Archive for July, 2011

Using Evernote for Participant Reporting

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

It has been necessary in my PhD research to track my participants’ ‘off-radar’ social media activities. This is the term I use to describe any active contribution to sites that I am not routinely observing – such as commenting on a blog I am not following. My participants took on the responsibility of reporting such activities, and some found it useful to use Evernote.

Evernote is a private online annotation tool that enables the user to ‘grab’ specific content (such as a paragraph of text or an image) from web pages, and collect them on a personal site as ‘notes’ stored in folders called notebooks. Evernote also enables users to set up confidential links through its shared notebooks facility.

Not all my participants chose to use Evernote, preferring instead to keep a log or simply e-mail updates. But those that did generally found it a quick and unobtrusive method of self-reporting, and one participant adopted it into her everyday practice.

Here’s a guide for researchers who may want to use it in this way:

Set up

The researcher and each of the participants will need to first sign up at http://www.evernote.com/

Click the Create Account button, complete the Register for Evernote panel and follow instructions. Evernote is free for a monthly upload allowance of 60mb.

Create a Notebook

Each participant will need to set up a notebook for all the content they specifically want to share with the researcher.

In the Notebooks panel (top left), select New Notebook and give it a name
(They can set up as many notebooks as they want for other purposes if they wish.)

To save files

The easiest way for participants to save content to Evernote is using the Web Clipper tool. This is a simple ‘bookmarklet’ that adds a button to the browser toolbar (Evernote supports Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome). To set this up, they need to go to:

http://www.evernote.com/about/download/web_clipper.php

Once this is set up, participants can simply highlight any content on a web page and click the Evernote button. They do not need to have their Evernote site open at the time, but the next time they view it they will see the content has been added as a note.

To share Evernote notes

This is the set up procedure for participants to allow the researcher to access the notes they wish to share. They will only need to do this once:

In the Share drop down menu (top right), click on Share Notebooks…
In the Notebook Sharing panel, click the Start Sharing button next to the notebook to be used for the research
In the Share with individuals panel, select Invite individuals to access this notebook
In the Email invitations to box, type in the researcher’s e-mail
Under the heading Recipients may:, select View this notebook
Keep the Require log in to Evernote box ticked
Click the Send invitations button

Some alternatives to Evernote can be found here.

Don’t call that technology ‘Lifesaver’

Monday, July 18th, 2011

In a celebrated scene from The Jerk (1979), dim-witted Steve Martin – excited by a dog’s apparent ability to save lives – is rebuked by an aggrieved observer, who suggests he calls it something very different – which Martin proceeds to do for the remainder of the film, to comic effect.

Similarly, it’s easy to get enthusiastic and passionate about a specific technology, sometimes to the point where it seems we cannot live without it. But it’s worth remembering that we draw on our own experiences, knowledge and culturally defined values to determine the affordances of technologies, and that our desire to share our excitement with others might not always be appreciated.

Further Thoughts on Blogging Profs.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Following my previous post on Professor Pat Thomson’s new blog, a few things have been nagging at me in terms of the wider context of professorial blogging and the nature of influence in social media practices across academic hierarchies.

It is reasonable to assume that professors who choose to blog play a role in inspiring early researchers within their disciplines to do the same, but does this necessarily lead to adoption? If I see a professor presenting at a research conference, I might be inspired, but I may not be eager to jump up there and do the same.

In my experience, some of the most crucial barriers to postgraduates starting to blog centre on perceptions of academic quality, reputation and audience – something along the lines of:

  • “I don’t have much to say / contribute (at this stage in my studies)”
  • “Nobody is interested in what I have to say”
  • “I don’t have the confidence to share my thoughts on a public platform”
  • “I may regret putting my ideas online that will appear academically naive in the future.”

We might reasonably assume that senior academic bloggers are highly knowledgeable, confident and articulate, with a rich portfolio of research and experience to draw on, and an ability to attract a critical mass of fellow academics. However, whilst they may inform and inspire, might the apparent maturity, assuredness and gravitas of their blogging practices actually deter early researchers from blogging themselves?

Of course, we should not necessarily assume that senior academics have the experiences and competencies of using blogging platforms. They may be new adopters to social media generally, and cautious of the potential implications to their own professional identities and reputations.

But we cannot realistically expect these busy academics to spend any amount of time on informal online dissemination without good reason. I’ve written before on the multiple purposes of blogging (that are often interrelated in complex ways), and there is no reason why a professor should be any different. For some it may be no more than a minor box-ticking exercise in demonstrating research impact, an online platform for self-promotion, or a resources dump. Others may seek to develop more dynamic, discursive and reflective blogging environments, which invite debate, engage with their current practice and research, and demonstrate a willingness to share ideas and expose their own inconsistencies, doubts and challenges.

Which of these are the most likely to influence and affect social media practice in their field?

Patter

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Pat Thomson, Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, has just launched a new blog with a batch of interesting posts.

Having attended a number of her tough but highly effective sessions on academic writing in the School of Education, I am particularly familiar with her post on Swales and Feak’s exercises in skeleton writing. Her book with Barbara Kamler, Helping Doctoral Students Write: Pedagogies for Supervision, has rightly become recognised as a key text (don’t be misled by the title – it’s just as useful for PhD students). The recently published Routledge Doctoral Companions (for students and supervisors), which she co-edited with colleague Melanie Walker, have also been indispensible in my own research.

Of course, these represent only part of Pat’s research interests and experiences, so it will be interesting to see how she decides to develop the blog. As @PatParslow suggested in a subsequent Twitter discussion, professorial blogging is all too rare. Yet in my experience of talking with other PhD students, professors who do blog can be enormously influential (probably far more than they realise) in legitimising blogs as platforms for research dissemination, particularly in under-represented disciplines.

Writing Journal Articles – Tips from the Editors

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

During yesterday’s Doctoral Conference at the London Knowledge Lab, Martin Oliver, Neil Selwyn and Rebecca Eynon, editors of Learning, Media and Technology, presented a useful session on getting journal articles published. Here’s a summary of my notes.

THE PUBLISHING PROCESS

Developing Journal Articles from a Thesis

  • Aim to write three journal articles from your thesis
  • Develop one key theme for each – not the same texts with a different spin
  • Avoid ‘salami slicing’ – replicating texts across different journals
  • Also look for options in developing shorter ‘positional’ papers – Neil Selwyn mentioned the recent viewpoint article by University of Nottingham’s very own Sarah Lewthwaite as a good example from their journal

Identifying Journals

  • Ask supervisors
  • Look at previous authors of journals (these may now be reviewers)
  • Send an abstract to editors before committing to writing a paper – they will try to get back to you
  • Look for reputable publishers
  • Make sure journals are peer reviewed and have an ISSN number
  • Know your audience – pay particular attention to the requirements of an international audience

Submitting

  • Proof read!
  • Use critical friends
  • Obvious, but thoroughly read journal submission guidelines / instructions

Corrections

  • Make sure each recommendation is addressed
  • Add a note when resubmitting to outline how you have addressed each recommendation

WRITING A GOOD JOURNAL ARTICLE

Abstract

  • Present the key points from your conclusion in the abstract – don’t keep them as a surprise!

Literature Review

  • A good literature review should critique, build on and support existing literature
  • Ensure the literature review logically informs and justifies the research questions

Methodology

  • Avoid ‘copy and paste’ methodologies from theses
  • It is not necessary to describe the methodology in depth – more important to justify why you chose a methodology
  • Sampling is often a weak area in journals – present sampling methods and the justifications for sampling

Ethics

  • Doctoral students tend to discuss ethics too much in journal articles – reviewers assume appropriate ethical procedures have been taken
  • Only refer to special cases / requirements

Presenting Data

  • Journals are frequently let down by insufficient data
  • Use tables, diagrams or graphs if possible but keep these limited

Discussion / Conclusion

  • Always use the literature review to discuss your data – do not introduce new literature
  • Draw three or four key conclusions

References

  • Consider carefully who you cite – reviewers read titles, abstract and references first