Friday, July 20, 2007

Completing the first draft

I managed to complete a first draft of the thesis last week. This was accompanied more by a sense of relief than achievement given the ability to print out a fully paginated and referenced document of around 100,000 words. There are nine chapters which hang together reasonably well from my perspective—although there is at least one chapter that could do with further refinement. A substantial amount of detail is contained in a set of appendices. My principal supervisor and prescribed authority are currently wading through the contents with a view to identifying major gaps, inconsistencies and any other shortfalls. As noted previously, the time and effort academics continue to devote to such processes is admirable and insufficiently acknowledged in the public domain.

Two aspects of my research made the task of thesis writing more difficult than I had anticipated. One was the sheer mass of data and analysis—thirty interview transcripts comprising 150,000 words in total, plus over 5,000 responses to a national survey involving 208 variables conducted in collaboration with my counterpart in the ARC Linkage Project.

The other was the variety of theoretical constructs which I embraced. Commencing with a ‘three pillar’
conceptual framework—learning, socialisation and outcomes—this was broadened to include narrative theory and practice theory —to assist with my interpretation of the qualitative data. I also found compelling a theory of reflexive interpretation along with various synoptic and systemic approaches. My supervisor’s diagnosis of “methodological indigestion” was followed by some therapeutic purging, although the urge to over-indulge periodically remains difficult to suppress.

On receipt of initial feedback the plan is to prepare a second draft that will then be circulated to three other members of my supervisory panel, along with another Chief Investigator of the ARC Linkage Project of which this research is part. All of this takes time and can’t be hurried. If experts are willing to engage with and provide feedback on your research, then there is an obligation to consider and reflect upon their comments and suggestions. At the end of the day of course, responsibility for the contents of the thesis contents must be mine, and mine alone.