The day of iDocQ 2016!

delegate packs
iDocQ 2016 delegate packs

So Thursday was the day of iDocQ 2016 at the University of Strathclyde. We spent weeks planning the event and took time to deliberate, make decisions and prepare for how the conference would run on the day. Before the day (and more importantly, on the day), we encouraged delegates to use the hashtag #iDoocQ2016 so that we had a presence on twitter and as you can see form some of the people who tweeted about the event, the day appeared to be a success.

Before I get started I just want to say a big thank you the iDocQ team, everyone who helped out and everyone who participated. I think we all deserve a big well done and I think the day was a success overall. Also a thank you to Bader and Elaine who took pictures on the day for our twitter feed (some of which have been used in this blog post with specific permissions from those involved). Anyway, the day started with the usual coffee and networking whilst student reps and staff sorted out technology. Needless to say this did not go as smoothly as we had hoped but we did only have one mishap during the day which couldn’t really be planned for. Definitely a learning curve on how to prepare for a day of conference delivery!

All set up for networking

The event itself started with a small welcome and introduction form our main staff organiser, Diane, who gladly introduced the day and also the student reps involved. She explained the importance of having events like iDocQ so that students can come together, network and make discoveries about each other’s research.

We then moved onto our ice breaker – superhero PhD. Now each student was placed in a group with fellow students and staff, with the requirement that we all worked together. We did just that. Our task was to create a superhero costume that represented what we thought was required form a PhD. However, the costume did have to be named and also encompass some superhero powers that students thought would help in PhD progression. The designs were fantastic and as you can see form the photos on the

One of our delegates presenting the superhero PhD final product

iDocQ twitter page, they were very innovative too! Students took a really positive attitude to this task giving superhero’s powers ranging from having integrity, being informed, having an emergency ‘call the supervisor button’ and finally an invisibility cloak so that you can spy on reviewers and decision makers within the PhD (without getting caught). The activity helped students get to know each other and also work together. More importantly (in my opinion), our group did note that each student has to have some form of craziness in them for doing the PhD and that’s what gets them through some the tougher times that they experience. For me, it was nice to work with people who I had never met before as well as people who I had. We were able to construct our ‘superhero-PhD’ in no time and present it to the rest of iDocQ.

Alison brettle
Dr Alison Brettle presenting at iDocQ 2016

We then heard a brilliant keynote form Dr Alison Brettle (Salford University) who is currently Reader in Evidence Based Practice and Acting Director of Post Graduate Research – so we know she has the research expertise as well as research student jazz. Alison was able to speak form her heart when explaining how her career came to where she is today but also speak as a tutor, expert and someone who knows how tough it is just to be a research student in the ever changing world of academia. Alison told us about her journey to the PhD, how it all started with wanting to work in one sector but had problems with meeting the ‘height requirements’ (being short does have its limits – all 5ft 1 inch of me knows that!). She then explained how she got into the tourism sector and worked in France for a while before moving into the library and information sciences area working on various research projects. She gave a lot more detail of her journey and personal experiences which I will leave to her to tell, but she helped us students understand that its often not a liner path we take to get where we are today, but if its where we want to be, we will end up there if we put in the hard work. Alison did her PhD by publication and was able to incorporate this route into her talk, explaining some of the reasons why she chose this over the normal PhD route.

Alison’s talk was entitled ‘Being evidence based: using opportunities to demonstrate outcomes and impact’ and she explored her research on the study of the impact of clinical librarians on patient and healthcare organisations and how the research was carried out. We heard about her work and publications on several projects, where she emphasises the importance of impact of publications and literature on decision within the healthcare

stationary free gifts
The contents of the delegate packs

sector organisations such as the NHS. Now as I have worked in the NHS, on a project lead by a clinical librarian, I understood Alison’s points. Form my experience I understood the importance that literature holds on clinical practice and that is the exact point Alisson made.  The final discussions were on the development of a value and impact toolkit that Alison has developed with her colleagues. This toolkit was designed to help measure value and impact within healthcare settings as there was no such tool existed previously. You can find much more on the website above.

After a quick coffee stop, we moved straight into delegate presentations. As you can see form my previous blog posts, this time a 20×20 was required. In my opinion each student did fantastically as it does take some work to perfect your work into 20 seconds. We heard about a variety of work from information behaviour of visually impaired people, knowledge flows and the role of social networking in job searches. Personally, I think it was a great range of presenters from different universities and also a diverse range of topics. We were able to experience research from the outsider’s perspective and got the opportunity to prize out some of the most important parts during the question time following each student’s presentation. You can see how well all delegates presented by checking out Hazel Hall’s twitter page. She kindly tweeted all of the day, including lots of information on delegates, presentations and other interesting parts of the day so please to take a look.

Katherine Loudon University of Strathclyde The information behaviours of visually impaired people
Lyndsey Jenkins Edinburgh Napier Enhancing the capacity for workplace learning and innovation in Scotland
Matjaz Vitmar


University of Edinburgh Networks and knowledge flows: The Case of Scottish Space Industry
Alicja Pawluczuk Edinburgh Napier University Youth digital culture co-creation: measuring the social impact in Scotland
Elaine Robinson University of Strathclyde Panopticism in the UK Public Library
John Mowbray Edinburgh Napier University The role of networking and social media tools during job search: an information behaviour perspective
Iris Buunk Edinburgh Napier University Easier, faster, better? How social media facilitate tacit knowledge sharing practices between employees within organisations belonging to the public sector
Cathy Foster University of Strathclyde Seeking to Succeed: the information behaviour of adolescent learners
Liam Ralph Edinburgh Napier University An exploration of Police use of social media in Scotland

Paul Stevenson


Robert Gordon University Evaluation of The Embedded Librarian in an NHS Environment
Frances Ryan Edinburgh Napier University The role of online information in the building, maintenance and evaluation of personal reputation

Mojeed Adekunle Amidu


Loughborough University The Impact of Culture on Information Behaviour: A case study of the Polio Eradication Campaigns in Nigeria
Part of the iDocQ lunch! (image thanks to Bader Nuwisser)

Each delegate was then judged by a panel of experts (the iDocQ staff team). I am very happy to announce that the winner of best 20×20 presentation was Alicja whose presentation was unique and particularly excellent as she is only two months into her PhD! Other students did get special recognition for their efforts, but in my opinion everyone did their best and managed to present their work brilliantly! For me, I think my presentation went well (ish) but I did speak fast and I was very nervous. The nerves hit just before I was called up and considering that this is my first oral presentation in front of non-Napier staff, I can’t say it was a horrendous performance. You can see a copy of my presentation here, but do remember it is a 20×20 so the pictures do not so the vocabulary justice!

LJ taken by Bader
Lyndsey Jenkins beginning her 20×20 presentation (image thanks to Bader Nuwisser)

Our afternoon sessions were received just as well. Dr Diane Pennington delivered her session on choosing the right methodologies, exploring factors to consider when looking into and designing methodology. I hear that Dr Frank Hopfgartner’s session on time management was also a success. I overheard some of our students explain that it was interesting and very relevant in terms of techniques that can be used in their own work to help them manage their own time more effectively. Dr Lizzy Tait explored the impacts of research and how to improve it. This is particularly important in terms of the impact agenda but also to ensure your research has effect. Students were able to learn about how important impact is also what they can do to enhance their own research outputs, and I head lots of positive comments from those attending Lizzy’s session afterwards.

Professor Hazel Hall delivered her session on publishing and its benefits. I attended this one as it is really important for the PhD. Publishing helps us to disseminate work, get ourselves known in the research world and helps us to link in and network with other academics and knowledgeable others in the area. It’s also an important factor when it comes to the viva assessment as published work is quite difficult to criticise, especially if it has been published in a journal. We explored the different types of publishing, form conference publications (posters, papers etc) and also journal articles. Hazel explained important journals within the information science area so we know what type of journals to aim for to take publishing to its best. She also encouraged us all to discuss what we had already done in terms of publishing and explored the benefits of this and where it would stand in our final thesis chapters. For me, I probably need this session most. I have a journal published already but it is not massive on impact and it is not in the information science area. I am wanting to get more publications from my PhD eventually as I am now aware of the importance of publishing and a lack of publications can actually hinder the job prospects immediately after the PhD if these are not accomplished.

Keeping our delegates well fed!

Our final session of the day was the discussion panel, made up of five academics. In our line-up we had:

Dr Frank Hopfgartner (Glasgow University)

Dr Ella Taylor-Smith (Edinburgh Napier University)

Dr Laura Muir (Edinburgh Napier University)

Dr Diane Pennington (University of Strathclyde)

Dr Alison Brettle (Salford University)

 The questions were those placed in or ‘anonymous box’ and were posed to our panel of experts. Firstly, we heard discussions on what to do if you feel your research is going in the wrong direction. The advice was not to panic. Talk to your supervisors and talk to others. If it’s going in the wrong direction research area-wise then your supervisors are the first port of call, but if it is other external variables influencing the PhD then other external parties can help. When asked if the panel ad ever felt like giving up, we got a variety of answers. One of our experts said no, she loved her PhD too much and the research was what she loved. Others addressed how to approach the problem if you feel this way, emphasising the point of the student counselling services if the feelings are not normal for you. Quite often students feel like giving up as they encounter problems and they do not know what to do. My own thought of giving up came just before Christmas least year when I was homesick and unwell, but I did get through it. Talk to your supervisors (like I did in the end), friends, colleagues and external professions (I’ve also done that too). Do anything you can to highlight these problems and find help and ways to address them. I am not ashamed to say that I have used the ‘external’ services as I knew I might have a problems that my supervisor could not deal with. I know that these services are important to student wellbeing and I would encourage all students to use these serves if required during the PhD journey, even if it is just to get a quick ‘reality check’ and further understanding. When prompted about ‘imposter syndrome’ our panel even pointed this out, saying that supervisors are not qualified mental health professionals so the role of the student counsellor is key in areas like this (but do still talk to your supervisor too!). I was very lucky during my bachelor’s degree that my supervisor was actually a qualified and practicing cognitive behavioural therapist. He was able to address problems head on and give me strategies when I was struggling which was fab. However, I know this is not the case for all supervisors and I know I just hit lucky with his skills and expertise.

Lots of thinking during the superhero PhD ice breaker activity early morning

When asked what one thing supervisors would like to see form their supervisors, the answers were unique to every person. One of our panel members used an example when she saw a ‘shift’ in her PhD student from being dependent to becoming an independent researcher and for her that was what she looks for (and all others pretty much agreed to some extent). Other answers included ‘independence’, ‘curiosity’ and being able to manage the expectations from your supervisor. Knowing what is expected form you makes the journey easier and a more conformable one, being open and honest throughout. For every PhD supervisor the answer will be different and I admire those who openly discuss expectations with supervisors as quite often, the topic is missed out.

When a question was asked about blogging, we had to ask our non-panel blogging expert (who was tweeting away at the time). Hazel explained that there are benefits to having a blog, but blogging is not for everyone so do if it fits, and don’t if it does not. For me, being a blogger requires dedication to actually writing a blog post. You need to set guidelines to how many times you will blog each month for example, and also stick to that. You also need to enjoy it as there is no point at all writing for the sake of writing – you will not engage you audience and it will most certainly not engage you.  I blog because I enjoy it but also because it helps me to get my thoughts on ‘paper’ and get them out there. I find it quite cathartic if others know I am struggling with research or if I am happy with what I have done so getting my research out there on my blog has an importance to me in my PhD for more reasons than just one. Towards the end of the discussion, Dr Brettle explained more about the systematic literature review that she has talked about in her keynote but explained that this does not suit every PhD. She explained that often, people are unsure whether to use them and sometimes a regular in-depth literature review is more appropriate (depending on the research itself).

The final question was quite explicit: What is the best advice you could give to a student understanding a PhD? and in my opinion these answers are what stand out the most.

  • You can’t get all of your work done sitting at a computer, take a break and go for a walk to use it as thinking time.
  • Make sure you still have a social life – it’s not all about work!
  • You’re not trying to conquer the world, you’re working to graduate (as you wold when doing any other type of degree). Remember there is a point.

BUT, the most important advice was not actually form a panel member… it was from the student of a panel member and is something we should all keep in mind:

‘PhD’s are quite hard… but we can do it!’

And I think I’ll end my blog post on that.

Reflections on building self-confidence in the PhD

L sitting at Univ Conf
Photo kindly taken by Prof Hazel Hall.

One of the main goals that I set myself as part of undertaking a PhD was to work on increasing my self-confidence, not only as a researcher, but also presenting my work to others. For me, I hate presenting in front of others and the thought of having to deliver some sort of presentation in front of an academic audience is not something that I welcome. Now you would think this would not be a problem for me considering I have previously worked in places such as the Centre for Life (in Newcastle) and also Beamish Museum (North East England) where every day part of my role was to ‘present ourselves’ and interact with people wanting to use the service – but you would be wrong. I was also part of the Schools Service as a volunteer for ChildLine (part of the NSPCC) and each week or so, I would deliver assemblies and workshops to children explaining different forms of abuse and how to spot it or get help. For a lot of people, talking to children about abuse that they could suffer might be hard, but I loved it knowing that I was helping to make a difference to those children. It did take me a while to build up my confidence in presenting but once I was fully trained and working, I most definitely absolutely loved it.

Speaking in front of people confidently and also presenting my work was one of the things I set myself as a primary goal to improve. During my education and employment I have seen people deliver sessions, presentations and training, wondering how they did it so effectively and it really made me understand how important these skills are in terms of being confident and feeling confident in what you do. So in the last 8 months as a research student, I have participated in many activities aimed to help improve my confidence in presenting so I am going to give a little advice to others based on what I have managed to do so far. Here is my advice to you:

  1. Get to know other students…

Firstly, I think it is really important to get to know others working in the area, both academics in your department and also different departments. For me, our student induction event kind of helped me do this. I got to know other students researching many different areas, some who were new to research and some (like me) who had kind of progressed through. This interaction enabled me to talk about my research ideas as it was only week one so none of us had really worked on our research as such as this point. It helped me gain insight into other research out there and also acknowledge (form the start) that there are a lot of PhD students in the same boat, trying endlessly to learn as much as possible in the PhD process.

  1. Get to know people in your department (and research group)…

Secondly, I think it’s really important to meet others in your research groups and departments. On my first day as a research student (and as part of my induction), my supervisor took me to meet some of the staff who would be able to help me along the way through my PhD journey, but also people who she thought I kind of needed to know. I also

Members of the Centre for Social Informatics (CSI) – image courtesy of photographer Prof Hazel Hall at the University Research Conference.

made efforts to meet people who I had not yet met so it meant that when I needed to talk to them, or ask for help, I know who they were and what they did. It was also beneficial to attend events (such as the Edinburgh Napier University conference) with some of our research group too so that I was able to feel part of the group and not feel too scared when presenting my poster later during the event. It also helps to ensure that isolation does not kick in so participating in academic events like this shows your commitment to the research group, but also helps in getting to know your colleagues a little better in their own academic setting.

  1. Attend lectures and seminars…

For me, my confidence in talking about my research started when I started attending lectures and seminars (both departmental and external). I attended some in the Business School where my research is seen to have a place (partly, yes), but this also helped me to get to know other research students and their research topics too. I was able to work on explaining my research to people not working in my area and building up that confidence in explaining what I was planning to do. Also for me, I did not feel part of the team so much until I started attending departmental seminars. Apart from showing your support to colleagues, I think it helped people to get to know me and me to get to know them so when we have different seminars and meetings people know who I am and what I am trying to do (hopefully) without having to continuously ask.

  1. Start by explaining your research to your supervisors…

The most critical people of your research will be your supervisors (in my opinion). Initially, I had problems as I did not want to receive criticism from anyone, but now I understand that criticism is vital in success (you have to feel the failure to facilitate the learning process). Receiving criticism and feedback on my work has helped me work on telling my supervisors what I am doing and some of the reasons why. It helps me in discussions of what I will be planning to do next and when I have an idea or so, I do not feel so fearful of telling my supervisors what I think. I ran into a problem with this a few weeks ago when

Explaining the whole of human behaviour using a teddy bear and three volunteers (image thanks to Frances Ryan).

I suggested a potential theoretical framework and I was welcomed with silence and the odd work here or there. I knew instantly that neither of my supervisors welcomed my idea and that I would need to go away and provide evidence to prove my point. This is something I will be preparing over the next few weeks and will be able to update you all once my discoveries are fully known. Part of my own problem is that I know my superiors are watching when I present, and I know they are secretly analysing everything you say and do (there are photographs to prove this haha!). This bothers my slightly. I kind of just need to get over those intrusive thoughts as knowing I have support from my supervisors is one thing that keeps me working. I’m not saying that a research student should do everything they do to please their supervisors but supervisors should be there to provide guidance, feedback and support when needed, and students need to have this in mind when presenting. Supervisors have a reputation to keep up so if it is evident that students have not prepared or are lacking the right support, then this could reflect not so well on the supervisor. More importantly, supervisors do not want you to fail (we hope). So taking time to understand supervisors expectations and getting that vital feedback is something I would highly recommend!

  1. Volunteer to organise a conference or two…
Soc certificate
Second place prize for best poster at the School of Computing research student conference.

I have found (oddly) that volunteering to be on a conference committee has helped increase my confidence considerably. Firstly, I was on the School of Computing research student conference committee and part of my role was to chair a set of presentations followed by a Q&A session after each. I often find that I get nervous in front of a larger audience so this was not my cup of tea at all when I first volunteered, but I do hold the strong belief that you learn by facing your fears. So I did. The day ran quite smoothly and I was even congratulated by people on how I chaired the session (including our director of research who came to me personally to tell me this). Something like this did not require me to prepare a presentation as such, but I needed to be aware of things like timing, people’s names and running order so that my delivery could go without a hitch. I also had to work with the rest of the team to help with planning and the second year PhD students to make sure presentations were on time and designed correctly. I obviously would not admit this (haha!) but I quite enjoyed the day overall and chairing the session I was assigned. It showed

Joint first place winners for best oral presentations at Firbush (image thanks to Frances Ryan).

me that my ‘stage fright’ only occurs in certain situations and that I don’t always make mistakes (like then I forgot my funders name in the research day presentation earlier in the year!). So next week, I’ll also be doing a similar at iDocQ where I am the Edinburgh Napier student rep and have been working with other staff and students at Strathclyde to organise the conference. I’ll leave that one there though as I have blogged about this before and I am sure I will be writing a blog post about the event itself. I don’t want to spoil all of the fun.

  1. Start by explaining your research in one minute…

During the research day in January, my ‘one minute madness presentation’ was not good. I forgot my funder’s name which threw my whole minute off course and I felt like a complete failure. However, a few months later at our School Conference, I did the exact opposite. I did not stress over this beforehand and prepared my one minute presentation structurally and practised it every now and then to keep the timing. The one thing that I thought would bother my (my supervisor looking straight ahead at me) did not bother me at all for that minute and I was quite surprised by my own reaction. I don’t believe that it was a great one minute presentation but I was able to continue to and introduce my research area more confidently and this time I did not feel like a compete failure. The one minute madness was actually an introduction to a poster that I was delivering later in the day and I coincidently won second prize for this at the conference which I was pleased with. I have also delivered one minute madness presentations and you can see tweets form my colleagues here who photographed me during my time ‘on stage’. The one minute madness presentation are good in the short run but…

  1. What about presenting a poster?
Univ_LJ from HH
Lyndsey presenting her poster at Edinburgh Napier University Conference (image thanks to Prof Hazel Hall).

I know quite a lot of academics who believe that posters are a waste of time. However, I feel the exact opposite. Designing a poster about your research, and then presenting this at a conference not only helps with research justification, but the presentation itself enables you to be questioned and criticised in a less formal format. I have presented two posters already, one at the School of Computing research student conference and one at the university conference, both with the overview of my research. I found that not many people asked about my research at the school conference but I think that was due to location and timing rather than other factors involved. I was able to chat about my research at the university conference a lot which gave me the opportunity to discuss reasons behind my research, the theoretical framework (which was welcomed by my audience), the methods and also the applications of my research. I was questioned frequently by people in the Business School and Employment Research Institute as my research ties in well with their research themes, but they were quite shocked to find I was not based there and where my research came from. It was good for me to receive unplanned questions, such as the effect the recession might have on the training aspects of my research and explore how my research relates to research currently being one within the workplace learning and educational context which I enjoyed talking about quite a lot. I also (wonderfully) got to meet the person behind the ERI twitter page, where he made the point of telling me that he knew I retweeted a lot of the ERI research tweeted.  I am hoping that this confidence will stick and I will be able to carry it out at the international conference I am attending in September so that I can talk about my research to leading academics. I hoping that my stage fright as it’s called does not get the better of me and that I can discus my research with both students and academics who wish to question me on it.

  1. Then the dreaded oral presentation…

As you may be aware, I hate presenting in front of other people, particularly if it is about my research and especially if it is unscripted. I think my trip to Firbush with some of the other PhD students might have proved myself wrong in one of our activities that we did. We were given the task of delivering a 5 minute unscripted oral presentation on our research. We HAD to use props from a pre-prepared box and it HAD to be delivered to the general audience. Needless to say, I was not looking forward to that! Anyway, I really surprised myself with what I was able to provide and how much I enjoyed it. I was able to explain my research quite confidently, and use all props necessary. I am not a naturally confident person but because I knew that the audience were not here to criticise me then I just

Firbush prize
First place prize at Firbush for best oral presentation – awarded to Lyndsey Jenkins.

carried on as normal. Half way through I forgot my words, but instead of stopping, I just talked about something new I had found out and asked a question to the audience. This gave me a few seconds to prepare my next part and meant I was able to continue talking about my research without people knowing I had missed a massive portion out. I am really pleased I took part in this as it helped me see that presentations don’t have to be scary and don’t have to be hard. The audience even felt that my presentation was quite good and nominated me for joint first place winner of the prize, something that I thought was quite impossible.

Later this week comes the times that I dread, doing an oral presentation in front of my own research group and then other staff and PhD students at iDocQ. I am hoping that it okay and that all of my preparation time pays off, but our research group so have a good way to enable students to practice conference presentations before actual delivery which I quite like. This then allows us to get feedback to hopefully improve our game with the aim of ensuring that we are on top form at conference presentations. I am hoping that the dry-run of my presentation will help me work on building up my confidence even further and that I can put into practice everything I have read and understood of what makes a presentation understandable and appropriate.

More details on my 20×20 will follow in my blog post on the product of iDocQ! 🙂

The Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences – Summer School!

name tag
Free stationary!

This week I have been out of the office for 3 days out of the 5. I have been attending some training specifically designed for PhD students, with the focus on the social science (but not limited to disciplines of those who can apply to attend). The three day training course was a summer school held by the Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences who facilities funding, training and support for students undertaking PhD’s in the social science area.

This was a really good opportunity for me to get some actual PhD relevant training under my belt and I was really looking forward to meeting other PhD students within the same discipline and those who are not studying in the same area. I was able to meet other PhD students studying very social science subjects but there were also one or two from biologically driven and business background so it was nice to explore their research topics too. The programme of training classes was quite varied, and we could only register for those that we could physically fit into the three days. Therefore I chose two half day training sessions and two full day training sessions to make up my three day training frenzy.

Day 1 consisted of me attending two workshop training sessions: When Methods Meet and also Getting real about data: interviews and I chose these based on my own personal interests as well as what I felt would benefit my research.

The morning session was great and provided me with insight into two research methods

View from session 1 (day 1)

which can be used together in research. These were survey and citizens juries. I had never heard of the latter before so it was good to see how another method could be used in the research context. It was a very practical session with us getting to hold our own citizens jury and participate in different things to get a feel of how the method works. Initially, our speakers explained a little at out each method and how they can be used in research (to give us some contextual background). They used the example of windfarms to explain how the two methods can be used to explore this phenomena as debates are ongoing onto whether people are for or against windfarm development. Anyway, we then proceeded to our practical session where we (the jury) heard evidence from our evidence givers on either side of the argument (our presenters). We then proceeded to discuss the issue, opinions and facts within our citizen’s jury which included a group facilitator (our presenters) who helped our conversation flow as well as maintaining a set direction. Now like many others, I had no idea about what a citizen’s jury was or even its purpose so you can find some more information here. The jury are there to deliberate about a set topic / question but do not come to a yes / no answer. Instead, they discuss opinions and agree an answer to a set question posed by the researcher which allows the researcher to gain further insight into the opinions discussed and reasons behind doing so. It was also really good to hear that citizens juries are often there to help make decisions and influence policy, something my research will be doing (hopefully). However, when one of our presenters explained the cost of holding just one citizens jury I know this method would not suit my research, or my budget. At the end of our session, our presenters discussed pro’s and con’s to the methods and explored how surveys and citizens juries can be used in one. It was good to see a practical example of how research methods can be mixed and has given me some thought as to what I can do for my own research methodology itself.

I found the second session of the day (Getting real about data: interviews’) particularly intriguing. The session focused a lot on walking interviews, how we undertake them and the practicalities of doing so. Our first task was to find a partner and carry out a short walking interview, discussing our next progress reviews as topic of conversation. As a group, we were able to see how walking interviews work. They are often used when the environment needs to interact with the research or when the environment can impact results taken. They are also used as a comfort method for those who are not at ease in the interview situation as it enables participants to chat to researchers in a less formal way, but still have the structure and flow of an interview. We then moved on to looking at some creative visual methods. Now these are creative methods used to help s collect data, so looking at things like photography and visual objects that can be used to help participants explain the things they want to and add physical context. One of our tasks was to draw out

ice breaker dots
Ice breaker activity (day 2)

our relationships between home / work / study and then to explain this to our partners. In our eventual group of 4, we all had different interpretations and different drawings. We were also asked to use playdough to explain the relationship we have with our supervisors which for me, was not an easy task. My fellow PhD student, however, did a fabulous job and tweeted about her creativities. You can see my supervisors tweet when she realised what our task was and how we got on. I can happily say my model was not photographable and I maintain the stance that I could not fully represent the relationship between my supervisor and I as it is so complex… (excuses really!)…

Day 2 comprised a full day of statistics!! Well technically not proper statistics, more on how to visually represent data and communicate it to a variety of audiences in the session called Data visualisation and statistical communication. Now this session was great as it was hosted by a Lecturer in Quantitative methods and also a graphic designer, two areas that are important in statistical communication. We took part in an ice breaker activity designed to help us mingle and get to know each other. It turns out, covering each other in sticky dots is quite fun and we got to keep these as souvenirs! The morning was something I had not really thought of before and explored the deign aspects around visual communication. These were principles of design to help the researcher communicate data in a way that was visually representable of the data itself and also understandable to the audience. We were then asked to complete a series of tasks to solidify our learning of this knowledge. We played card games and Pictionary to understand the concepts further as well as analyse some charts to see if we could spot the principles within the data presented. I quite like this way of learning – being information of the information and then using the information to help us create knowledge. For me, the application of information is a key aspect of knowledge production. I now understand the principles of design but also know about how these can be applied to practical settings and have lots of resources to help me with this when the time comes in my PhD. The afternoon faired with the same structure but this time we learned principles of statistical communication – basically what to do to present your data statistically with the least fuss possible. I know after 4 years of statistics training, this never gets old and it is always important to understand about statistical communication for those who have never researched or learned about it before.

Statistical communication via Lego

It’s great being able to do all the statistical data analysis in the world but if you cannot communicate it to your audience and tell them what you have found then I kind of question the point. We spent the remainder of the afternoon building statistical representations of data out of Lego and seeing how well we could explain our ‘findings’ in terms of practical objects. This seemed to work okay!

Day 3 was a full day of Strategic Ethnographies. We heard our guest speakers (Professor Robin Williams) talk about some of this research and how the ethnographic approach has been used. He gave us a brief introduction to the method and some of the challenges before we heard Professor Sampsa Hyysalo (via Skype in Finland I do believe!) talk about his research in terms of how strategic ethnographies can be used and what he has done with the method so far. We also listened to Dr Mozaffar Hajar who told us about how her research (on innovations in the workplace) used the strategic ethnographic to track the development of innovations over time across different sites. It was good to hear both internal and external researchers discuss this as I was not really sure what the method was in the first place. They explained research topics that have used the method to explore research questions and did explain that innovation and social learning have both been included. This kind of got me thinking about my own research – workplace learning and innovation and whether  using strategic ethnography would be a suitable approach. My initial gut reaction would be a ‘no’ as I am not looking at events changing over time or cross-culturally, however, using different techniques within the method may help me explore my own research questions further. For me, this is something that I am looking into right now, the most appropriate methodologies to use and why (including the research paradigm). The session has prompted me to look into strategic ethnographies a little further so that I can justify my choice whether or not I would use in as part of my PhD.

We then delivered our ‘One Minute Madness’ presentations, similar to the one I did at the School of Computing research student conference in May and my fellow student, Iris, tweeted the one I did! This was a great opportunity to see the research topics of other students and the varied nature of each research project. It turns out that no-one else is researching workplace learning or innovation but I don’t think any research topic was actually the same, which was nice. After lunch we were able to explore problems within our PhD’s in terms of theories, methodology and also ethics. It was good to hear that other students are currently facing the problems that I will be encountering so I was able to note down some sound advice form them all so that I know what to do. One prominent point that came up form discussions was the role of the supervisor. We often forget that our supervisors are there to help us form the basic things of design to more complicated matters of ethics. We discussed how supervisors sometimes have knowledge of their own subjects that overlap with our topics and may have met others in the area who can help us in terms of things like data collection. For example, if I was struggling to get organisations on board for my research, I could ask my second supervisor who already researches and works within the employment area and will have various contacts who I can get in touch with.

And that was that The session ended my three day summer school training sessions and enabled me to see how important sessions like this are. More importantly, the training showed me that there are a lot of diverse topics being researched at the moment, but it is often the student experiences that overlap and being us together whilst we travel through the research journey. Networking opportunities such as the summer school are vital to keep us going, firstly to realise that we are not alone in the problems we are facing and secondly to know that our individual research journey is not actually an individual journey at all.

The beginning of the Philosophy bit…

IMG_0583As part of my research degree, I need to understand quite a bit about the philosophy of science and what this mean in terms of the research methods I choose. Now when I first found out I needed to know this I was rather confused, thinking why on earth is this relevant? I thought that I would be looking into really random things like the meaning of life and how we came to live etc, and wondered what this had to do with a PhD. I am so glad my understanding of this was wrong!

To understand everything further, I first looked into what Philosophy of Science ACTUALLY was and now I understand it a little more. The Philosophy of Science is a branch of philosophy concerned with science foundations and implications of science as well as methods used to study science (Rosenberg, 2012). Although philosophy and science are separate entities, the Philosophy of Science questions the purpose of science, determinants of science and also analyses the reliability of scientific theory. I will whole-heartedly admit that I had to begin with Wikipedia first of all, just to grasp concept meanings and what things involve. For me, this helps a lot. To gain a basic understand of what I need to study then helps me to understand requirements for my further research and helps me to understand everything overall.

Anyway, I found out that Philosophy of Science is quite important. Philosophy helps us to understand why some scientific questions just cannot be answered with science, and gives insight into how they may be answered. Yes, there are some questions that can be answered by science but philosophy helps us to understand approaches in determine ow to answer those questions which have not got answers just yet. One thing that philosophy can do is help us address approaches to answering questions, and this can include the discipline it is in and the methodology. If we get these right, then we are well on the way to answering such questions in science but if we get these wrong then we need to readdress our approach and start again. We can then analyse methods and the philosophy can help to validate methods used in other disciplines, so that these can be used to answer scientific questions that have been found difficult to answer.

There are many approaches to the development of theory in science and I read a book by Lazer (1998) which has helped me understand the whole thing. The book was quite an old book but it was the only one that included what I needed to read and helped me understood historical approaches to the development of theory more generally, before getting into the nitty gritty of things. The book explained the approaches by three Philosophers: Karl Popper (1902-1994), Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) and Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994). All three had different approaches to how scientific theory is created and I can let you into some of my newly found knowledge now.

Karl Popper did not believe that induction was a valid method of scientific enquiry. He criticised other philosophers who believed this and explained that theory based on induction made from observations cannot be valid. Popper explained that induction cannot be an ecologically valid driver of theory as it suggests applying all observational and inferences to all occurrences. If theory is based on observations, we cannot truly know if other observations (not yet observed) would differ from those already observed. If observations not yet made differ from those made, then the theory can be classified as invalid as the observations would not match what the theory states. Popper argues that scientific processes are possible because scientists seek theory with greater scope. He believed that real science comes from theories that can be refuted – debated and replaced if proved wrong. If scientist make discoveries that dispute and criticised theories, these theories can be updated and replaced, making the theory better to explain the phenomenon at hand.

Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) argued against Popper and suggested that mature or real sciences are explained through ‘paradigms’. These are the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline. Unlike Popper, Kuhn believes that theory is not constantly criticised and updated, but that scientific revolutions occur instead. Kuhn believed scientific revolutions are conversion of experiences rather than rational processes. Exchanging belief systems defines conceptual and methodological practices from the newly created paradigms, replacing older paradigms with newly formed one. However, Kuhn was criticised as his approach ignored theoretical diversity and failed to acknowledge individual differences, a critique addressed by another philosopher Paul Feyerabend.

Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994) critiques Kuhn’s idea of the ‘normal science’.  Feyerabend believes that science has no single scientific method as each have their limitations and one would not be enough to explore and justify a theory. Feyerabend expresses the importance of individual, their intellectual ability theoretical diversity, explaining that restrictions would be places on scientific theory if the individual was not considered. From this, he believed that science theory benefits from theoretical anarchism whereby theory is defined by self-governed actual individuals within the society and their own characteristics. Something about this struck me as it was one of the first approaches to consider the individual, an area of research which is going to be relevant to me at some point in my journey.

It was quite good to know that there have been a lot of opposing views in history and this underpins the basis of my further reading. Although not strictly related to my research methodology, I needed to understand approaches in science and how theory is derived so that I could read further into the philosophical approaches of research methodology. I did not really how philosophy related to research study until I found something called a Research Hierarchy (Pickard, 2002, 2013). The research hierarchy is kind of a model to help explain how philosophy relates to choosing the right methodology and the diagram below explains just that:

RH image(Diagram created by me using Pickard, 2002, 2013).

The model helped me understand how a philosophical approach (or research paradigm) can eventually influence a researcher’s choice of method to answer their research questions. All research begins with a psychological paradigm regardless of its philosophical content directly. Each point on the diagram is explained below to help understand the processes involved.

a) Research paradigms have previously been defined as collections of beliefs, values and techniques shared by the scientific community and are ways of viewing and influencing the world, but not controlling directions of research itself (Kuhn, 1970, 146). They help researchers explain their approach to solving a given problem and may influence the research methodology used. The research methodology can be seen as the theoretical perspective of the research itself and is the overall nature of the research itself applied to the research process The research methodology will be dependent on the research paradigm which gives perspectives on how knowledge is acquired and how we view the world (perception on reality). These views will determine how the research questions will be explored in terms of how knowledge will be gained during the investigation. Now there are many different approached including the positivist and constructivist but I am not going to go into detail here as this will be the next part of my methodology research and I am not quite there yet.

b) (The research method is the researcher’s strategy to employ empirical investigation – how they are going to answer the questions. This includes how the research is going to collect data, such as carrying out a case study, and will be determined by the focus of the study. If the researcher requires details on why a phenomena occurs, they may opt for a qualitative methodology whereby methods like case studies and interviews are the most appraise strategies for data collection.

c) Depending on the research method used, the research method can then imply research technique which are data collection techniques embedded within the research method.  Quite often, researchers may confuse terminology overlapping research method and research techniques. A well-known example I the use of the terminology of ‘survey’ and ‘questionnaire’ whereby the survey is the research method and the ‘questionnaire’ would be the physical entity used to collect data itself.

d) Research design should have flexibility in order to establish adequate answers to research questions without limiting research discovery. It might seen a little vague to explain that researchers need to sue the right instruments to collect data, but if the right research techniques are not addressed then the instrument may not be planned for… and it is the instrument that would provide the biggest mishap in data collection if not available at the time of need.

So overall, I found that explanation quite useful. Firstly, it helped me understand why we need research philosophy and how the research paradigm sets the parameters for the progression of the research itself. It’s important to understand how research paradigms can shape research methodology but as mentioned above, there is so much more to explore.  The philosophical approach used in research is also determined by several assumptions regarding ontology (the composition of reality), epistemology (how knowledge is acquired), and human nature, ultimately influencing the choice of methodology (Holden & Lynch, 2004, p.3). A research paradigm does not imply a methodology, rather it is the individuals view on the world  and knowledge that dictates the nature of the research and how the researcher engages with the research process (Pickard, 2013, p.xvii).

This will, indeed, be the next step in my challenge to find the best research approach and methodology to answer my research questions.


Kuhn, T.S. (1970). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.

Pickard, A. (2002) Access to electronic information resources: their role in the provision of learning opportunities for young people. A constructivist inquiry. Doctoral thesis, University of Northumbria. Available at

Pickard, A.J. (2013). Research Methods in Information (2nd Ed.). London, UK: Facet Publishing.

Rosenberg, A. (2012). Philosophy of Science: A contemporary Introduction (3rd ed.). New York, USA: Routledge.



A quick iDocQ 2016 update!

idocq blogAs one of the Edinburgh Napier student representatives for iDocQ 2016, it is part of my role to organise the 20×20 presentations. My initial duty was to review abstracts with my fellow student rep, Elaine (from Strathclyde) and we did so a couple of weeks ago.

Elaine and I sat down and looked at the submissions. We both agreed that ALL were of excellent quality and decided that ALL should present. We decided that it might be a little boring to have each university present in a block, so instead have mixed it up a little and combined all university student presenters into one.

The day will be split into two sessions – the first before lunch and the second after. This gives our audience an opportunity to ask lots of questions over lunch, and then return fresh-faced for session two. You can find more about our programme here.

As 20×20 presentations are timed and quite quick, Elaine and I also decided that we wanted opportunities for our presenters to be able to take questions from their audience and more importantly answer those questions directly. We therefore made the decision iDocQ logoto allocate a time slot for each presenter and it will be my duty to make sure the students stick to those times. Now you might think this will be easy, but I can tell you that it is not as easy as you might think. The audience will most likely have lots of questions, some inquisitive and some quite critical, and from experience of the School of Computing student research conference a few weeks ago, time flies when you’re having fun (so any overtime will admittedly be my fault).

Anyway, Elaine and I decided that we wanted to share the presenter list with you all so you can see what fabulous research presentations are on offer. Take a look, it might surprise you how much of the research areas overlap with yours or simply just interest you… we are proud to be able to offer discussions on such diverse topics (thank you student presenters!).

You can find the list of presenter’s below, or you can search the iDocQ 2016 webpage for the list too. You’ll find it on our programme for the day and if you have not registered yet, you can do so now too!

Cathy Foster

University of Strathclyde

Seeking to Succeed: the information behaviour of adolescent learners
Lyndsey Jenkins

Edinburgh Napier University

Enhancing the capacity for workplace learning and innovation in Scotland
Ibukun Sokari

Robert Gordon University

An exploration of e-banking adoption in Nigeria: Service  providers
Alicja Pawluczuk

Edinburgh Napier University

Youth digital culture co-creation: measuring the social impact in Scotland
Katherine Loudon

University of Strathclyde

The information behaviours of visually impaired people
John Mowbray

Edinburgh Napier University

The role of networking and social media tools during job search: an information behaviour perspective
Iris Buunk

Edinburgh Napier University

Easier, faster, better? How social media facilitate tacit knowledge sharing practices between employees within organisations belonging to the public sector
Elaine Robinson

University of Strathclyde

Panopticism in the UK Public Library
Liam Ralph

Edinburgh Napier University

An exploration of Police use of social media in Scotland
Paul Stevenson

Robert Gordon University

Evaluation of The Embedded Librarian in an NHS Environment
Frances Ryan

Edinburgh Napier University

The role of online information in the building, maintenance and evaluation of personal reputation

So if you are still unsure if you would like to attend iDocQ 2016, but you think you might want to, you can find to more information here about how to register and what you need to do. I would strongly encourage all students to register, regardless of university as it will be an exciting and intriguing day for us all.

See you all on June 23rd 2016 – University of Strathclyde!