Archive for the 'Social Research Methods' Category



Use Kudos to maximise and measure the impact of your research

Edwina Thorn, Journals Executive, Policy Press

As the volume of scholarly publications proliferates, you may well wonder whether the research you have worked so hard to publish is actually reaching readers and making a difference. You may also find that you are increasingly expected to demonstrate the impact of your work in grant applications or performance reviews.

At Policy Press we want to help and have partnered with Kudos to help you maximise and measure the impact of your research. This blog post is intended to provide quick and practical tips on how to use this service. Continue reading ‘Use Kudos to maximise and measure the impact of your research’

Are you skilled in the dark art of Social Media?

In this blog post, Kim Eggleton, our Journals Executive, explains why she believes social media is the researcher’s new best friend

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

Kim Eggleton, Journals Executive

Whenever I talk to researchers about using social media, the most common “objection” I hear is that it’s self-promotion, and nothing more than vanity.

The second most common protest is that good research should stand on its own merits, and if it’s good enough, people will find it. I can understand where both these opinions come from, but I think the world has moved on considerably and neither of these concerns are valid any longer.

SocMediaCartoon

What’s Social Media all about

…in 2012, over 1.8 million articles were published in 28,000 journals.

With the inevitable overload of information that came with Internet for the masses, it has become harder and harder to make good work stand out. It is estimated that in 2012, over 1.8 million articles were published in 28,000 journals. In 2010 in the US alone, it is estimated that over 320,000 books were published. Continue reading ‘Are you skilled in the dark art of Social Media?’

And, after ‘The End’ of the book? #AcWriMo of course…

Independent researcher and author Helen Kara is in a rather celebratory mood (as are we!) as she has finished writing her current book Creative research methods in the social sciences: A Practical Guide. Does this mean she is destined to spend the run up to Christmas twiddling her thumbs and resting on her laurels? Heavens NO – she’s straight onto the next thing of course: #AcWriMo…

Helen KaraI finished my book! And I’ve blogged about the process for the Research Whisperer – the post should be up next week. But, in brief: it’s done. And I’m proud of it. Happy with it. Mostly. There are always nagging doubts; those won’t go away unless I get good reviews and feedback from readers after publication – and maybe not entirely, even then. Either way, I won’t know about that until the middle of next year. And I haven’t finished being a writer. So, what next?

And this is what the new book will look like!

And this is what the new book will look like!

Ooh, just look at the time. It’s AcWriMo! This was founded in 2011 by Charlotte Frost and a colleague who work on the excellent PhD2Published blog. AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) was inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which began in 1999 in San Francisco with 21 writers who wanted to support each other in producing 50,000 words of fiction each in one month. Now, hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world spend November churning out 50,000 words (or trying to) and networking on social media for mutual support.

AcWriMo began with the same 50,000-word goal, but by the second year it had morphed into a system where everyone set their own target. There is a spreadsheet to record your target, plan, daily progress, and final achievement. Which of course means you can see what others are planning and doing. Come and join us if you like – OK we’re a few days into November, but that doesn’t matter.

‘rest, play, celebrate’

Some targets are matter-of-fact and outcome-based: ‘Finish discussion chapter, finish and submit journal article’. Others are more process-oriented: ‘Develop a sustainable writing habit of 500 words per day, rest, play, celebrate.’ Mine is ‘Write one solo authored journal article and one co-authored journal article.’

The plans are interesting, too, ranging from the specific ‘write 2 hrs/day 5 days/wk’ to the vague ‘make a good plan’. Mine is somewhere in the middle: ‘Write some words most days.’ Last year I was aiming for 5,000 words per week, 20,000 words altogether, as I hammered out the first draft of the book (I did it, too, by 26 November). This year will be considerably more relaxed – but, as always, there are words to write and meaning to create. And that makes me happy.

Now that the book is done, I have a backlog of journal articles to write or co-write and submit. There are 10 on my list, so I’ll be glad to tackle two of them in November. After that I’m thinking of aiming for one a month or so, although whether I’ll be able to do that in practice depends on the amount of commissioned work I get, and other commitments – in April and May, for example, I’ll need to do promotional work for the next book.

I will, of course, be continuing to blog my academic writing progress – although not here, as I’ve set up my own blog and website. So if you’d like to find out how I approach AcWriMo and writing journal articles, please do come and see me there.

It’s been a real pleasure hosting Dr Helen Kara’s blog and we’ll continue to support Helen’s blog as it expands and grows over on her new site [LINK TO]. If you’ve missed any of Helen’s blog, don’t forget you can catch up on them by following the links below:

 Impostor syndrome or the obstacle course of the self

Reviewers comments: the good, the bad and the ugly

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Reviewers’ comments: the good, the bad, the ugly

In her continuing series of blogs on academic writing as an independent researcher, author Helen Kara considers the ‘gift’ in the academic publishing process that is typescript reviewers feedback. 

Helen KaraReceiving reviewers’ comments can be a scary moment. Will they hate it? Will they like it but want lots of changes? Will they even agree with each other?

HK for 12-09-14giftIt can be hard to remember that a review is a gift. Think about it: someone has taken the time and effort to read your work and give you feedback. If you’re lucky, it will be immediately obvious that the feedback is helpful – but this is not always the case.

The International Committee on Publication Ethics published a set of ethical guidelines for peer reviewers in March 2013. Among other things, they say that reviewers should:

• Make sure they have time to do a proper critique before they take it on
• Not critique work unless they have the necessary expertise in the subject matter
• Read the work thoroughly
• Make constructive comments about the text, not personal comments about the writer
• Give their feedback within a reasonable length of time
• Keep the work, and their feedback, confidential

In my experience, reviewers’ comments generally come in some time after the agreed deadline. Coincidentally, as I was thinking about this subject, the amusing Twitter account @AcademicsSay tweeted:

I will confess to a few sleepless nights and chewed fingernails while waiting for those overdue comments. I think this is partly because academic reviews are usually anonymous: the reviewers don’t know who wrote the text, and the writer doesn’t know who has reviewed it.

Accountability

There’s heaps of debate around the blind peer review system. For my part I would prefer to know who is reviewing my work, so that I could judge whether they have the necessary expertise, and could ask them to clarify anything I didn’t understand. I’d also be happy to be open as a reviewer. I think this would increase reviewers’ accountability, and make the possibility of vicious personal comments, alluded to by the CoPE guidelines above, vanishingly small.

Luckily for me, I’ve never been on the receiving end of destructive review comments – unlike unfortunate friends who have been reduced to tears and even put off writing altogether. I have had reviews which weren’t massively helpful, but not reviews which were actively unpleasant. Mostly my reviews have been truly helpful.

Even a helpful review isn’t always easy to use and process. I find reviewers’ comments fall into three broad categories:

1. YES! Brilliant idea, why didn’t I think of that? Implement.
2. NO! Reviewer’s got the wrong end of the stick. Ignore.
3. AARRGGHH! Reviewer may well be right, but I need to do more reading and thinking before I can decide.

You might think the YES! comments are the best ones, but actually the AARRGGHH! comments are often more help in the long run. I’ve just been dealing with one of those for my next book. It involved reading (which meant buying) two new books, quite demanding ones at that. Also thinking hard about what the reviewer said, what the books said, and what I was trying to say.

“try to make considered rather than knee-jerk decisions”

The process was expensive and made my brain hurt, and I confess that at times I felt like cursing the reviewers. But the net result was a couple of new paragraphs written – quite important ones, too – and some useful learning for me.

It’s important to have a strategy for dealing with feedback. When I get reviewers’ comments, I read them carefully and take time to digest them. Then I write a to-do list based on the comments. Even where I think a reviewer has got the wrong end of the stick, I aim to give careful consideration to their suggestion, in case my response is actually knee-jerk defensiveness (I hate to admit it, but…!). So I will add ‘consider reviewer’s suggestion about X’ to my to-do list, because in a day or two that suggestion may look much more plausible.

If reviewers disagree with each other, it’s up to me to decide what to do. But, again, I try to make this a considered rather than a knee-jerk decision. Say reviewer 1 thinks a section of my work is irrelevant and should be deleted, while reviewer 2 thinks it is seminal and should be expanded. This tells me that the section in question elicits strong opinions, which probably means it has some value. Thinking about reviewers’ feedback in the light of their other comments can provide clues about how to go forward. It is often possible to work out a reviewer’s standpoint by the comments they make and the literature they recommend, which can offer useful context for a writer’s decisions.

As the writer, the final decision is mine. But I do know that the more effort I can see a reviewer has put into their work, the more I want to do justice to their input. As with any gift, often it’s the amount of thought that goes into it that makes all the difference.

More debate on peer reviewing (let us know your thoughts in the comments section below too!)

Weighing up double-blind peer reviews

More blog shaped words from Helen can be found here:

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

EXCITING NEWS KLAXON!!!

In this week’s ‘A year in the life of an academic writer’ series,  Policy Press author and independent researcher Helen Kara has some big news that simply cannot wait…

Helen KaraI know I promised to write about reviewers’ comments this week. But I’m afraid that will have to wait, because I have news so exciting that I must tell you NOW.

As regular readers will know, my next book is called Creative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. In the literature, and in practice, ‘creative’ is often conflated with ‘arts-based’. Arts-based research can indeed be very creative, but there is more to creative research than arts-based methods.

In the course of reading for and writing this book, I have re-conceptualised creative research methods under four broad headings:

1. Arts-based research
2. Research using technology
3. Mixed method research
4. Transformative research frameworks (e.g. participatory, emancipatory, feminist, decolonising methodologies)

Of course these headings are not mutually exclusive. However, this conceptualisation offers a useful way of thinking and talking about the field of creative research methods. And this was one aspect of the book that the typescript reviewers loved.

In the 2000s, I went several times to an international three-day conference on qualitative research methods held every two years at Bournemouth University, which featured many creative methods. These conferences stopped happening after 2010; I don’t know why; they were inspiring, and I miss them. So I began to wonder: could I launch my book with a conference on creative research methods? Probably not an international three-day conference, but maybe a day?

Save the Date! British Library Conference Centre in London on 8 May 2015

Date for the diary: British Library Conference Centre in London on 8 May 2015

So for the last couple of months I’ve been asking people whether they thought this would be possible, and whether they could help. And they have all said ‘yes’. So it’s official! A conference on Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences will be held at the British Library Conference Centre in London on 8 May 2015. You won’t be able to book a place until early November, but I’m telling you about this now because the call for papers has just been publicised. So if you want to send in an abstract, please do – or if you know someone who might be interested, please pass on the link.

And if you fancy coming along, do put the date in your diary. We’ve done all we can to keep ticket prices low. If you can’t make it, you can always read the report I will no doubt be writing for this blog. But I do hope you can come – I’d love to see you!

Whilst Helen is, unsurprisingly, bursting with creative ideas to share with you on the blog, Policy Press are currently reviewing the autumn programme of blogs and will therefore be reducing Helen’s slot to once a fortnight.  Whilst you wait for the next instalment however why not browse some of Helen’s previous blogs below:

That difficult second research book

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

That difficult second research methods book

In this week’s ‘A year in the life of an academic writer’ series,  Policy Press author and independent researcher Helen Kara discusses that difficult ‘second album’ experience in academic writing.

Helen Kara There is a myth around that the second book you write, in any genre, is always harder than the first.  My novelist friends subscribe to this, and I’ve heard it from musicians (about second albums) too.  With this book, I have found it to be true in one sense, and not in another.

Rock star or researcher, that difficult ‘second’ album/book myth persists

My last book, which was my first research methods book, essentially involved writing down what I knew about research methods, working out where the gaps in my knowledge were, and filling them.  As I had learned quite a bit over 10 years of professional experience and two postgraduate research degrees, the gaps weren’t huge.

This book is different: while I knew a fair bit about creative research methods when I started, there were a few gaps in my knowledge.  Hence all the reading I talked about last week.  Essentially, I have been immersing myself  in the subject, and while that’s fascinating, the quantity of literature combined with the deadline pressure means it has also been really difficult.

The writing itself, though, doesn’t seem any harder this time around.  Which doesn’t mean it’s easy.  There’s so much to think about, from word choice to overall structure.  But I’ve written enough, now, to know how to tackle a project.

Finding voice

With the first draft, it’s just a case of getting words on the page, and then knocking them into some kind of approximately book-shaped shape.  Then there’s a lull in which to work out what to do with the second draft.  I knew straight away there were two things that needed attention.  One is the book’s ‘voice’.  This needs to be consistent and have the right tone – and, in the first draft, it wasn’t and didn’t.

Readers of my first book have commented favourably on its voice, which they tend to describe as friendly and helpful.  That’s great, but it’s not the voice I need for the next book.  A few days after I stopped working on the first draft, I realised which ‘voice’ I needed: an enthusiast’s voice.  Not an annoying bouncy Tigger-ish one, but I do love this subject, and it would be a good idea to let that shine through the text.

“the feedback from my anonymous typescript reviewers was a real blessing”

The other thing I needed to attend to was the balance, in some parts of the book, between examples (too many) and surrounding text (not enough).  This can happen when there’s so much reading and not quite enough thinking time.  It’s the writer’s equivalent of too much data and not enough analysis.  So I’m pondering those passages, and working out what it is the examples and I are actually trying to say.

Given that my real challenge this time round was that I didn’t have the same depth of knowledge of the subject as my first book,  the feedback from my anonymous typescript reviewers was a real blessing.

researcher reading

Filling reading gaps identified by reviewers

They identified a few gaps in my reading and I was really grateful for this, as I’d much rather know about gaps now, and fill them, than find out after publication.  Hence the 50-odd papers and 20-odd books I need to deal with.

Additionally, one reviewer spotted that the dissemination chapter was shorter and weaker than the others (I’d been worrying about that), and helpfully suggested ways to lengthen and strengthen it.  The other reviewer picked up a glaring omission in chapter 3, and I’d also picked up another in chapter 6.  So I decided that as well as rectifying those omissions, I needed to check the structure of each chapter for more omissions, and fix any I may find.  One of the reviewers also suggested that I could consider developing the conclusions to each chapter, so I’ll give that some thought.

That’s a perfectly manageable to-do list.  I think I’ve been very lucky with my reviewers this time.  However, that’s not always the case.  Next week I’ll write about dealing with reviewers’ comments: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  If you have any stories to share on this topic, please leave them in the comments box below.

 

More blog shaped words from Helen can be found here:

Three compromises you have to make when writing a book

How much pre-writing research do you have to do?

Where does a book begin?

What, another blog on academic writing?!!!

A year in the life of an academic writer: About Helen Kara

And some books by the same author:

Research and evaluation for busy practitioners

Policy Press bytes

Tuam babies: How the English ‘sent back’ unmarried mothers to Ireland

In the first in a new series of blogpost,  Policy Press take an in-depth look behind the headlines, talking to experts to discover more about the story behind the headlines.

We spoke to Policy Press author and academic Paul Michael Garrett, whose book Social work and Irish people in Britain looked at the plight of ‘unmarried mothers’ in Ireland between the 1920s – 1960 ten years ago, long before media attention was focused on Tuam…

International media attention has been captivated by the ‘scandal’ uncovered by local Irish historian suggesting that as many as 796 dead babies had been discarded in a ‘septic tank’ at the Tuam Mother and Baby home in County Galway between the 1920s and the 1960s.  

In response Prime Minister Enda Kenny has commissioned an investigation into all the Mother and Baby homes that were once in operation in Ireland.

But are there questions we need to be asking ourselves back on English shores too?

Policy Press author and Galway-based Paul Michael Garrett has researched the women who fled to England from the Irish state partly because they feared possible ‘incarceration’ in in the Mother and Baby homes.

Speaking to Policy Press on the subject he said: “Many women would get on the ferry to Holyhead, present themselves to adoption agencies in Britain and would find themselves being repatriated, sent back to Ireland, in some instances before they gave birth, in some instances after.”

Garrett’s book, ‘Social work and Irish people in Britain’, suggests that fear of having to enter one of the Mother and Baby homes in Ireland was one reason for the historical phenomena that saw hundreds of Irish expectant mothers migrate to England between the 1920s and 1960s.

Garrett said: “Whereas in England you might expect to stay in a home for, say, three months, in Ireland this was much more likely to be a period closer to two years. It simply wasn’t possible to cover up the reasons for that sort of period of absence.”

Fleeing to England offered these women the opportunity to have their baby in secret and then return to their lives in Ireland.  But Garrett explains there were strong forces in operation in Britain, which were keen to drive these women back.

Garrett said: “Often English agencies wouldn’t want the economic burden of dealing with the pregnant women and their babies and the Irish agencies didn’t want the children brought up in Protestant homes.”

Figure highlights how many women were ‘repatriated’: Garrett 2003:30

Figure highlights how many women were ‘repatriated’: Garrett 2003:30

Garrett says that the women were subject to coercion. Garrett’s chapter in the book which deals with ‘PFIs’ – Pregnant From Ireland – a known and accepted term with English social workers at that time – shares the stories of many of the women such as ‘Bridget’.

A young cinema worker, ‘Bridget’ presented herself to the English authorities for help, having discovered she was pregnant. Despite speaking in the strongest terms against the Mother and Baby home in Castlepollard, describing it as ‘just like a prison’, she was pressurised to return to Ireland and give birth there. Knowing that Bridget was terrified of her father finding out about her pregnancy, the English social worker used the threat of telling him about her condition as a means of making her comply.

Neglected
This is one amongst a number of stories that Garrett came across in his research and included in his book. The plight of these women is one that he feels passionately should be more widely known and he welcomed both the media interest and the forthcoming inquiry.

Garrett said: “It’s a part of women’s history and Irish history that has been neglected.”

“I think it is entirely advantageous that a voice has been found for those dubbed ‘unmarried mothers’.”

As reports on the Tuam babies have suggested, infant mortality rates in the Mother and Baby homes in Ireland were high and the gap in mortality rates between legitimate and illegitimate children was higher in Ireland than in neighbouring countries. In 1931/32 one in every four illegitimate infants died within the first year of life in Ireland.

Garrett is reluctant to draw the direct conclusion that the high infant mortality rate encouraged the women to flee to England, rather than go into the Mother and Baby homes, though he hopes the official Inquiry into the homes will cast some light on this disparity and why it existed. He said: “Although a number of the deaths were from outbreaks of diseases, it seems to me that some deaths were the result of neglectful care in the homes.”

However Garrett expressed some caution about the media attention.

He said: “The attention could be problematic – the focus on the “septic tank” and what it is conveying about Ireland can tap into strains of anti-Catholicism. I would be worried if the spotlight is entirely focused on the Church because the situation is far more complex.”

There was a threefold system in Ireland to deal with ‘unmarried mothers’ – the Church-run Mother and Baby homes forming one part, but a greater number of women were resident in the County Homes and Magdalen Asylums – the former was local authority-run and the Church did not have any say over them.

Garrett said: “The focus can’t just be on Mother and Baby homes – it’s just too easy to focus on the wrong-doings of the Church.”

Garrett feels that there are some parallels to be drawn between the then migration of pregnant women taking the ferry to England to have their child adopted, and the women who today travel by budget airlines for terminations. Both are cloaked in secrecy. He said: “In some senses this is about Ireland seeking to export difficulties – social policy questions that are not answered internally can be exported in this way.”

But Garrett, located at the National University of Ireland in Galway for the past ten years, warns against seeing this as a story of victimisation. He said: “It would be wrong to conceive of the women who made these journeys as malleable and compliant – many were tenacious and wouldn’t be manipulated by the agencies. Equally, many were grateful for the assistance they received from the agencies too. It is quite a complex picture and my hope is that the report illuminates some of these issues.”

Social work and Irish people in Britain by Paul Michael Garrett is available on the Policy Press website at £19.99 (20% discount on RRP)

By the same author

Social work and social theory

Children and families


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