Sunday, February 28, 2010

Regrounding Intuition (Alternate Title: Follow The Process!)

One of the things I did to develop Theory D was to write an abstract for Conference In Resort City. In my rush to get out my abstract, I had to rely somewhat on my intuition to come up with several of the sub-categories for my theory. From the recent feedback I received at the workshop in Oldest Varsity, I came to understand that there is more work to be done to develop a Full-Package grounded theory.

And so, I am back to the drawing board, so to speak, and going through my data once again to ensure that all of my categories have a good audit trail to them. In other words, I am having to reground my intuition.

It's good. It's good. Rigorous detailed work it is, but necessary.

I'm 100 per cent sure the data is there and that the sub-categories come from the data. But what I understand now, especially after reading through Perspectives III: Theoretical Coding (Glaser, 2005), is that having well-saturated categories, a good stack of memos, and going through a diligent and creative hand-sorting process of memos with theoretical codes in mind will yield a much more conceptual theory.

The GT process has been well laid-out. I just need to follow it.

I can't wait to do another GT study after this dissertation is done. The next time, I will follow the process to a T . . . or to a GT . . . Bad pun. Never mind.

Note: I know many dissertators who don't put in this much effort (and expense) to perfect their craft. Yet those dissertators tend to become ex-dissertators in good time. Oh, to be an ex-dissertator!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mixed Emotions

I received mixed responses for my abstract for Conference in RCA.

1. The conference organizers gave really positive feedback on my abstract and poster;
2. The GT workshop leaders felt that I needed more saturation and conceptualization -- move from conceptual description towards theoretical conceptualization;
3. Adviser expressed surprise that I had not waited until I had completed my dissertation and submitted it to graduate school before sending my work to the conference.

I am very excited about #1, happy to learn #2, and completely perplexed by #3.

#3. I never knew that it would be a problem to submit works-in-progress to conferences.

First, the organizers contacted me and encouraged me to submit the application back in December when I had failed to submit on the deadline, and accepted the application even though I had clearly expressed that it was work-in-progress and that in line with Classic Grounded Theory, the emergent theory may change from what I had submitted.

Second, I know many friends who send in portions of their dissertations into conferences for presentation. In fact, it is a common practice to do so for our Computer Science department. As one friend told me, the doctoral dissertations in their department are made up of a compilation of chapters which they are encouraged to publish in journals before the entire dissertation is completed.

Third, sh'he knew that I was submitting an abstract to the Conference, so why did sh'he not inform me of this earlier?

I don't feel upset at Adviser, who has been really supportive all along, even when sh'he expressed #3 above. Perhaps hir illness has affected hir more than sh'he realized. I have been so careful all along to adhere to the highest ethical standards in my research, but now, I am concerned that my reputation--and worse, my dissertation--may be negatively affected because of this.

I have written back to Adviser (even tried to call her on the phone) to seek clarification, but have not yet heard back from hirm.

The life of a dissertator is fraught with mixed emotions!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feeling Much Less Lonely

Attending seminar at Oldest Varsity has been incredibly validating. Not only am I getting a real hang of learning classic grounded theory, I am feeling supported, understood, and excited about my dissertation more than ever before. Being in an environment where people understand what I am doing and can furthermore guide me towards the next steps in incredibly reassuring.

I am, indeed, feeling much less lonely.

I have also noticed that my brain is overflowing with ideas on classic grounded theory since attending this seminar. I am wondering if I should start a new blog focused just on "Classic Grounded Theory?" So many of my posts in the recent past has been about grounded theory.

Do I have enough to say about "lonely dissertating" to justify a separate blog? I don't know. Well, for now, I think I'll just keep writing here and label the grounded theory posts as such (see "labels" on the right panel).

Grounded Theory: Staying Conceptual & Entering An Area of Interest

I presented my emerging theory today and received a lot of helpful feedback. I want to blog about two key ideas: Staying Conceptual, and Entering An Area of Interest.

1. Staying Conceptual

Staying conceptual is something that I had understood was important, but until now, hadn't quite got the bearings of how to do it. Doing grounded theory requires going back and forth between conceptualizing and theoretically sampling data that is often descriptive in nature. I have a tendency to get caught up in the description such that I lose sight of the concepts. The notion of "conceptual description" is very helpful. Many so-called grounded theory studies describe concepts rather than tie them together through Theoretical Codes.

Today's wikipedia entry on Grounded Theory explains theoretical codes in this way:

Theoretical codes integrate the theory by weaving the fractured concepts into hypotheses that work together in a theory explaining the main concern of the participants. Theoretical coding means that the researcher applies a theoretical model to the data.

Two of my friends had defended their dissertations using grounded theory. One used Charmaz and the other used Strauss & Corbin. In both cases, what they had presented were really "conceptual descriptions." The first one using Charmaz just had a list of themes -- I am not even sure if s'he even had concepts come to think of it. The second one using Strauss & Corbin had concepts but s'he did not have a Core Category nor did s'he tie the concepts together through theoretical codes. Classic grounded theory emphasizes the importance of a core category as well as theoretical codes to bring the fractured concepts together.

This is theorizing!

And the theoretical codes, like the concepts (also known as substantive codes), need to emerge from the data, and not be forced onto the data.

The good news is, even with just a core category and a list of conceptual descriptions that have emerged from data (without tying them together with theoretical codes), one can have a brilliant, respectable piece of work. Such is the power of classic grounded theory.

2. Entering An Area of Interest

Many grounded theories that I have read have pertained to a specified population or a group of people. That was how I understood the word "substantive theory": that is applies to a particular group of people, e.g. the homeless, cancer patients, etc. I was not sure how one could enter into an area of interest where it applies to an action, say, "nagging."

However, in talking with Barney Glaser today, he clarified that what is more important is to have an area of interest, and just jump into the area and begin to collect data. You never know where it is going to lead you. He gave the example of one study which looked at Greek Dancing. This study came up with the a main concern or core category that pertained to something having to do with the rigorous exchange of partners, and having to manage that. Barney also cited his grounded theory of inheritance as another example.

So one could study nagging by simply jumping into data collection and follow the analysis where it leads, using the classic GT questions.

- - -

That's it. No clever post today. Just a little movement towards better understanding of classic grounded theory at Oldest Varsity.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Oldest Varsity

Here I sit as we are just about to begin on our workshop.

How exciting.

More later.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Whole New Respect!

I've been working hard to piece together the elements of my theory.

Boy! Is it ever hard work!

What is harder about it is that when I go in to the literature now to fill in some data-gaps, I find that people have been writing about what I have discovered through theoretical sampling and constant comparison.

Yes, there has been a great deal of uncertainty on my part as to whether I really have anything new or useful to say, but aside from that--which I have come to accept as a natural part of the process of writing up theory--what I am discovering is a true WOW factor. Not wow for myself, but wow for some of these scholars.

It is HARD to come up with original theory. So, I have brand new respect for these awesome award winning, chaired professor scholars. Their work (just good scholarly research, not necessarily grounded theory) have captured so succinctly and so well the things I have been struggling to put into words the last couple of weeks. Truly, theirs is work worth commending. Now I can begin to really tell the difference between amazing scholars and so-so scholars in my field. What's exciting is that my field is so young that many of these folks are still alive, and I'll get to meet them and hopefully not fumble my words when I open my mouth.

And here is also a new kind of respect I have for classic grounded theory: only by doing grounded theorizing have I been able to come to appreciate truly amazing scholarship. I would not have appreciated just how brilliant and hardworking these folks are had I stuck to the verification of variables in some quantitative way (even though I would have finished my Ph.D. a year ago). In my many years of study, I have been taught to critique theories but never to craft them. As good as I have been with theories, the act of crafting a theory has given me a level understanding about theories that critiquing and applying theories alone could never give.

I believe that developing a grounded theory would be an excellent exercise for an upper undergraduate or beginning masters research methodology class--to give students a chance to grapple with the challenge of theorizing and appreciate the value of a really well-crafted theory.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Four More Weeks Left

The stress is on, like, majorly.

I have only 2 weeks to get my theory ship-shape. On 20th, I have to submit my 5-page abstract for RCA, and then fly off to Oldest Varsity to present my theory. Then I have a week and a half to complete a FULL draft of my dissertation to Adviser. If I don't get the full draft OK'ed by her by first week of March, then I will not be able to attend my commencement in May.

The FULL draft?

This is not really possible.

I have to keep working hard.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Unexpected Tranquility

I'm sitting on my desk cutting up memos into strips for comparing and sorting. And I feel great.

[ Rewind story to the beginning ]

The past couple of days have been filled with stress -- work stress, that is. I thought to myself that I certainly would not have the energy to be able to dissertate after spending all day attending to work matters having to do with politics and negotiations. But I was wrong.

Professor Whitehair, whom I have always respected, encouraged me concerning my feelings of loneliness in research. He shared with me that the short time spans that he does get to spend on research are far and few in-between that when he has them, they are extremely precious to him.

I am liking my paper-cutting time right now, even though it is 7pm and I am still at the office. Not only does it relax me from the irritating and mundane work-life, the act of physically cutting paper gives my brain a whole different way to think of my data.

I feel rejuvenated in this tranquility. I will begin to see my times dissertating not as lonely, but as tranquil.

The Tranquil Dissertator? Hmm...