Qualitative analysis tools

After a couple of days’ searching, I am beginning to get some idea of what’s available for MacOSX in the way of qualitative analysis tools. I downloaded the freeware application TAMS Analyzer, which seems like a fairly simple app for marking up text with codes in curly brackets. As far as analysis goes it’s light on, but it does come with a graphing tool that I haven’t investigated. Today’s tip was that Leximancer is one of the best tools around, and it’s cross platform. That’s appealing because we could get it at my department — and it turns out that someone here has been using it already. So I’ll investigate that tomorrow.

Applying for ethics approval

People smile with recognition and empathy when I mention that I’m preparing an ethics application. Fellow postgrads fix me with a grin and tell me how much fun the process is. My supes all but giggled when I mentioned the 9 pages of tedious paperwork I found on the human ethics web page, but they didn’t mention anything about the supporting documentation required. Everyone who has been through the process understands that it’s daunting enough that they don’t have to issue any warnings. They just smile knowingly.

Preparing an application is difficult at the best of times, but preparing one in a hurry is definitely not recommended. Unfortunately I really needed to get mine in this round, so I made a particular effort. It won’t be approved until mid April, which is just enough time to get my study done.

Going through this process does have its benefits. Firstly, it forced me to consider my methodology more carefully. Secondly, it made me get in touch with a whole range of people and start talking about actually collecting data. This turned up the unexpected piece of info today that I really ought to be doing my questionnaires and interviews with Civil Litigation students. Third, it got me thinking about analysis, which has already got me worried. I need some training. It turns out that SGS offers a whole bunch of <a href=”http://www.gradstudies.unimelb.edu.au/prog_services/programs/upskill/research.html”>research skills seminars</a> in first semester. I’m going to attend a couple of them for sure. I also need to get hold of NVIVO.

Milestone time

Last week I officially came back from my Leave of Absence, which I took because my fieldwork can’t start until first semester. Returning from leave means that I need to complete my progress report, which is a one-year milestone for my thesis. Having a deadline does wonders for motivation, so it has meant I have converted a lot of my notes into useful material in a short space of time. The Lit Review section is now looking pretty good. It probably needs a little more SST stuff, but I can add to it later. The Introduction is also not bad, and I included some background material on my case study which I think works well. I will no doubt revise the Introduction for readability, but I’m reasonably happy with progress. It’s now off to the supes for their comments and then it comes back to me before being sent off to the department. I should know in a few weeks whether they think progress is satisfactory.

Divide and Conquer

Yesterday I uploaded the latest version of my Project Summary, which now includes a substantial amount of the Literature Review and a framework for the other chapters. It’s the first version with a structure somewhat resembling the final thesis. A fair amount of work remains to complete the chapter, with 3 of the subtopics still in note form only (see Notes). However I’m making daily progress on it at the moment. The key is breaking the writing down into achievable chunks — getting from note form to written form is only possible in this way I think.

More leads

Martin gave me a number of leads at yesterday’s meeting.  Firstly, there was the fascinating and slightly disturbing ‘<a href=”http://www.ict.usc.edu/disp.php?bd=proj_clas”>Think Like A Commander</a>’ role-play developed for the US Army. Two references he recommended regarding interpellation are <i>Decoding advertisements: ideology and meaning in advertising</i> by Judith Williamson and <i>Ideology and State Apperatus</i> by Louis Althusser. He also mentioned Andrew Stapleton, Multimedia Lecturer & Game Researcher, Multimedia Group, School of Biophysical Sciences & Electrical Engineering, Swinburne University of Technology, who is giving a paper at the academic summit at <a href=”http://www.agdc.com.au/conference/schedule_acad_summit.php”>The Australian Games Developers Conference</a> in December.

Video games

Yesterday I posted a topic about online role-plays for higher education on Brainstorms. I knew there’d be an interest in the idea there, but what’s amazing is the quality of discussion there. Already I’ve had responses from people like Howard Rheingold, Andee Baker, Julian Long and Charles Cameron, all of whom are noted experts in related fields. Andee has even taken up my offer to check out what I’m doing here (hi Andee). Charles’ area is games for education in general. He pointed out something called the Serious Games Initiave. Through that site, I found a videotaped presentation by Kurt Squire from MIT’s Games-To-Teach Project. His presentation talks about (among other things) a role-play game called Biohazard from CMU that sounds really intriguing. It’s a “robust simulated” role-playing game, meaning it includes a simulated environment that you can interact with, much like (I imagine) a FPS game. This could be a really interesting case study because it is so obviously packed with all kinds of assumptions and interests — for example the project is funded by Microsoft, and the example of a biohazard that Squire gave was anthrax.

Baudrillard on play

Today’s leads have all been very interesting. It turns out that this topic leads in many directions, and the trick is to know just how far to go down a given alley before turning back. One that looks promising is Virtual Play: Baudrillard Online, an article that (dare I say it) playfully explores the boundary of the virtual and the real through Baudrillard. I’m writing up a summary of this one now.

Endnote fun

Endnote 7 sucks a bit less than Endnote 6, but it’s a close call.  I got myself set up with my old installation of Word X and Endnote 7, so I can now use the Cite While You Write feature (by the way, who comes up with their snappy product titles anyway?).  The very best feature of Endnote that I’ve found so far is that it has a Palm conduit that works flawlessly, meaning I can carry my references with me to the library, make notes, and sync them back to my Mac.  Huzzah.

But what I don’t understand is why they haven’t twigged to the idea that people these days are using more than one computer regularly. I use at least 3 — my office machine, my laptop and my home desktop — and I can only assume that most people use a similar number.  Not to mention that as a student you’re probably going to be spending quite a bit of time in a library using public machines.  So if you’re off in a lab somewhere and you want to make an update to your Endnote database, presumably you’ve got to either edit a local copy (USB key anyone?) or log into your desktop and edit it remotely.

Both are problematic.  The first means you pretty much have to manage the data synching yourself, and the second requires you to have remote access to a fileserver everywhere you want to edit.  It would be more easy if you could (preferably) just sync automatically somehow or access your Endnote database over the web.