Monday, 25 April 2011

my research in plain english (v1)

Here's a brief post produced from the guilt I feel at not having added to my blog for a while. If there's a pause in my blogging, it's often because I'm still 'processing' something and am living with half formed thoughts. At the minute, my half formed thoughts are about how / if I can use Cultural Historical Activity Theory and Symbolic Interactionism into a useful theory frame. I've previously said something to this effect, but have been (gasp) reading since then - on both perspectives and sociological work which might help me join them together. More of that later. I also have a post brewing about visual research methodology.

For now, as a member of the #phdchat community on twitter, I'd like to add another work in progress: a summary of my research in plain English. I'll provide a link to this post from the #phdchat community wiki for comments and suggestions, in the same way that I'll look at others'.

 My Study

In short, my research is a study into the 'stories' a small group of individuals make to explain changes to the ideas they have about themselves as a member of a professional community in projects, organisations or services that work with children.

I plan to work with a small group of people so I can collect lots of information which I hope will provide a very rich and deep picture of their lives, so I can look at patterns, connections and gain new insights.

My study is based on ideas which suggest people have their own perception of their 'situation' and pick out and use things that are important to them in taking action, including action towards themselves, such as thinking about their professional identity. 

I want to understand what these people's stories (sometimes called narratives, which can also be visual as well as stories told) tell me about how this happens. How do people go about identifying these 'reference points'? - and of most interest to me, how do they use these reference points to do what I call 'identity work'. 

I plan to help people depict 'pictures' of their professional environment as they perceive it - not necessarily the physical surroundings, but anything they seems significant and stands for something (what I will call 'symbolic objects'). This is to help people think about things that might otherwise be difficult to think about. 

My starting point for this study is my own story of professional change, and how I have interacted with my professional environment to understand and reshape who I think I am and how I act. Although it's early stages, I hope to gain some insights into how this 'identity work' is done. I hope to gain an insight into the different 'tools' that I think people have all around them to think and act towards themselves - thinking and action that have very real consequences for how people do their jobs.

That's #1, then!