Sharing findings as a component of social research

Having two blogs works very well for me. I have this nerdy one and then one more directly connected to the ‘on the ground’ part of my project. It has been easy for me to distinguish between which reflections go where. However, this is a distinction I will have to break down if I want to give myself the best chance of ‘getting it right’.

It really is time for me to start forming tentative findings or pseudo-hypothesis, work out what evidence I need to test them, and share them so I can get feedback. Of course sharing tentative findings does not mean sharing my notes or passing on identifiable information about people or groups. Rather it is about analysis and conclusions, which can be a lot of work to get right and rather uninteresting to people other than myself (and hopefully my supervisor and examiners).

My project is not collaborative in the sense that I am going to write a thesis, not a co-authored paper (although I would love the opportunity to co-author smaller pieces of work with a few of the people I have met so far). I do not expect everybody to agree with everything I write (if I was looking for consensus I would not have chosen to look at my questions in the context of a suburb). Chances are that a lot of the people I meet and speak with have very little interest in what I end up writing. Yet I want to find ways to ‘get it right’, and to ensure that I am not only including the voices of those who talk the university lingo.

Using my blog

People are not stupid, but not everybody has the same background or interests as I do, so putting tentative findings up on a blog would require using language that makes sense to a wide range of people. The tentative findings would also need to be clear, which is sometimes hard when the ambiguities involved in the issue have not been ironed out yet. This clarity could easily be mistaken for certainty, even if I present a null-hypothesis, and people may not realise that I am still willing to think about issues in completely different frames. Finally, I may never hear the feedback as I am unlikely to be around when people read the blog and very few readers comment on blogs.

Another set of blog related issues stem from the fact that once something is online it can never truly be deleted. What happens if somebody uses outdated blog posts to misread the work that comes out of this project? What if old blog posts stop people from taking my more formal written work seriously? I am not as worried about somebody taking data from my blog and to use in their own analysis (as long as the source is acknowledged) because I do not think I deserve to pass if the contribution of my thesis is simply to bring together a body of data that nobody has had to time to collect before.

In conversation

Although I am rather self involved at the moment, I am not so deluded as to think everybody spends their days wanting to talk about my project. Going into conversations with a set script seems disingenuous and disrespectful. There are small ways in which conversations can be very useful. I do seek clarification when I find something unclear, just as I do in all other non-research parts of my life. Often people do ask me about my project, so I can start giving them better thought out answers.

Through interviews

Being able to clarify findings was one motivation for putting the semi-structured interviews towards the end of my ‘on the ground’ time. Of course I will only interview a relatively small number of people compared with the population of a suburb, but speaking with some people is better than not seeking a response from anybody.

Perhaps I should spend less time thinking about possible scenarios and rather set aside the time to produce some well grounded tentative findings? If only I could stop time.


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