The final countdown

I have managed to work myself up a schedule that takes me right through to submission…it’s going to be very tight but I think if I don’t have a hard deadline I’ll keep fiddling ad infinitum.

This is where I am at the moment: chapters where I have the first draft written:

  • Chapter 1 Introduction and background to the research
  • Chapter 2 Literature review
  • Chapter 3 Research design (likely to turn into two or maybe three chapters – see later)
  • Chapter 4 Findings and Discussion Part 1 (Entrepreneurs and Educators)
  • Chapter 5 Findings and Discussion Part 2 (Students)
  • Chapter 6 Conclusions and Recommendations (very very rough draft – not there yet at all).

My supervisors have now given me feedback on all but the last chapter which is because I haven’t written it yet ūüôā .¬† So…my current plans is as follows:

  • Redraft the Research Design chapter/s and complete the Conclusions and Recommendations chapter by June 6th (next supervision)
  • Prepare the final draft for final supervisor comments¬† – End June
  • Receive final comments back¬† – End July
  • Make final amends and submit – End August/beginning September

During my supervision we discussed in detail their feedback on the Research Design chapter.  Julie and Nicola suggested I created a part 1 (epistemology) and part 2 (method Рthe practical considerations).  I might even split out the stuff on threshold concepts.  I need to include a general discussion about ethics in this kind of project and reference the specifics of the ethical approvals obtained for this work.  Emails confirming approval are required as appendices Рmany doctoral candidates  have accidentally revealed identities of participating organisations/individuals by including full ethical forms in their thesis submission.

Nicola suggested I look at a recent paper on Mick Flannagan’s website by Timmermans and Meyer¬† – published in the International Journal of Academic Development:

Julie A. Timmermans & Jan H. F. Meyer¬†(2017)¬†A framework for working with university teachers to create and embed ‚ÄėIntegrated Threshold Concept Knowledge‚Äô (ITCK) in their practice,¬†International Journal for Academic Development,¬†DOI:¬†10.1080/1360144X.2017.1388241

Other points raised that I need to address in my Research Design are:

  • over reliance on one author (Cohen et al (2011)
  • overall tone¬† – I become too text book-y – the text must relate to my research not research in general.¬† Julie suggested re-writing this whole chapter in the first person which I think will make the whole thing flow much more easily.¬† I will stick to what I did and use the literature to back up by choices and provide the rationale.¬† I don’t need to start from first principles – for example I don’t need to explain constructivism and social constructivism – just the one that’s relevant to me and it will be assumed that I understand how it came to be derived.
  • Remember I have adopted a social constructivist approach so it makes no sense to talk about the “truth” as if it existed objectively.¬† I’ve started to talk as a positivist scientist in approaching my method and analysis.¬† I need to explain how I have used my interviews to construct meaning.¬† Equally the term ‘bias’ is irrelevant in qualitative research.
  • I need to highlight what I have done a lot more – it’s currently partly obscured by a lot of irrelevant stuff.¬† It’s time to blow my own trumpet.

Some claims I might make:

РHighlight the staged design approach Рhow it builds on transactional curriculum inquiry (TCI) and addresses some of the criticism of this approach and the other benefits it achieves.  Make a bigger deal of using TCI as a starting point to develop my own approach. This is an important methodological contribution to knowledge.  I am building on Cousin and addressing criticism from Barradell.

– Acknowledge the problems of involving students in threshold concept research – citing Peter Felton’s chapter in the 2016 Threshold Concept book.¬† Acknowledge the problems and explain how I have addressed them.¬† How I’ve ensured the student voice is heard.¬† This is also a methodological contribution.

– I need to make the point that this is an innovative approach to the identification of threshold concepts, not just in entrepreneurship but in wider curriculum design – contribution to PRACTICE

– My approach allows us to counter the prevailing neo-liberal approach where employability has become the dominant voice.

In general, I need to talk through some of the challenges I faced and how I found a way through them.¬† I need to raise the level of the discussion and cite more specialist literature on research design.¬† For example – how I went about deciding who was an entrepreneur and where to source my sample.¬† How I managed a sample which consisted of powerful, time-poor people with whom I needed to maintain a constructive working relationship.¬† I should talk about the tensions associated with using an expert group (entrepreneurs and educators). I need to detail the complexities I found and the difficulties I had and the decisions I made.¬† I need to describe how I came to determine what consensus was.¬† I need to be more reflective.¬† I need to talk about access and buy-in, and the process of ‘selling’ participation.¬† I need to explain why I did it the way I did it.¬† I should not present contentious issues as uncontentious.¬† If they’re messy, show the messiness. Say “This is what I did, this is why I did it…”

Julie and Nicola also suggested a flow chart of my method repeated at intervals to help the reader navigate the process.  I will also include one for the Delphi study in more detail to show why and when the numbers of participants went down.

Going into the data coding and analysis process Nicola wanted to hear more about how I got from the data to the findings.  I need to be more explicit about what exactly I did РI need to own the stages I went through in getting from the data to the text.  For example Рsay how many codes were identified when Рand include a list of these codes as an appendix.  Maybe take one Threshold Concept and look at it as an example in more detail.  Show rigour in the detail.

Julie again referred me to Linda Martindale’s thesis especially to look at the last chapter and how she has structured it.

When I look at the method for the concept mapping workshops I need to say more as this last section is considerably shorter than the other two and feels abrupt.  I need to give an overview of how the maps can be analysed in general and then what I did and why I did it.  I need to talk my reader through my thought process as well as my method.

Then we turned to more prosaic issues like numbering sections with which I was struggling.  I will seek help from the library with this.

I also need to get the APA guidelines on everything for example the rules on indentations for quotations.

When considering research limitations, don’t mention things I am not going to explore in detail. For example – why mention the gender split of the sample groups if my research is not concerned with gender difference?

When presenting threshold concepts as ways of thinking and practicing I should not introduce ‘ways of seeing’ as well. I think I will bring in this metaphor in the final discussion chapter and not before.¬† I must maintain the idea of an ontological shift in the student – Julie mentioned the idea of ‘partial transformation’ which I need to explore further.¬† Another paper in the 2016 threshold concept book “Ambivalence, hybridity and liminality: the case of the military” would also be relevant.¬† The transformation may not be complete but is still irreversible.

In setting out my final chapter I need to highlight the contributions I am making to method,  theory, and practice in education and entrepreneurship. BE BOLD.

Don’t reiterate the limitations of the research in the final chapter, preempt criticisms (which usually concern the method in any case).

In discussing future research, refer to methodological limitations that I have already mentioned and use them to move on to recommendations for future research.

Remind the reader of what they have read with regular summaries (without overdoing it).¬† Use research questions as subheadings – “Here’s the question I asked and here’s how I answered it”.¬† Refer back to the literature – and be clear how I have extended the literature.