Conducting this research taught me myriad lessons. The first being, that research is not linear, and regardless of how much the researcher strategises, events are likely to occur that will disrupt the original research plan.
During the conception of this project, there were two pivotal events that reinforced the contention that research is messy.
The first was that from the outset, I had planned to carry out my research in three forms: observational research, qualitative research (using focus groups), and quantitative research (using online surveys). It was hypothesized that marrying these methods of understanding would build a comprehensive and cohesive finished project. This is supported by Kitsakorn, who suggests that in sociological studies, it is pertinent to encompass multiple genres of methodology to create a project that is equally resilient and airtight (2017).
However, due to time constraints it was soon recognised that to complete the project, and to do so with the integrity that research commands, one methodology would have to be deserted.
It was decided that qualitative research would not be utilized for this research. This was elected on the basis that the qualitative research would likely yield enough data for its own follow-up study.
The outcome of this research project presents clear trends about the behaviours exhibited by students in lectures, however, it failed to expose why these patterns have emerged. It is suggested that the ‘why?’ will take the shape of a qualitative study in the form of interviews and focus groups with the BCM212 students to further express the current space of the contemporary lecture theatre. Although this project was hindered by the absence of a qualitative research component, it has also provided a solid foundation for future research.
It is posited by Feeney & Sult that to optimise the likelihood of a successful project, pre-planning is essential (2011). For this project, pre-planning meant creating a realistic risk matrix as well as a project timeline, to split the greater event into smaller, easy-to-manage tasks. However, during the conception of the risk matrix, the risk of a delayed lecture was not considered.
This delay – due to the lecturer suffering an illness – meant that the observational research that was due to take place over week 9 and week 10 instead had to take place in week 9 and week 11. This small hurdle meant that the project was to be delayed for a week. While I could have utilized the observational information yielded from one lecture, I felt that this would compromise the overall value of my project as a smaller sample would be inefficient.
According to Phillips, good research demands mutual attitudes of respect, integrity and reciprocity between the researchers and the participants (2010). It is this notion of careful consideration that guided this research project. The collection of observational data meant that there was a slew of potential ethical challenges regarding surveillance and gaining consent to take field notes on students’ behaviours.
As I mentioned in the report, it was devised that I contact the BCM212 course coordinator to gain permission to study the lecture. This decision was made so to give non-consenting students ample time to voice their concerns. The alternative to this method was to propose the observational research at the beginning of each lecture and invite any questions or declination from students. However, the latter option is flawed in that it not only compromises the behaviours of students (from knowing who is observing them), but more importantly, it singles out the students that request to not be included in the data set. This has the potential to isolate individuals and thus, does not align with ethical research principals as discussed by Phillips (2015).
A vital part of all research is not only conducting the study ethically, but also to follow through with communications for participants wanting to keep track of the study (Goertzen 2017). My project adhered to this guideline through linking my WordPress and Twitter accounts into the description of each methodology. The Amelia Fragments is my university WordPress website where the findings of the research can be found, and my Twitter handle, @AmeliaFynes, is where anyone with any queries about the project can contact me. It is in the interest of respectable research practice that the researcher can be contactable in the case of questions about the study, or proposals for follow-up studies (Feeney & Sult 2011).
All in all, I found this exercise to be beneficial, challenging, enjoyable, and like all authentic research, totally messy.
– A m e l i a
Feeney, M & Sult, L 2011, ‘Project Management in Practice: Implementing a Process to Ensure Accountability and Success’, Journal of Library Administration, vol. 51, no. 7-8, pp. 744-763.
Goertzen, M.J 2017, ‘Introduction to Quantitative Research and Data’, Library Technology Reports May/June 2017, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 12-18.
Kitsakorn, L 2017, Research Methodologies for Beginners, Pan Stanford Publishing, Singapore.
Phillips, A 2010, ‘Researchers, snoopers and spies – the legal and ethical challenges facing observational research’, International Journal of Market Research, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 275-278.