BCM212

Reflecting on Research

Welcome back, fellow BCM212 students and mentors!

My research investigation has come to a close after a long 3 months of work.  It has been incredibly rewarding to explore the students around me, discovering their motivations and intents, and learning what they expect of their education during their time at the University of Wollongong.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me through my blog and my tweets!

My research topic for this project, for those who may not be familiar, is to discover why communication and media students choose to study at university as opposed to alternatives such as TAFE and online learning.  Throughout this project, I found one of the toughest aspects of my research was remaining objective.  As this topic is something I am deeply curious about, it would be foolish to not research it; however, I also held many pre-existing beliefs about the necessity of university to communications and media students, and this originally posed a problem.  I came into this project with the belief that other communications and media students such as myself would hold similar opinions or beliefs, and when this was not the case I was mildly surprised.

In order for the research to be ethically sound (following the MEAA Journalism Code of Ethics) I had to overcome this initial bias, and I did this through my focus group.  By listening to others’ accounts of why they had chosen to study at university and believed it to be superior to other forms of learning, I found myself accepting that my opinion was not necessarily the correct or only opinion on the issue.  Being reflexive, after all, is about understanding that this research is my interpretation, regardless of its results.

In creating my essay questions, I utilised the idea of “thinking participants” discussed in George Soros’ General Theory of Reflexivity (2009) by asking family members to take my draft survey and give feedback on the questions.  Once the survey questions were finalised (following N. Whiteman’s guide on How to Write Good Survey Questions), I used these to guide my research and act as the basis for my focus group questions.  To ensure that my research was ethically sound and my participants fully understood their part in my research, I included a disclaimer at the beginning of my survey to inform responders what my research was about, what I was trying to find and what the survey would contain, as seen below.  I also verbally informed my focus group participants of the same information and allowed them the opportunity to leave the room if they did not wish to participate.  The privacy of my responders is incredibly important to me, and to the ethical research process.  I upheld this by not revealing the names, ages or genders of any participants involved.

Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 10.53.13 PM
The disclaimer on the first page of my survey.

Another difficult obstacle to overcome was my own time management.  I found that my busy schedule made it difficult to find time to complete my research, and I was forced to be flexible with my time and expectations.  Originally, I had hoped to have a larger and more diverse focus group, but scheduling conflicts forced me to negotiate and instead interview five students from my tutorial class.  A whole section of my project (regarding the different opinions between majors on my topic/s) was never addressed, as I just could not fit it into my schedule.  However, this was a negotiation I had to make with myself in order to complete the project on time.

As much as I would like to claim I have fully and completely answered why communications and media students choose to study at university, this would be incorrect and far too bold.  Instead, I would like to offer a series of small insights:

  1. My sample group of UOW communication and media students prefer university over alternatives such as TAFE and self-teaching.
  2. The majority of this sample group chose university without considering other alternatives, possibly due to family influences.
  3. Traditional university teaching methods (lectures and face-to-face tutorials) are still relevant to my sample group of BCMS students at UOW.
  4. This sample group also sees online learning and resources as an important addition to these traditional learning methods.
  5. My research has led me to believe that universities should incorporate technology as a standard part of their teaching, lest they may become less and less relevant to communication and media students such as myself.  However, there will always be a desirable level of prestige associated with universities.

Both my research project and my journey as a researcher have been incredibly eye-opening for me.  I hope to carry these life lessons with me and implement them in my life from this point forward.  Thank you again to all who read and participated in my research!

References:

MEAA Journalism Code of Ethics. (2017). 1st ed. [ebook] The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, p.1.

Soros, G. (2009). General Theory of Reflexivity.

Whitman, N. (2017). How to Write Good Survey Questions. [online] Quick and Dirty Tips. Available at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-to-write-good-survey-questions

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