Come and study in the wonderful Centre for Social Informatics of Edinburgh Napier University!

 

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The Centre for Social Informatics now have two PhD studentships advertised and we are looking for some fabulous candidates just like you!

It was nearly 4 years ago (back in early 2015) when Professor Hazel Hall, Director of CSI, advertised a studentship in workplace learning and innovation. The studentship was a collaborative studentship between The Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and Skills Development Scotland through their collaborative studentship partnership and we are currently advertising two new studentships in the same scheme.

I was the lucky person who was awarded a studentship back in 2015 and I have been part of the team ever since. I have been fortunate to study alongside a great (and very welcoming!) group of PhD students and academic staff. Each of us has our own research expertise and are always interested to hear about something new (especially if it is from new research).

The PhD studentships advertised below are part of the same great funding scheme as mine. As part of the studentship you will study on a research project that you enjoy (but that you also help to shape) and also have some wonderful opportunities to grow as a researcher. During the last 3.5 years of my study I have been able to do so many things and I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had – some PhD students on other funding schemes may not have these opportunities. For example I have travelled locally and internationally for conferences (Aberdeen, Zadar in Croatia, Krakow and also Vancouver late last year). I have also been able to collect data outside of Scotland, firstly in an NHS Trust in England and secondly in Finland during a trip in 2017. And of course, I must not forget the paid internship with the Scottish Government that I was able to complete last year.

As students we also have a lot of support available for the PhD study. This comes from the SGSSS itself, Skills Development Scotland (through the appointment of a staff member/sponsor for every student), our supervisors and also our peers. Our more experienced academics have a lot of faith in the abilities of their students (i.e. us), they encourage us to try for things we may feel impossible and they also support us greatly with the challenges of PhD study (for example the hours spent giving feedback on copious amounts of thesis chapter drafts, conference submissions and documents to make our writing perfect). I am very grateful to be part of such a supportive research group and you could be too.

In the Centre for Social Informatics we currently have two studentships advertised. Further details can be found below.

STUDENTSHIP 1:

Career information literacy and decision-making behaviours of young people

The main aim of this doctoral study is to generate new knowledge on career development learning with reference to decision-making amongst young people in S2-S6 (aged 12-18) who are preparing for their lives beyond school education. As well as developing theoretical insight, the findings will contribute to the effective design and delivery of enhanced careers services that take into account the means by which these young people recognise, respond to, and make decisions about varied learning and career opportunities.

You can find out more about the studentship, including how to apply, here: https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/studentship/career-information-literacy-and-decision-making-behaviours-of-young-people/

STUDENTSHIP 2:

Work-based learning environments (WBLE) for fostering industry-relevant skills and optimal economic performance

The aim of the proposed studentship project is to develop new knowledge and practical methods for evaluating the impact of work-based learning (WBL) on industry performance. It addresses a need for outcome-based measures to assess long-term benefits of WBL. The research will survey the extent of current provision and impact of WBL in Scottish industry and analyse the attributes of WBL that contribute to improved productivity and performance.  A novel approach to measuring the impact of WBL on firm performance will be explored. Rather than take a purely skills perspective (i.e. mapping skills and outputs), the focus will be on measuring maturity of ‘expansive’ work-based learning environments (WBLE) that include educational providers and sectoral bodies and that demonstrate ‘Industry 4.0’ characteristics in their use of real-time data and context-sensitive information to create an optimal learning experience which leads to increased productivity.

You can find out more about the studentship, including how to apply, here: https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/studentship/work-based-learning-environments-wble-for-fostering-industry-relevant-skills-and-optimal-economic-performance/

Please do take a look at these great opportunities. I did back in 2015 and have not looked back!

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Lyndsey’s PhD from January to December 2018!

ec7d3317-a580-499a-9163-c56cbd4a7859It is January 2019 and I am currently feeling a little flat after being poorly over my ‘Christmas and new year break’ and feeling like my PhD has not progressed since this time last year. I have decided to reflect upon my 2018 PhD journey and the milestones I have reached throughout the year to prove to myself that I did make some progress after all. So here it goes…

January 2018

In January 2018 I managed to finish ALL PHD DATA COLLECTION. This included data collection in Scotland (a large case study), data collection in Finland (a small case study) and finally data collection in England (another small case study). My data collection was fully complete by mid-January, ticking off one milestone in the PhD journey. This was particularly satisfying as it was a struggle to organise the final case study, get ethics passed and finally organise the data collection at a time and place to suit me and my participants.

In January I also submitted two applications for the SGSSS internship schemes. I submitted one for Skills Development Scotland and one for the Scottish Government scheme in the hope that I may be offered one.

My final January milestone was the decision to start applying for jobs. I did not really know what I was looking for, or whether this would be part time or full time, but I knew that submission would be looming later in the year and decided that I wanted to start and prepare for this very early (but please note I did not actually apply for anything in January 2018).

February 2018

In February 2018 I was offered two internships – one from each scheme that I applied to. I was pleased with both offers and struggled to decide which one to take as I really liked the sound of both projects. Eventually, I decided to take the internship with the Scottish Government as I knew this would broaden my horizons employability wise and I knew I already had some experience in working with Skills Development Scotland as my main PhD funders. Reflecting back on this I definitely chose the correct project for me and my career.

In February 2018 I also got married. This was something very important and I have the best team around me who understood completely when I said that my (now) husband and I wanted to do this (even though it may distract me from my PhD a little).

March 2018

In March 2018, I submitted a poster to the ISIC: The Information Behaviour Conference. This was kind of a good milestone but kind of not. I had planned to submit a paper to the conference but lost all of my data analysis that I had completed for this paper and this meant the submission deadline would not be met. Either way, I was able to submit a poster to another international conference even though I had hoped for a paper. Alongside this I also submitted to the ISIC doctoral workshop to present my work, and discuss my PhD with other PhD students and academic mentor.

Towards the end of March I attended the iConference held in Sheffield. I had not submitted to present a paper or poster as my data collection and analysis had nothing new in it yet but I submitted to the doctoral workshop as a chance to share my work with the iSchool academics and students.

Whilst in Sheffield, Skills Development Scotland held a networking event in Glasgow. This was a change for PhD students to share their work with others, academics and SDS staff. I was unable to attend this in person due to being in Sheffield but was able to present a poster of my work here (from afar).

April to June 2018

From April to June 2018, I suspended my PhD study to undertake my PhD internship with the Scottish Government. This was valuable experience and something I would recommend all PhD students consider doing (if/when possible). Whilst I was working on my internship, several milestones were reached over the three months:

  1. I applied for a place at the ASIS&T 2018 doctoral workshop in Vancouver;
  2. I submitted a paper for the ASIS&T conference in Vancouver to present the findings of my Finnish case study;
  3. I presented my PhD work at iDocQ in Edinburgh;
  4. I found out that my ISIC poster submission had been accepted;
  5. I found out that my ISIC doctoral workshop application was accepted;
  6. I found out that my ASIS&T paper was accepted (a major milestone as the acceptance rate was only 49% and it’s a very well established conference to present a paper at);

Before I started my internship (in around March 2018), I submitted an application to the Scottish Government for an Assistant Statistician post. During my internship I was assessed and was offered a full time role in May 2019. By the end of my internship in June 2018, I had agreed between my supervisors, funders and my university research department that I would begin my post at the Government in November 2018.

July 2018

In July 2018 I submitted my ASIS&T paper revisions and these were formally accepted. I was also accepted onto into the ASIS&T doctoral workshop and was awarded funding for this workshop and the full ASIST conference.

August and September 2018

Between August and September I worked tirelessly to get all of my data (interviews, focus groups and survey) analysed. Once analysed, I drafted all three findings chapters and submitted my larger case study for feedback from my supervisors. This brought the total drafted thesis chapters to seven out of ten to write in total.

October 2018

October 2018 was particularly busy. I drafted and practiced my ASIS&T presentation as this was an important one to get right and I was the only person from Napier attending the conference so I knew I had prepare and present well.

In early October I also travelled to Krakow, Poland to present my poster at the ISIC: Information Behaviour conference and attend the doctoral workshop. These were both good opportunities to get feedback on my doctoral work and my empirical findings in the ISIC community.

As students one thing we forget is that we are learning all of the time. In October, with the help of one of my supervisors I learned how to carry out and write up a binary logistic regression. This is a milestone for me as, although I have been taught this technique before, I have never needed to use it in my work. Now I have and am able to write this up with confidence!

A final thing I did in October was present a short PowerPoint on research impact within the PhD to some of our PhD students. This was part of a workshop series from 2017 and symbolised the end of the series itself.

November 2018

I think November 2018 was the busiest of my PhD. Firstly, I travelled to Vancouver, Canada for a week and took part in the ASIS&T conference. This involved taking part in the doctoral workshop and discussion my work with an academic mention. Two days after this I presented my paper at the same conference, which was received very well. The paper proceedings were published soon after and can be accessed by ASIS&T members at the moment.

The second major milestone was dropping my PhD down to part time to begin my job as an Assistant Statistician in the Scottish Government. This has been challenging at times, but something which appears to have worked out best for both my work and also my PhD (as long as I can still make PhD progress in 2019 of course!).

As well as starting my new job, I was also able to present my PhD work and discuss my ASIS&T paper with the knowledge management students at my university (twice). This was a good opportunity to share my work and get students thinking about writing a conference paper from PhD findings. It was lovely to be invited into the class to have this opportunity.

December 2018

December’s progress was slow. However, I managed to finish a redraft of my Finnish case study findings chapter and also make a start on my final findings chapter redraft.

I decided to review my progress from 2018 and this blog post was formed from what I found. It has not been all that bad really!

So this review takes my total of international conferences to five (2 based in the UK, 2 in Europe and 1 in Canada), and increased my count of counties visited by three (so far we have Zadar in Croatia, Finland, Krakow in Poland, Vancouver in Canada and various locations across England and Scotland).

So I will not give too many details of that I aim to do in 2019 PhD wise but the picture below might give some clues…

 

 

From PhD student to Statistician and everything in between

statistician imageYou may recall that back in May I received some good news career wise and I was offered a job at the Scottish Government. You may also recall that my start date for my new job was whilst I was still writing up my PhD so I would be moving to work full time and write up my PhD on a part time basis.

This move from academia (as a PhD student) to a fully-fledged non-academic employee elsewhere was somewhat daunting but I have managed fairly well (I think). My first week in my new post was riddled with jet lag from my trip to Vancouver but this has since, thankfully, gone completely. The trip to Vancouver was great and I have benefited tremendously from it, however, I had not anticipated the effect of the jet-lag and how long it would last. When I returned from Vancouver, I managed to have some form of normality over the weekend (meals, bedtime etc) ready to start my new job on the Monday. The Monday was great, I felt energetic and excited (although a little nervous) for my new job and all the things I would be doing. The jet-lag, however, had other ideas and on the Tuesday I was absolutely floored (but I did manage to stay at work – and awake – all day). Admittedly, I was expecting it to hit at some point at work but I had no idea that it would make me feel so sick, on edge and in need of a long lie down after I had finished for the day. I also had no idea that it would get better during the week (it did, I am pleased to say), then get worse at the weekend just as the PhD work should be done.

IMG_6576So in my first week as an employed non-academic and part time PhD student I was able to complete a full week at work. I was also able to contribute to a class at my university (on my PhD day away from work), present my work to the students and take questions from the students about the conference paper I had just presented the week before. I was also able to get a little PhD writing done too. By the end my PhD day I was absolutely cabbaged and in need of some rest. My rest came in the form of a weekend off and some advice to take it easy so that I could recuperate… starting a new job and learning lots of new things is tough on the brain you know! The next couple of weeks in my job were much better in terms of the jet lag and I have just say managed to get some PhD work too. This is a schedule I am trying to still figure out…

I sat this morning and worked out my schedule (days at work and days of PhD) for the next few months. I have the next 24 weeks planned out in my work and academic calendars and that is it. When those 24 weeks are up (technically 48 working days which is not a lot!) I am officially over my personal submission limit and then I will have to think about what I need to do next. Until then, I must just get on with it, not complain and not get sick (she says).

I know that this all would not be possible without the support from my supervisors along the way from day 1. I cannot thank Hazel, Laura and Robert enough or firstly sending me the email with the job advert in and then supporting me when they found out that I had been offered a post (I told nobody except immediate family that I had been offered a place at an assessment centre with the Scottish Government as I assumed I would not be successful first time around). This whole part-time PhD thing was probably a shock to them all (you know, the perfectly behaved PhD student that I am and all hahaha!) and I can guess that they may have been concerned at first (probably one more than the others). However, none of them showed this to me (if they felt anything negative about me getting a job before submitting my PhD) and they have been supportive and helped me sort out all of the ins and outs of moving to part time PhD life (this included liaising with my two funders, my university research office, my supervisors and the government recruitment service to agree some kind of terms and conditions). I also had great internship supervisors who supported me during the assessment procedure and my currently team for allowing me to work flexibly and supporting me to get this PhD done.

statistics word cloudI am now starting to understand how challenging the next few months are going to be in balancing full time work with a part time PhD. I am still hoping to submit before the end of May next year to allow me to have a decent break afterwards (in the form of a family holiday). However, I now know there will be delays in my write up, there will be things that I just cannot do in time and there are things that will just have to wait (some until after my PhD). To be fair, I have just got over the fact that I wont be submitting my PhD in 2018 as I had planned from day 1 – I’m sure this is something I will joke about on New Year’s Eve!

This week I have already learned that I need to rest when I become unwell as I have managed to catch the dreaded office (or family visit induced?) cold. I am writing this as I start to pack up my desk for the day over the fear that I may vomit and I also may run out of tissues from constantly blowing my nose! My weekend (once I feel better of course) will finally be devoted to PhD work in the hope that I can get these thesis findings chopped back and edited. I also have the small challenge of two additional statistical surveys to analyse… lots to do and so little time left.

Image credits:

https://supermug.co.uk/products/i-cant-keep-calm-im-a-statistician

https://data.library.virginia.edu/statlab/

Reflections on ASIS&T and moving away from academia

img_6614.jpgMy final commitment as a full time PhD student was to attend and present at the ASIST conference. I got a paper accepted to this conference a while back and was scheduled to present my work on Tuesday November 13th 2018. The conference itself went very well and I am pleased I travelled so far for my trip. On Sunday November 11th I attended the doctoral workshop where we were assigned our own mentor. My mentor was Professor Caroline Haythornthwaite from Syracuse University (New York State) and she partly specialises in research of learning. Caroline and I were matched based upon our research interests and her expertise in terms of my doctoral work and I feel the meeting between us was beneficial indeed. Caroline gave some sound advice on how I can ground my literature in the information science domain. She gave some excellent examples of work that will help me in editing my literature review and enabled me to see how my work fits in with others in this field. We also chatted about my career plans and how I am embarking on a non-academic career next week. Caroline and I both agreed that this is the right thing for me to do (as I feel it is) and that there is no harm in investigating academic work in the future (we shall see!). The meeting with our mentors was followed by a panel session. We had experts in academia and those who have also pursued careers outside of academia. The discussions in the panel sessions surround academic careers and presenting ourselves when ready to apply for jobs. We also talked about issues in the workplace for academics and then moved onto other careers too. This part for me was the most interesting as I have chosen to undertake a job outside of academia. We heard from those who had been successful outside of academia, especially those who could tell us what we could do. We discussed the application of skills learned in the PhD to jobs outside of academic and it was nice to hear that this is actually welcomed (I have had a lot of people express their annoyance that I am leaving academia!). As students we learn a lot throughout our PhD journeys and we develop lots of skills – it is more about how we apply these skills to our work that interests those outside of academia than how many publications, presentations etc we have.

The main conference itself started just after the doctoral workshop with a keynote from Dr Ramesh Srinivasan, who explored the use of digital technologies which influence our world. This was followed by a variety of other activities including a new member induction and a welcome reception after a choice of paper and panel sessions. By this point on Sunday, I was wrecked (my brain was still in UK time you see).

The Monday followed a similar format and I was able to attend some paper and panel sessions myself. The morning panel session surround embodied information practices and our speakers (Professor Christopher Lueg, Professor Pan McKenzie and Dr Michael Olsson) talked about their own work in relation to how information practices and our experiences intertwine We even ended the session with a martial arts demonstration to evidence the embodied information practices we heard about. Other sessions that I attended were papers in the data sharing category and these papers focused on data reuse, reputation, trust and norms in data sharing and the use of web archives. You can see from the programme that these papers were very varied and something that might not initially interest me. However I was intrigued to find research in these areas and explore the information practices of data sharing in the many contexts the presenters discussed. Seeing as though I am going into a career that focuses on data and statistics, I supposed this session was important for me!IMG_6627.JPG

The Tuesday of the conference was the day of my own presentation – something I was quite nervous about. As I normally freak out (behind the scenes) when I need to present to a larger audiences I made sure I prepared fully for this one. This included a dry-run session with some members of my research group and also discussion the paper with some students in a class before my trip away. This helped me to decide how to present my work and tweak the presentation (and potential discussion points) so that I was prepared for what was to come. When the time came for my presentation I was cheered on from afar (i.e. Edinburgh!). I appeared not to be too nervous until the few minutes before I talked, but once I was up in front of the audience and presenting the nerves disappeared and I talked about my work with ease. For those of you who did not make my presentation you can find my slides here. You can also find a recording of a dry-run that I recorded in preparation for the conference here (apologies if you are unable to access this video – I had issues with the upload). I am pleased that my director of studies encouraged me to apply for this conference and for the support given by my supervisors when writing the paper. Had I not had their help, my paper probably would have been rejected completed. I am also thankful for the review of my paper carried out by Professor Brian Detlor – without his expertise the paper would have made no sense at all. For that, I appreciate his efforts and work.

I travelled back home to Edinburgh on the Wednesday and Thursday so I decided not to attend any of the additional sessions offered. My travel adventure getting to Vancouver was a bit of a nightmare but the return flights home were smooth and I am pleased to have my feet back on the ground.

I now embark on a new chapter of my life, studying for my PhD part time whilst working a full-time job. I know this will be a challenge, especially as my experiences of starting my new job will probably be slightly hindered by the impending jet lag that I am going to experience (it has not hit me fully yet). This means that I will have a change in PhD working pattern (working two days of the week) and a change in contact availability (i.e. not checking emails daily). I will also probably struggle at first with managing my PhD time and will probably feel like I do not want to continue with my work. However, as long as I am able to work from my own office with fellow PhD students to hand I think I will be able to cope okay with it all. I have given myself an unofficial PhD deadline as to when I would like to submit. I know that my PhD work will suffer in terms of slowed progress but I think having this deadline in my mind will help. Despite these challenges ahead, I also know that taking a new job was the right move for me!

Obviously the tourist version of Lyndsey took lots of photos in Vancouver (see them below):

 

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ASIS&T doctoral workshop bio!

As you may know, my suitcase did not arrive with me to Vancouver and my airline cannot get it to me until the afternoon of Sunday November 11th 2018. This is after the doctoral workshop and unfortunately all of my ASIS&T materials are sill in my case… in Paris. I therefore post my bio here that I had planned to distribute to other doctoral workshop delegates. Feel free to get in touch if you wish! I will have plenty of business cards with me on the day!

ASIS&T Doctoral Workshop 2018

Lyndsey Middleton

Status: Final year PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University
Supervisors: Professor Hazel Hall, Professor Robert Raeside & Dr Laura Muir

ASIST 1Biography: Lyndsey is a final year PhD student at Edinburgh Napier University, studying the development of innovative work behaviour through workplace learning. She began her doctoral work after being a Careers Adviser for the National Careers Service in England, whilst simultaneously completing a nine-month internship focusing on factors influencing career exploration in young people and adolescents. Lyndsey has previously worked as an Assistant Psychologist (neurological community, employment and educational rehabilitation) where workplace rehabilitation and learning was the focus of her work. During her doctoral study, Lyndsey undertook a three-month paid internship with the Scottish Government. She worked on a project entitled ‘Practitioner Experiences of Mobile Working Technologies’ and carried out interviews and a quantitative survey with healthcare practitioners to explore how they use mobile working technologies to enhance their work. Following the internship, Lyndsey was offered a permanent positon within the Scottish government as an Assistant Statistician. She begins this role in November 2018 whilst writing the final chapters of her thesis. Lyndsey blogs about her work. Further details are below:

PhD blog: https://lyndseyjenkins.org/
Twitter: @Middleton_Ly
University website: https://www.napier.ac.uk/people/lyndsey-middleton
Email: L.Middleton@napier.ac.uk

Dissertation title: Enhancing the capacity for workplace learning and innovation in Scotland

Abstract: Workplace learning is a mechanism that underpins employee-led innovation: like innovation, it is both practice based and employee-driven, and employees can innovate from mistakes made in the learning process. However, the specific relationship between workplace learning and the development of innovative work behaviour remains relatively unexplored. This work therefore explores how innovative work behaviour (i.e. the set of behaviours that relate to the intentional generation of new ideas within a role, group or organisation) is developed through process of workplace learning. Here, questions as to the influencing factors on this relationship are addressed (e.g. social, environmental, personal and informational factors). The thesis is underpinned by a theoretical framework drawn from Psychology, yet used extensively in other areas of Information Science research (Social Cognitive Theory). A multi-method research design was used to collect and analyse data including: (1) a secondary data analysis of the Community Innovation Survey to set context and explore influencers of innovation nationally and; (2) three case studies of organisations in Scotland, England and Finland to highlight contextual differences in workplace practices. Findings reveal that factors that influence the learning of innovative work behaviour are contextually dependent (i.e. they differ in different organisations and are dependent on the strategic aims). However, across all case studies elements of organisational culture support the development of innovative work behaviour (including leadership, the promotion of company values, the provision of suitable infrastructure and knowledge sharing practices). Additionally information literacy is a key contributing factor but information behaviours exhibited by employees are also context specific. The main contributions of this work are: (1) the furnishing of new knowledge on the development of innovative work behaviour by the application of Social Cognitive Theory from the Information Science perspective; (2) the creation of a framework to explain the development of innovative work behaviour through workplace learning (including determinants, and how to identify success); (3) highlighting of contextual factors influencing innovative work behaviour development through multi-country case study analysis and; (4) practitioners are able to use multiple research perspectives in the assessment of enablers and barriers to workplace learning and innovative work behaviour.

ASIS&T 2018 here I come!

asist-logo-new-long-e1526335476938In 36 hours I will be on my way to attend the Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology 2018 (ASIST 2018) conference.  This year the conference is held in Vancouver, Canada so my journey will be quite long. However, I am looking forward to my trip as it will be my last conference visit as a doctoral student (and the programme looks great)!

On Tuesday 13th November (around 6.30pm UK time, 10.30am in Vancouver) I will be presenting my paper. I am quite nervous for this as it is the first paper where I may get grilled with lots and lots of questions from the audience afterwards (and some of the audience members may be those mentioned in my paper!).

My paper (co-authored with Professor Hazel Hall, Dr Laura Muir and Professor Robert Raeside) entitled: The interaction between people, information and innovation: information literacy to underpin innovative work behaviour in a Finnish organisation is concerned with the role of information literacy in the learning of innovative work behaviour in the workplace. It draws upon the findings from analysis of interviews carried out with employees of a Finnish organisation. This forms part of my Finnish case study, one of three case studies in my doctoral work.

The abstract for the paper is detailed below:

Workplace learning and employee-led innovation are related. For example, mistakes made when learning may spur innovation. Investigated in this paper is the role of information literacy in the learning of innovative work behaviour in the workplace, and the associated information behaviours that allow for innovative work behaviour to develop. Thus interactions between people, information and innovation are a main focus. The findings derive from analysis of data generated in twelve semi-structured interviews conducted within a Finnish organisation. Employee perceptions on the role of information in the workplace, and its role in supporting the learning of innovative work behaviour, are explored. The analysis reveals that: (1) information literacy skills serve as a prerequisite for workplace learning; (2) information behaviours support the learning of innovative work behaviour and; (3) a variety of information sources support employees as they learn to behave innovatively.

With permission from ASIS&T, you can find a copy of my paper here. My presentation slides can also be found here.

2As the paper was written from the data I collected from my trip to Finland, the data collection and resulting paper would not have been possible without the funding from my ESRC-SDS collaborative studentship and also a John Campbell Trust Student Research Bursary that I was awarded in 2017. Thanks also go to Professor Brian Detlor who provided support during the writing/editing of the paper. My final thanks go to my supervisors who sat patiently as I wrote the drafts, checked (several) copies, suggested edits and had the patience of a saint when doing some final edits of the paper and correcting my northern grammar that often appears in my writing!

I will also have the opportunity to paticipate in the ASIS&T doctoral workshop on Sunday November 11th. I have the privilege of being mentored by Professor Caroline Haythornwaite so I am looking forward to hear the knowledge, expertise and advice that she can share!

 

The dreaded findings chapters of the PhD thesis!

feedbackWhen I returned from my internship at the Scottish government, my main task was to complete the three findings chapters of my thesis. The purpose of the chapters was to explain the findings of the interviews, focus groups and the quantitative survey separately for each case study (i.e. one chapter for Scotland, one chapter for Finland and one chapter for England). I drafted these in a decent time but then left them a little to focus on other elements of my PhD (i.e. my conference presentation and other things). I finally gave my supervisors a draft of my first case study – the largest of the three in the hope that I would get some good feedback and then I would be able to edit down and that was it. Oh how wrong I was!

The feedback from my supervisors was not the best, in terms of both content and the structure of the chapter itself. Whilst writing my chapter I had thought that it did not flow, but I was completely unprepared for what my supervisors said next. All three supervisors agreed that I needed to completely restructure the chapter so that the thematic analysis was at the forefront rather than the research questions directing what I wrote. By guiding the structure with the themes that emerged from participant interviews and focus groups, I would then be able to: (1) highlight the themes that emerged from participant discussions more clearly and; (2) be able to discuss the findings in relation to the research questions in the discussion chapter that follows. The statistics I had completed also did not quite work and I ended up having to re-analyse some of this with some help. The process of re-analysing a part of the survey responses meant that I learned a new statistical technique in the process (one which I have avoided for at least the last seven years!) and I am pleased to say that this was a small outcome of my work.

editsInitially, I was quite shocked by the comments as I did not think my chapter was that bad. However, after having gone through the process of redrafting the chapter it appears that all of my supervisors were on point with their comments and I finally saw the need to redraft from my supervisors’ perspective (they have done this before – a lot with other students – you know). So after this supervision meeting, and a quick recap of the edits needed in for my chapter (there were 2 A4 pages of comments!) I got down to work on the chapter. At first I struggled as I could not see the relationships between the comments from my participants nor could I see how the emerging themes linked. I therefore took a stand (sitting at my desk of course!) and figured that I could not do this alone. I used the help of my trusty pens (which I bought at the start of my PhD!), pencils, coloured paper and highlighters to help me plan out (visually) what I hoped to see form my data.

leadershipThe process of visually representing the relationships on paper started to help my findings finally sink in. I was able to write down the overarching theme (e.g. leadership or organisational culture) and then pinpoint (from my data) how this theme influences innovative work behaviour as well as how the themes interlink. You can see from the images in this blog post that I used many colours of my trusty pens to highlight the elements of the theme, the particular process of innovative work behaviour it related to (e.g. idea creation, championing, recognition) and then whether the quotations emphasis that individual employee or collective nature of innovation. These were the most important things I needed to emphasise in my finings chapter to pull it all together and decipher what it means.

When it came to actually editing/rewriting the chapter (the debate still goes on…) this also took longer than I thought. I needed to edit my style of writing slightly and tackle my issues of writing as I speak. The Mackem in me tells me that my style of speaking (I found the phonology and grammar sections this Wiki page rather amusing) is not the way to go in your thesis writing if you want to create something decent to submit. I therefore had to make sure I corrected my tenses, referred directly to my participant quotes and make explicit reference to innovative work behaviour in the quotations and writing of the work. By doing so it is hoped that the readers of my chapter can easily draw conclusions from what I am saying and this will guide them through to my discussion chapter (I hope)…. And I can leave the lovely pronunciation of specific words from my accent to be discovered as part of my viva 😉

literacySo, In my own opinion, it is quite hard to write a PhD thesis, and the process of writing/editing chapters is far far more complex than I had ever imagined.  Students do not really have solid example of exactly how it should be structured and set. Instead, we can access resources to help us along the way. For example, I downloaded examples from trusted resources and tried to get an understanding of how findings chapters ‘should be’ structured. I doing so I probably made things worse as I saw the variety of different structures and writing types out there. I also saw the vast amount of PhD theses that focus on some element of my work but I am yet to come across which focuses on the specific behaviour of employees just like mine. I also asked some of our current PhD students (those nearer the finish line than me) how they progresses with theirs and I was given some great advice too. Not only did these students give me information and advice on how to structure different things, they also pointed me in the right direction as to where/who could help when I needed it. I often wonder why there are not more lectures/lessons on how to physically write a thesis and I suppose it is because of the potential impossibility of that challenge (the lectures not the thesis writing). We can be taught about the formatting and what a thesis should look like, but the finer details I suppose are down to the individual student with the support of their supervisors in how they wish to academically speak.

JOURNEY SGSSSI also once got asked what I (at that point in time) I felt the hardest part of a PhD was and I have completely changed my mind on this now. The hardest part of a PhD thesis is this. Writing your little heart out until you can physically write no more to find out that it needs a lot more work does suck but a the same time I have been assured that this is all part of the process (by literally everyone – others students, supervisors and all).

Only two more findings chapters to edit…