data collection

How’s it going?

This week in Australia we had an R U OK? day. In principle this is a really nice idea and I think is a really important message. However, over the last couple of weeks I’ve had a few people ask me how the thesis is going. This question is less ideal. Because the answer is it’s not. So today I decided I would be inspired and get back to my theoretical model. And because I’ve moved house and still have boxes I can’t find my book I did the planning in, even though I know I did it in this house.

It’s these seemingly small obstacles that mount and prevent people from progressing.

I did go to the archives again on the 29th of August, all excited because I got another folder released. Turns out I opened the folder to be told: A7916 control 20  (you will need to rotate to the right direction – sorry). The issue is I’d agreed with the amazing Natalie at the House of Representatives I didn’t need permission for this file because it would be public. Natalie got an email in the afternoon explaining how apparently I do need to ask for access and would she mind adding it to the already very long list. Archival research is time consuming. One lighter moment was when I returned the file to confirm my suspicions, I remarked to the Archives person I was coming up on a year trying to access documents. She laughed and said “That’s nothing, we have one person researching here who has been looking for three years”. I did not share her humour.

I did compete in the 3MT which was great. Lovely audience really well organised and a credit to Melanie and her team at the university. What was sad was I am in a Faculty with over 100 students and I was the only one competing. In addition only two people from the faculty came to watch. I suppose one of those points leads to the other in a way. Without Faculty support students don’t push themselves and without students pushing themselves Faculty doesn’t see the point in offering support. Interestingly I was so sick on the night I didn’t care much about the process and I think this made me stronger! I didn’t win of course (social science never does – we can’t show how we’re medically saving lives or money) and also because the woman who won was simply incredible! She had strong research, amazing stage presence and a real story to tell. She was simply inspiring. This is also annoying. All the students in my Faculty should have been there to see her. To see how you can present your research and inspire people. It’s an amazing way to learn.

Interviews have been occurring slowly for our research paper and I’m learning to transcribe more effectively as we didn’t get our grant which means more work for me. I really love researching outside my thesis and I think it makes me stronger in my thesis…..if only I can manage my time.

My last thought today I am hesitant to put down but it was an event where I wondered if auto ethnography wasn’t a better theoretical choice after all. I subverted the university administrative system. Every six months we fill in administrative forms so everyone can be comfortable with ‘progress’ being made. My first time I was very serious. It took hours, I added files, I provided evidence and was very diligent. The next one I simply put links to my blog as I hold a lot of information here. This time, well, I simply said “No one reads this form so simply, my supervisor knows how I’m going, he’s okay with my progress, so all is well”. I then didn’t answer any of the other questions. Fortunately my supervisor backed me on my approach, although he did answer more of the questions. This week the university ‘powers that be’ approved my submission and have agreed to enrol me in 2018, proving my point no one actually reads the forms. It is process for process sake and will only be used if someone needs to sue someone else. Interesting fodder for my thesis, although not really applicable to my data set, unless I change to auto ethnographic.

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Relativeness of happiness (or utility)

I realised it had been a while so I thought I’d read my last post before writing this one. It’s funny, the last post is so full of hope and optimism. This one, even though I’ve done a conference submission and finally submitted my ethics application is not so happy. It’s nothing major, it’s just, well the book didn’t have what I thought. It had some, but not all the submissions so I can work with what I’ve got but it means I’m still reliant on the NAA to finish moving buildings.

I’ve also been running myself short on time. I’ve not done all the analysis I was hoping to have done simply because, well, life. Someone asked me the other day why I wasn’t full time. At the time I was short on an answer. Now I know. I need time to think about what I read, I need time to write what I’m thinking, delete it, and write it again (and again). I will need all the eight years they gave me (well seven and now I’m down to three…..). I also want to have a life while I do my thesis because having space enables cogitation. I talk to people about my thesis all the time and everyone I speak to provides a new insight (except for a really annoying person at work who keeps telling me their experience is vital for my thesis, but really they are not even in the same space). Through these insights building and enhancing I change what I’m reading and exploring. All this leads me to the end (well the end that’s close enough when it comes time to submit).

Interestingly one path I’m now exploring is the utility of education, not the expectation. So instead of trying to understand what actors and institutions expect of university education I’m thinking of how what they say indicates utility. This is useful as it enables me to explore their motivation explicitly through a lens already recognised for its complexity. Utility is totally dependent on the individual’s perspective of what increases their wellbeing.

So, this post really should be happy because I’ve made some milestones, but it’s not simply because I don’t feel the progress and take the set backs too much to heart. Just like my thesis where education is relative, so is my happiness apparently. Maybe I just need to revaluate what increases my utility. Tonight it might be wine.

And……face palm!

For several months I have been chasing documents (see Research is a time sink) and today a miracle occurred. Well, that’s a bit far, but still something so cool. Although it is also a face palm moment as the document I needed was online the whole time…..

Someone sent me a document and a link. The first tells me the big piece of information I’ve been looking for (there are not 600 submissions to the 1988 inquiry so heavens know what the department is on about) and the link is to a book that has all the submissions! So today I joined the National Library and Friday I plan to get out there and borrow myself a book.

What all this has taught me is I’m not very good at research. Actually, I am good at analysis and synthesis but I am very bad at finding things. This reinforces how important Bruce has been to my thesis. Without him feeding me many good sources early on I would not have made any progress at all. It also has taught me I should rely more on others who are good at finding things. And this means reaching out more to ask for help. Something I’m not great at. But today, being sent this little gem, has made me think I should get better at it and fast!

So a big thank you to Natalie at the House of Representatives. You’re very good at finding things!

Research is a time sink

Today I forayed to the National Archives. First of – awesome staff! So kind and helpful (and patient). Second – OMG. In order to access the green paper of the Dawkins era, I have to lodge a request which takes 90 days. And then that request might actually just tell me the submissions aren’t in that particular set of papers. Basically, it takes 90 days for someone to find the set of papers, look at it, and then put onto the web site what is actually included. Then I can’t access them until July next year even  if they are there because the Archives are moving buildings (naa-closure-notice). But I can pay to have them scanned.

On the upside, this process indicates I’m the first person to go to the source document for research in higher education because no one has activated the file before. In research terms, I’m in unchartered territories and that’s always a good feeling!

However, on the downside, I’m now in holding pattern for the 1988 data, but I do have a lot of other work to do. I was also told by the helpful person how the Archives lodge the materials (it’s done by agency, not topic…) so now I’ll go back to their web site for more effective searches in case the 600 submissions I need aren’t where I’m hoping they are. I did get told the story of the people who pull down 100’s of documents to find just one….it could be that this is going to take some time…..

Feeding the ideas and how to stop

Reworked the ‘change’ chapter today and am wondering for a topic as big as mine, when is it enough literature? I mean, I’ve got to the point where I’m finding literature quoting literature and there’s nothing really new, however, this is a big topic and I’m not convinced I have enough. So I think my step might be an EndNote and Scrivener audit to work out what I have from Australia on the topic versus other countries, then do a cross check on what I think, and then I might call it quits – for the moment, maybe.

The issue I have is I did a scholar search using a different approach and am finding some really cool stuff. It’s the application of post-structural thought into accounting and/or education. That’s cool. And then I’m finding topics in those that I would like to follow but then I’m in the proverbial rabbit hole. It’s time to get this chapter done so I can have my basis on which to move forward for data collection and analysis (which I’ve had to redo for the third time on my first collection as I keep rethinking about how to ‘let the story tell itself’. Of course, if the story is telling itself I shouldn’t have to ‘do’ anything, however I need the stories to tell me something vaguely thematic so apparently I have to think…) because the literature for me is an active player in my collection and analysis. This has been an interesting experience with the data collection while working up the literature. It’s been great to see how one idea feeds another, but at some point I have stop feeding the ideas and just get something done.

Had a great discussion with Michael this morning. It’s nice to have people around me to test my ideas and thinking, and not just on my thesis! Although we did talk about post-structural thinking this morning and agreed there was probably a bit of ‘get your hand off it’ in their process. However, the more time I spend with the post-structural concepts and ideas, the more I see how I need it in the thesis to explain my critique of the discourses. It’s nice to understand the limitations of my framework while gaining insights into their applicability. I do enjoy learning.

Additionally Amazon got more money from me today…..damn you Bruce.

How long does good luck last???

So today I found this: Higher Education in Australia: A review of reviews from Dawkins to today

How lucky can I get? I was looking for something completely different (financial statistics) and found a document done by the government summarising the time period I need for my thesis in policy review terms! Oh yeah!

Also, had a great day writing and researching. Continued with data collection and all I can say is – I’m surprised. Wasn’t expecting to be but totally am. I thought the submissions would be a bit more focused on the money side but apparently it’s all about student choice of provider and all about the equity. Equity for students but also equity for institutions. There is a real ‘us and them’ mentality in the universities which I knew was present, but didn’t understand how large it loomed. Also found out today that only four universities in 2014 ran at a loss. Also found out that all universities’ financial information is put out by DET. I’m assuming others knew this, but I did not. Now I do!!! Learning is so much fun.

I did spend some time on hegemony today. I think I understand the journey of Laclau and Mouffe through the Marxist transitions, however, I would not even bet $10 as yet as to how close I am in understanding. You know what, not even $1.

More importantly, my house is a little cold so I got myself the best beanie – it’s Bert from Sesame Street. It appeals to me to be thinking about the future of Australian education while wearing a muppet on my head.