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On 13th November I met with Nicola only as Ray had to attend a meeting in London and no other date was mutually convenient.

I had been GUTTED to have to cancel a scheduled supervision session on 5th October but I had not had anytime to make any progress since the beginning of term.  I had not been clear enough with myself about where I was going to aim at before my next supervision, so consequently had let events overtake me.  A good lesson to learn.  The shock of having to cancel a session made me sit down and consider where I wanted to be before the next supervision (15th Nov).  I decided I wanted to have all my interviews coded (NVIVO) as Bettina Newton (the best transcriber in the world) had been brilliant and ensured that all my interview transcripts were just sitting there waiting to be coded.  So all my interviews coded and the first round Delphi questionnaire draft.  That was the plan.

In the intervening period I attended IEEC2016 in Liverpool (just the 8th Sept) to see if I had won the Enterprise Catalyst award.  Sadly no – but still an honour to be a finalist!  The highlight of the conference for me was tweeting a picture of the Tracey Emin work in the Cathedral, “I Felt you And I Knew You Loved me” and the real Tracey Emin liking my tweet!  It was nice to catch up with people like Kim Brookes, Kelly Smith, Pete McCuskie, Catherine Brentnall and Nigel Adams.  But all in all I figured that I’d probably had enough conferences for the time being and needed to concentrate on publications.

When I got back I concentrated on the job of coding my interview transcripts.  I  coded pretty much every word, creating codes as I went along with the list getting longer and longer. Periodically, in between interview transcripts, I would refine the codes, merging some, creating hierarchies with others.  A list of candidate threshold concepts started to emerge, along with other themes that I didn’t want to lose from the interviews.  Potentially useful for other papers further down the line.  Eventually I felt I had the definitive list.  I created a questionnaire in Survey Monkey but then discovered I really needed some of the premium features that you had to pay for.  So I then discovered that Northumbria subscribes to Bristol Online Surveys, so I recreated my survey in that.  It does most of what I want it to do with a few exceptions.  I can’t make a text box fill an entire line.  I can’t write things in bold or underline them in the item descriptors.  I can’t create a nice responsive ranking question format.  All features that Survey Monkey offers (for a price).  But BOS will do (and it’s free).

I also arranged a Video Conference for doctoral students interested in Threshold Concepts – an idea started at the Halifax Conference.  Global time differences will always prove challenging with members in UK, Canada and Australia but hopefully if some can’t make it, others can.  On 7th October Anne Tierney, Fiona Watson and I had a really useful hour hearing about Anne’s PhD journey to date and how she is preparing for her imminent VIVA.  I must check out Perkins – Categories of troublesome-ness again.  The book by Mats Alverson and Dan Karriman “Qualitative Research and Theory Development – Mystery as Method” was recommended too.  In our next session, Anne has offered to share her experience of her VIVA.

I arrived in Durham for my supervision, having sent Ray and Nicola my draft questionnaire and a partly completed Threshold Concept matrix.  I had sent the questionnaire to 7 people for feedback in addition to Ray and Nicola.  I had also tried Mind Mapping the coded data as an interim step between the transcripts and the final write up – and had completed 2. I was back on track.

Nicola suggested I stress the tentativeness of the work more, and to clarify  that I wasn’t just about rating and ranking but also about the evaluation of the Threshold Concepts.  She liked the last two questions where I was forcing a ranking.

After seeing my Mind Maps, she suggested I look at Ian Kinchin’s paper on using Concept Mapping to analyse data. Especially as I plan to use Concept Mapping at a later stage of my research study.

She felt my questionnaire was clearly defined with little overlap.

She questioned the titles of two of my proposed Threshold Concepts;

Deviance; has this a uniquely negative connotation?  Might this affect the way people respond to it?  She wondered if the other labels have more of a halo effect of social desirability. Am I being deliberately provocative?

Self-Efficacy; is this too academic a term?  What alternative might I use?

I’m not sure what I am going to do with this feedback.  I am very attached to both terms and cannot yet come up with alternatives.

She then asked me about the process of coding, which to be honest I had largely forgotten about.  So it was very useful to have to remember.

Useful terms when I am writing up my methodology will be:

Labelling – open coding – theory building – exploring the data – constant comparison – construction theory.

Its slightly different from regular coding, as I am getting to an interim stage – not the final one.  The entrepreneurs are having the final say in their questionnaire responses.

She also drew my attention to the fact that my Likert Scale identifiers were not consistently spaces if the scale was considered numerically.  This led to a very useful conversation about what I was looking for and we concluded I was looking for two things at once and I would be better looking for one at a time.  I want to know how well the concepts describe thinking as an entrepreneur.  And also how well the concepts define the distinctiveness of thinking as an entrepreneur.


So I will reword my Likert Scale labels and stick to the final question to address the issue of distinctiveness.

In the Matrix of Threshold Concepts, she suggested adding in identifiers as quotes from multiple sources will have more impact than lots of quotes from one source.

She suggested a consistent beginning to my descriptor sentences for each of the Threshold Concepts.  And a sentence to let people know how many parts there were to the questionnaire so they know what was coming and how to answer each part.  To get around the fact that the boxes for free text don’t stretch across the page, she suggested adding a comment to reassure people that they boxes would expand to fit.  Rather than suggesting I was going to “validate” their responses which might elicit some socially desirable responses, she suggested I reworded it to something like “understand” instead.

In the introductory email I will add a sentence reminding people about how their data will be treated.  Rather than seek confirmation of consent again.

We discussed a warning email to come before the BOS one – synchronising the two automatically somehow, so participants knew to look out for the BOS one and recognised it when it came.  She recommended making all the correspondence to participants as personal as possible, and to stress the tentativeness of the concepts being proposed.

Finally I asked about possible framework for completion of the remainder of the work and when I might (all other things being equal) be aiming at submission.  I proposed the following:

2016-17  SM1 Delphi  SM2 Educators

2017-18 SM1 Students SM2 Theorists

2018-19 SM1 Write Up SM2 Write Up (Sabbatical)

Aiming at submission Summer 2019 – then we can get a dog!


Nicola reminded me of the importance of writing as I go.  So I will aim at producing 4 papers (Delphi, Educators, Students, Theorists) which should also satisfy PRIP requirements at work.

So I’d better get cracking then and get this questionnaire out over the weekend!









Catching up


This is a very late write up of the supervision session I had on 6th September 2016.  I never got to write it up at the time as preparations for the new term were in full swing and there were many issues that needed addressing and sessions that needed preparing.

I had previously sent Ray and Nicola my draft submission for the book of the proceedings of the Threshold Concepts conference in Halifax in the Summer so we started with that.

We touched on the ways of defining a discipline and a field – Ray referred me to the work of David Hirst who states that a discipline has a particular way of finding the truth.  A field draws on a number of disciplines.  I must be consistent about how I refer to Entrepreneurship – a discipline or a field?

He also referred me to Foucault – the archaeology of knowledge.

And tacit knowledge – Eraut.

Nicola encouraged me to emphasis what was different and distinctive about my research – what knowledge is it and how I am getting at it.  She noted that the section where I am conceptualising entrepreneurship reads like a list and I need to introduce it as such.

She also recommended I drew the readers’ attention things that other have stated (and therefore a particular validity) and that I am merely reporting.

We discussed entrepreneurship as an issue of agency or as a product of its environment – Ray encouraged me to state which I was privileging (agency vs environment) and suggested that I will need to return to agency vs structure.  He felt that concepts such as self-efficacy were neo-liberal and reflecting an agency perspective.  To privilege structure would be essentially Marxist.

Nicola suggested a type of taxonomy for the concepts consisting of three types:

  • Economic (technical, systematic, business processes)
  • Creative (humanist)
  • Psychological

Ray thought they might fit into a matrix:


Proposing a different way  – knowledge (thinking and practising) and ultimately the teachability of these things.  Is it possible to teach someone entrepreneurship?

He referred me to:

Ron Barnett – what universities are for, the idea of the university, preparing students for uncertainty, universities are a laboratory, for experimentation and

Lee Shulman – the pedagogies of uncertainty

I was also introduced to two brand new words:

Nomothetic – seeking to define a new law

Ideographic – seeking to draw a picture

Which am I trying to do?

Questioning the value of uniqueness.

Ray proposed a matrix to describe the elements of a threshold concept, which could translate into a pedagogy.


TC Matrix

For the Ontology/Disposition row, you might be asking, ” Could you see yourself in this new version (of yourself)?”

What part does context play?

We ended with the matrix as an exciting new development.  I sent off my draft chapter and was the first submission to be received.  I hope that’s a good sign, I find out if it has been accepted in January 2017.  It would be thrilling to find myself in print!