Reviewing research methodologies

Having recently presented at the MECCSA 2011 conference, at The Lowry, Salford, I have been able to reflect on the methodology I am testing out for my research.

My presentation was entitled: An exploration of contextualised enterprise curriculum for media and creative industry students. And this is the abstract:

  • Given that entrepreneurship and self-employment are increasingly important in vocational media courses, this presentation explores and reflects on the nature of a highly contextualised enterprise curriculum. There is a proliferation of generic learning tools to teach entrepreneurship and business start up which often does not meet the specific needs of media and creative students or reflect current industry standards. Entrepreneurship education in context can allow for an opportunity to contest the dominating discourse of enterprise and explore the nature of entrepreneurship specifically as it relates to the cultural, creative and media workers. Drawing from research conducted with post graduate media and creative students, this paper engages with these issues by exploring the student’s experience of entrepreneurship through a narrative approach.

This research was an opportunity for me to pilot a narrative, storytelling interview technique as a means of capturing the student experience of enterprise education. While the process so far has revealed some interesting emerging themes, I am mindful that I need to review the process and technique in setting up the interview questions and in analysing the data collected.

The process did reveal some unexpected issues such as the extent to which cultural differences and expectations of certain students plays a role in their learning and development. It became apparent that we take for granted certain western social norms in terms of the expected interactions, understanding and approaches to being entrepreneurial. This is something which needs further consideration in relation to international students – an increasingly important student group at PG level.

The focus on the individual and personal development through the use of narrative in interviews did encourage self exploration and debate. It supports the idea of a personalised, non generic perspective of entrepreneurship as it is negotiated at an individual level. The interview process enabled interviewees to construct their identity as entrepreneurial media workers, their story of themselves, their subjectivity through storytelling. It revealed complexities and difference but also interrelated elements of each story such as building their confidence, reinventing what enterprise and entrepreneurship means to them. However, I did not pay appropriate attention to what was not said, to the themes left out of the discussion and to the power relationships between students, lecturer & student, language and style of communication. On reflection, I also overlooked the fact that of those interviewed, there was certainly a level of repeating what had been taught in class, perhaps consciously or sub consciously to ‘please the teacher’.

The interviews are not over and as I collect more data, a useful approach could be to apply discourse analysis as a means of revealing more about the experience as students express it. It could also be used to connect this to the twitter feed linked to the course and analyse the material altogether.

Where to start with discourse analysis? I’ve been trying to work this out for a while and have not been getting very far!

So this is my thinking so far:

Focusing on the material collected, I will attempt to highlight the use of certain words, or expressions to build a picture of the language used and explore how this relates to the discourse introduced in class. I will explore the specific activities described by the students in terms of what they have done and what they have not attempted as part of their entrepreneurial projects and some of the discrepancies between the two. I will reflect on to what extent they seem to be reinventing entrepreneurship for themselves, and within their own context (cultural or industry sector).

How will I do this? These practical issues are often ignored but I think they are crucial to those still relatively new research, such as myself. I have found Ann Gray’s, Research Practice for Cultural Studies extremely useful for these practical concerns. Following Gray’s approach, I have opted for transcribing the material myself thereby making myself familiar with the material and enabling me to start to make connections between themes and issues. Gray then talks about developing a filing system to ensure both that material is kept in an organised system but also to help the researcher  not lose confidence. These processes, though apparently mundane, can in fact be both creative and intellectual aspects of the researching resulting in unusual connections, imaginative ideas developing and ensuring familiarisation with the material. I am going start creating files under the emerging themes including, experimenting and reviewing methodologies.

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