myself which is why I have got to these two topics. I might just end up tossing a coin :)

@Moira Thank you for an extremely compelling reason for the first topic...

@Peter I do want to make a difference for contribute in some small way to midwifery professional development...that's what I have been working on since your comments back that up. Thank you.

I am going to give myself over Christmas to decide because I have to start working on my research proposal in January this space!

Thank you all once again :)

Kirsty said...

Hi Sarah

I think both have merits. With the first you could even compare with the OT one inspired from your midwifery one.

I'm personally really interested in use of social media for CPD so that appeals to me especially in the light of recent discussions about health professionals' professional use of SM. Issues of confidentiality, appropriateness of how much to share etc.

You could use autoethnography as a specific methodology to look at your own experience. I'm using that to some extent in my PhD.

Good luck with the coin toss ;0)


Bronwyn hegarty said...

Hi sarah
It looks like the first topic wins out. I agree this is more relevant to a doctorate. You have a lot of scope there, and as a doctorate is about contributing in a practical way tot he body of knowledge this would make more sense. It is still covering the areas you suggest for the second topic but with a measurable number of participants. You will need to think carefully about how to keep it manageable as it is potentially a huge topic.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Bronwyn and Kirsty. I have just finished a literature review (my last EdD assignment for the year...thank goodness!) and have come to realise there is little if no research looking at midwives' use of social networking. So I have come to realise that topic one will help fill that gap nicely. And as you say, Kirsty, I will still be able to integrate my personal stories into the research.

As for topic 2, that is about to become a paper I am writing about e-portfolio...hopefully to be submitted to "Women and Birth" early next year.

Thank you all once again...your feedback has been invaluable :)