If life is what happens to our plans, then dance is what happens to our steps.
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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Question(aires)?


My blog post is a little late this week, sorry. I have been at a conference – “Meaning + Making of Queer Dance: embodied pleasures in History, Representation, and Queer Communities”. It was a great conference and really interesting. Queer theory is an interesting strand of inquiry. For me it responds to and informs the use and expectation of the body that resonates with questions that dance wrestles with. “Trans” informed thinking raises questions about the body, who defines it, how it can change and wider questions about the linear progression of time that heterosexual perspectives take which are not the lived narrative of many peoples lives.

I will write more on the conference maybe next week. This week I wanted to talk about literature reviews and questionnaires. This is particularly relevant to Module 2ers and 3ers. I have notice a trend, which I will describe below, but just to say there is nothing wrong with this trend but I just want you to think deeply about it and be aware of these thoughts on it.

It is clear that if you are going to analyse data the simplest way of understanding that activity is to compare one set of data with another. The second set being a kind of fixed or established idea and the first being looked at in terms of the fixed or established idea.

I have notice a lot of peoples plans for their research involving taking a questionnaire or survey as a first step then using that to inform further collection of data through interviews. What I want to point out here is that the questionnaire / survey is being used here in the way a Literature Review should / could be used. That is to establish that a group of people think a particular thing. I feel that people are seeing the numbers that a questionnaire can gather as a form of justification for the main ideas the questionnaires uncover. As if, if 50 dancers think it, it is validated enough for you to go on to ask questions about it or use the idea as a basis for your interviews, but this a weak position to be in for two reasons.

Firstly, the size of the questionnaire and the quality of the questionnaire is not enough to justify the results being a the foundation of your ideas and inform the rest of your inquiry. Secondly, the time it takes to really analyse the data from the questionnaire itself is prohibitive to getting the interviews done in time too. In other words you run the risk of the questionnaire being so superficial or under analysed that it does not really provide a foundation for rest of your work.  

However this process is not wrong it is just that academia has solved the problem by using a Literature Review. A Literature Review looks at ‘all’ the books or ideas about your topic. It is not looking a Key Texts – one or two books that you read and quote – it is about knowing what people think / have published on the subject generally. In other words in the same way the questionnaire gives you an overview of what 50 people think. A literature review also gives you an overview of what 50 people think but these are people who have published their ideas so the ideas have been challenged and defended. This means that using these ideas as the basis of your interview (as you would the questionnaire results) is a stronger foundation. The authors have done the work of rigour and ‘credibility’ for you.

So I would like you to think about what you are using as a foundation for the ideas you have and then what you are comparing them too or using to make them credible: a questionnaire in a way is like you saying if I can get 50 of my friends and colleagues to agree with me then I am going to say that this is a kind of fact that I will interview people about. The literature review is saying I think this and XXX thinks it too but [and here is the most useful part of the literature review] YYY does not think this and challenges this. I will use this site of interaction that the literature revolves around  to inform how I approach my interviews.

Does that make sense? What do you think?


I am not saying that a survey or any other method is a replacement for a  literature review. I am saying be careful that you use the literature review and data collection methods appropriately and not use them interchangeably. I am making the assumption you do not want your conclusions to be limited to information gather from a few people you loosely know but want to be informed by the wealth of literature and ideas out there. 

6 comments:

  1. Hi Adesola,

    Yes, that does make sense! I will definitely be considering these points when I am a bit further down the inquiry line.

    Thanks, Liam.

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  2. This certainly makes sense, and given the time constraints perhaps I should be thinking about cutting out the survey stage of my questionnaire. However, I never considered using a survey only, instead of doing literature review...I guess I saw it as triple checking rather than double checking to use all three methods. Literature Review, a survey and interviews. I am definitely going to bear in mind how important my survey is though.

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  3. Dear Stephanie
    I have added to the blog because I DO NOT mean to give the impression that anything can replace the literature review. I am sorry if that was not clear. See revised blog above.
    Adesola

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  4. Hi Adesola - sorry if I caused you confusion! I just wanted to thank you for your comment on my previous blog post about research ethics:

    http://stephaniethomas-blog.blogspot.com/2012/01/some-thoughts-on-research-ethics.html

    I loved the quote from the Dali Lama - a very good outlook on how to treat and interact with other human beings. Your comments confirmed to me the importance of developing our own moral codes and questioning whether we feel comfortable with things...regardless of whether we 'can get away' with them or our particular industry will accept questionable ethical standards. If we have a strong set of personal values, we hopefully can't go too wrong...and we will have our own compass to guide us when tricky situations arise and there is no one else to ask.

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  5. Hi, Thank you for this. I understand completely.. I had a feeling I was going down this route slowing as I am using Surveys first then a Focus group. However, I have analyse my questions throughly and made sure that it will hopefully give me the outcome I would like without any limitations. Given that this all needs to be done in a matter of weeks I feel all of the methods are time consuming especially without rushing and being through with everything.

    Thanks

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  6. Sonal - it is probably just the way you said it but -'outcomes I would like' could be rephrased as expected?

    Thanks for this Adesola - thinking through data gathering can only help us carry out the inquiry and analyse these 'findings' . Questionnaires can be starting points for gathering data but finding out about what others have said about the topic- the literature - connects the knowledge with what others have found out.

    There are usually things we might do differently or that time meant that we needed to limit our scope a bit for the BAPP deadlines. Just right this up in the evaluation section of the Critical Review.

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