Milestone Moments in Getting your PhDin Qualitative Research is a guide for research students completing higher degrees with a focus on the importance of language and terminology of the theoretical and practical requirements of a given research program. The book responds to a lack of preparedness among many entrants into higher-degrees in contemporary higher education. The need among non-traditional entrants into higher-degrees for a strong background in core academic principles is made pressing due to the lack of preparation many students undergo prior to enrolment. This book might be consulted by research students as they proceed through the various milestones that may form part of a higher-degree.
- Offers guidance to research students working through the stages of a higher degree
- Provides practical advice on terminology and language
- Give examples of methodologies, their advantages and disadvantages
- Grounded in real student experience to offer a practical edge
Dr Margaret Zeegers is President of the Australian National Section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia where she is the Coordinator of the English programs delivered in that School.
The confirmation or defense of candidature
A defense of your research or a Confirmation of Candidature or a colloquium may occur toward the beginning of your candidature, or toward the end. This is the point at which you present, discuss, and defend your research to a panel of research experts. You will convince them, on the basis of what you have written and what you have to say in your presentation and in response to their questioning of you, that you have indeed considered all the demands of a successful PhD research program from the outset of your research, or if it is a defense of thesis, that you have met them at the completion of your research.
Confirmation of Candidature
Defense of thesis
In most universities, once you are accepted as a PhD candidate (which what you will be called until you submit), you will have the equivalent of a year's full-time study to prepare your Confirmation of Candidature (sometimes also called the Colloquium). In some universities, what is required is some sort of oral defense of your project (sometimes called the Viva Voce, or Viva for short). The panel that is convened for this process need not all necessarily be from your field, but you will be told who they are and this will give you some idea of their backgrounds. Some of them will be experts in research itself.ways of designing and conducting research in general.not necessarily in designing and conducting research in your area specifically. If it is done toward the beginning of your research program, you will convince them, on the basis of what you have written and what you have to say in your oral presentation and their questioning of you, that you have in effect emerged from that initial 12-month probationary period because you have shown not only that you have developed a viable PhD research program and have made satisfactory progress over the previous 12 months, but also that you will be able to submit in a timely fashion. If it occurs after you have completed your research, you will convince them, on the basis of what you have written and what you have to say in your presentation and in response to their questioning of you, that you have indeed met all the demands of a successful PhD research program. Your thesis is the document that forms the basis of this process. We will proceed on the basis of a Confirmation of Candidature or Colloquium occurring toward the beginning of the research undertaking, generally within the first year of candidature. See "Milestone 11: Finishing, submitting, and examination" chapter which looks at Viva Voce in more detail.
The panel of experts will look at your work very seriously and provide carefully considered advice on the basis of their engagement with your work. Because the focus is on the feasibility of the research you have proposed, the structure of the panel of experts comes from a range of research fields. They will know your work as well as you will enable them to know it. It is in your hands; you will write a document that details what you propose to do.
Designing the research
There are certain elements to consider in producing the document, whether it is the Confirmation of Candidature or Colloquium document, or the thesis itself. The following diagram gives an indication of how you might proceed. You will find in your reading of the literature on the conduct of research that scholars do not always agree on whether something is to be considered methodology or method, and indeed that some scholars conflate the two as if they mean the same thing. You will find that they refer to a technique as a method, or that they insist that what has been called a method is really a methodology. Our advice is not to engage in this sort of debate in your writing of your thesis, for it may become a rather messy line of argument to pursue. It is not necessary for you to try to resolve academic differences about such things in your thesis. We suggest that you leave that sort of discussion to those who have already made their names as researchers and writers about research, and focus on presenting your own research in such a way as to convince your examiner(s) that you have successfully engaged in trustworthy research in accordance with established conventions. We suggest that you work with concepts of paradigm, methodology, method, and technique as separate concepts, showing that you have consulted the most relevant literature on each of these, and not conflate them or use them interchangeably. What you will be aiming for is consistency in your use of these terms throughout your document.
Given this, you proceed on the basis of the paradigm that guides you in designing the research that you will do. The paradigm guides you in decisions that you make in relation to your research, serving to establish your research position. Once you have positioned your research in relation to a given paradigm, a number of other decisions follow in a logical manner, as suggested in the diagram (Figure 1). Figure 1
Framework for research.
This is so much more than that 250-word summary of your research that you provided upon application. You will present an overview of the design of the research that will form the basis for its actual conduct and the writing of the thesis. As you do this, your supervisors will work through it with you, and your university will provide guidelines for what you are to write and what you will present orally. You will do a lot of the groundwork for your final thesis here. Much of what you cover here will form the basis of that final thesis, with the difference being that in this document you write it in future tense: "I will study.," "I will interview.," "I will analyse.," and so on. You will change to present tenses, such as present perfect tense, for the thesis itself: "I have studied.," "I have interviewed.," "I have analysed.."
We can tease out the various elements for the creation of this document. There are specific terms to be used in relation to each, providing you with the opportunity to explore, discuss, and debate as you engage scholarly discussions of them. When we use the term, scholarly, we mean that you will draw on the literature that you consult, to explain to the panel members (and later the examiners of your thesis) just how well you understand these concepts and the research literature that surrounds them.
These elements will be extended and expanded further in more detailed discussions about writing the various chapters of your thesis (see Part Two). A real advantage of the Confirmation of Candidature is that from the outset of your PhD you get the various elements and ways in which they are to be addressed in your head. Each element is considered in more detail below.
The easiest way to approach the idea of a paradigm is to see it as a sort of model that might be followed when conducting research. A paradigm is a package of attitudes and methods tied together to inform the conduct of research. It provides a conceptual framework to use when designing your research. A positivist will use a different paradigm from one used by an interpretivist. A positivist will not have the same ends in mind as an interpretivist in relation to paradigm, for they will be seeking to uncover truth and facts as quantitatively specified relations among variables. They will also be aiming for predictions and explanations of their physical world, claiming research rigor, internal and external validity, and reliability, in a linear process of hypothesis statement, experimentation, and quantifiable and measureable conclusion(s). For these reasons, they will work with hypothesis and all things associated with these, a hypothetico-deductive paradigm that they call scientific method. You will not get involved in this sort of thing. You will be using an interpretivist paradigm.
An interpretivist will describe meanings, seek to understand participants' definitions of the situation(s) in which they find themselves, and examine ways in which subjective realities are produced. They will aim for trustworthiness and authenticity in relation to the conclusions they make, and they will work with research questions to be investigated and all things associated with these. You will engage qualitative research, using a different, appropriate paradigm for this type of research.
As a qualitative researcher, you will not only acknowledge subjectivity but see it as essential to the success of your research as you will not try to establish absolutes. Qualitative research is descriptive, subjective, conducted in social settings, and interpreted in relation to meanings generated by people to capture perceptions, experiences, and values. Qualitative researchers will conduct investigations with participants, not on subjects, using participant observation, interviews, conversations, diaries, journals, documents, and so on as these address aspects of social, cultural, political, and economic features of human life. You will have started out with a research question, but as you have proceeded you will probably have found that there are subsidiary questions to address as well. Your...