My catch-up: Week’s 4 and 5

Week 4 – Face to face Research Methods

Knight, Chapter 4

Beyond the author’s discussion of the execution issues pertinent to a research study utilizing observation, interviews, focus groups or experiments, this chapter made readily apparent the significant challenges inherent in the effort to defend interpretive finding considered by a researcher to be of consequence.  The sections detailing “Instrument structure” (p. 51-54) and “special concerns” (p. 54-56) in particular, inspired a closer read.   Among the more noteworthy take-aways…

The author’s comments concerning the balance between the extent of structure a researcher chooses to impose on a face-to-face encounter; that is, the trade off between allowing respondents a comparatively free hand in speaking their mind (lightly structured inquiry) versus the assumed value in exposing each respondent to a mostly uniform inquiry session

Similarly, the apprehension (on my part) brought on by the author’s observation that some researcher’s choose overt advocacy versus an attempt to pursue a study underpinned by a demonstrable tone of objectivity concerning the stated question (p 56).

Lunt reading

The comments that drew my attention…

The significance of ensuring that a focus group moderator appreciate and understand the means to avoid situations that produce “false consensus” and “group polarization” outcomes (p 93).

The historical perspective on social science research offered by the comment on p. 96; that for Merton, focus groups served as a means to draw out new questions and hypotheses for study using quantitative methods, versus perceptions of focus group value among many contemporary researchers concerning the pursuit of ethnographic study

Week 5 – Quantitative Research

Luker, Chapter 6

I liked the author’s reflection on the framework used by “canonical” researchers as a means to enable an understanding of the research methodologies typical of interpretative research; that is, the parallels that are apparent when considering the structure described as sampling, operationalization, generalization versus the means described to pursue case or “data outcropping” type research.  I took particular note of the comments stressing the need to ensure that an interpretative research effort enable the defense of a “logical” claim(s), supported by a robust literature review, and that the researcher be particularly wary, by contrast, of enabling expressions of doubt concerning its findings as a function of defensible suggestions that the research sample was biased by conscious choice.

I also liked the author’s summary effort to distinguish canonical versus interpretative research; that an instance of the former can be characterized as a “logic of verification” or “theory testing” exercise that enables defensible generalization, and the latter, an exercise in pursuing a “logic of discovery” or “theory generating” outcome that similarly enables sound generalization (p. 125).

Michael Watchorn


Jacopo Belbo, a character in Eco’s (1988/1989) novel Foucault’s Pendulum, wrote:

O joy, O new vertigo of difference, O my platonic reader-writer racked by a most platonic insomnia, O wake of finnegan, O animal charming and benign. He doesn’t help you think but he helps you because you have to think for him. A totally spiritual machine. If you write with a goose quill you scratch the sweaty pages and keep stopping to dip for ink. Your thoughts go too fast for your aching wrist. If you type, the letters cluster together, and again you must go at the poky pace of the mechanism, not the speed of your synapses. But with him (it? her?) your fingers dream, your mind brushes the keyboard, you are borne on golden pinions, at last you confront the light of critical reason with the happiness of a first encounter. (Chapter 3)

Knight (2002) argued that the most significant difference, with respect to scientific social research, was the act of writing, itself, since all the truths listed above are encompassed, perhaps enveloped, by this truth—that any method of logging or record keeping will help. Eco’s description would thus seem to be the next level of differentiation.

I prefer the word processor to either goose quill or typewriter; and, although there now exist technological goose quills, as it were, each ready to electronically record one’s cognitive scratches, I think others would prefer the word processor, as well, since an aching wrist, it seems, would still be that which bounds its benefits, at least as regards the textual domain.

Instead, it appears a new contender has emerged to challenge Abu’s might.  Siri’s difference will doubtless induce a new vertigo in us, all, by the difference of her spiritual machine; yet, I wonder on the nature of that vertigo, and its increasing power, as that spiritual machine evolves, to invert the roles of thinker and helper.


Eco, U. (1989). Foucault’s pendulum. (W. Weaver, Trans.). New York, NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. (Original work published 1988).

Knight, P. T. (2002). Small-scale research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Posted by Andrew Canale

Surveys h/w

found this site about good/bad practises !



Operationalization Part II

Like Elfie I too will discuss operationalization:

Did any one else find Luker’s chapter 6 discussion of operationalization and generalization to be too heavily vested in her rape example? I understand the reason for doing this, and it may have been a result of the subject matter, but I just kept hoping that the example would end! …it didn’t.

From this chapter I took the following:

  • Operationalization is important before you begin researching, even if your subjects do not agree with your operationalization (in which case you make note of how they view/operationalize terms)
  • Social dancing social scientists sample differently as a result of their intended purpose of discovery.
  • Canonical scientists do logic of verification study and therefore require a random sampling in order to generalize to greater society
  • Social dancing social scientists intend to perform a logic of discovery and therefore do not sample randomly, as a result there are added difficulties in generalization

From this week I found the operationalization section helpful in writing the SSHRC Proposal. When I was going through and editing I found a number of instances where I had not defined my terms clearly. Generally, I propose to research the office of the First Lady: both general public access to information and the separation of First Lady scholarship/literature and Presidential scholarship/literature. When I went back and began editing I realized I did not operationalize First Lady as America or what types of mass media I would be analyzing the content of (national magazine-Time, national newspaper-New York Times, women’s magazine-Ladies Home Journal). Hopefully this weeks reading resulted in a clearer and more effective proposal (show me the money!).


This particular part of the readings this week stood out in my mind. I volunteer as a virtual reference intern and, let me tell you, virtual reference can be tough! It is often necessary to ask your patron question after question after question to figure out what they really mean, especially as virtual reference requires you to communicate through only a chat window!

For instance, I once had a patron who needed to do research on the topic of health care and designs. They stated that they had struggled with the use of the databases, as the search terms that they used would turn up irrelevant results. Upon mimicking the search strategies that they tried myself, I realized that the database was thinking of the word “design” in terms of the design of health care programs and initiatives. After further questioning, I learned that this patron was in an interior design program, and that they wanted some research on the building design of health care clinics and facilities. Therefore, I instructed them that it would be necessary to think of more specific search terms, as the system wasn’t quite sure which kind of design they were thinking about. This is just one of many examples I have, which illustrates that it is essential to think about operationalization when searching through databases.

OGS – Edited

I have edited the OGS application that I wrote based on the instruction we have been given in both the class and in the readings and hopefully it now reads more clearly:


My primary area of interest lies in investigating the relationship between gender, race and colonial national identity in displays of public history. One form of such is exhibits in modern museums, which act as pedagogical spaces for mass public consumption. Another prominent example are spectacle public performances produced by the state and intended for a national and international viewing. Based on this understanding, I intend to explore the ways in which displays of Indigenous and Colonial history create and reinforce a national identity and unified Canadian history. I ask what is the colonial state’s vested interest in presenting history in a positive light, and how does this influence the representation of gender and race narratives?

While the major focus of the project is contemporary Canadian displays, this research is inspired similarities, across time and space, with which modern and historic colonial states have manipulated representations of gender and race. My Masters thesis contributes to a further understanding of the intersection of race and gender representation in Canadian displays of national history, specifically in regard to exhibits that explore history in which both settler and Indigenous populations shared space and resources. A focus will be placed on how and where gender is presented in these narratives. I will do this research using case studies of exhibits in the Canadian Museum of Civilization and performances during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic ceremonies. I will focus specifically at exhibits highlighting both settler and Indigenous history, including the exhibit “Profit and Ambition: The Canadian Fur Trade, 1779-1821”, the Canadian feature at the closing ceremonies at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, and the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The selection of these sources is to make the connection between public displays and public displays – both of which feature public history intended for mass public viewing. For this project I will research both the written documents surrounding creation of these displays and the resulting exhibits. While it is not within the scope of a masters thesis to fully explore the trend of manipulation of representation in public displays of history across multiple historical colonial countries, I intend to explore and expand this topic for a dissertation at the doctoral level.

I am currently enrolled in the first of a two-year Masters of Museum Studies at the University of Toronto in the collaborative Sexual Diversity program. My program of study consists of course work, an internship, and a thesis project. My undergraduate studies in Classical Studies and First Nations Studies at the University of Western Ontario, as well as my current program, provides me with the necessary background to undertake the plan of study proposed here. I am excited to be working with Dr. Jennifer Carter and Dr. Cara Krmpotich, who are currently my faculty advisors and whose research areas correspond with my interests. During this year of study I will be taking the following classes to prepare for my thesis research: Research Methods, Museums and Indigenous Communities: Changing Relationships, Changing Practice, Museums and Cultural Heritage: Context and Critical Issues, and Interpretation and Meaning Making in Cultural Institutions. I am also volunteering at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto with their material collections. This will add to conservation and display knowledge that I gained during my undergraduate years as a assistant on an archaeological dig at the ancient city of Nysa on the Meander in Turkey and as librarian assistant at the University of Western Ontario Pride Library. 

Finding a floor: Thoughts on Weeks 1 – 3

As with the early days of any course, I took on the first reading assignments with a somewhat heightened sense of anticipation, waiting for those moments when an author’s comments particularly resonate versus past experience – the basis for “sensemaking” and knowledge creation (a key takeaway from the INF2176 course).  That said, a few comments (a bit tentative I suspect as these are early days) concerning my takeaways from the text material noted below…

Knight, Chapter 1:

That a conscious effort to journal ones thoughts as an inquiry process evolves will greatly enhance the outcomes of a research effort, enabling the means to revisit reference material previously encountered, and to similarly revisit reflections seen as noteworthy at that time.  Related, the comparative success of researchers who routinely seek the comment and opinion of others while their research related writing remains in the formative stage.

Luker, Chapters 1/2/3:

For starters, I very much appreciate the choice of a course text authored in a fashion that suggests a genuine effort to mentor.  Among the takeaways from chapters one through three…

The breath of research sources from which quality research emerges at this time — NGOs, federal and state government agencies, as well as corporate entities, versus the early days of Luker’s graduate schooling and research experience,  (p. 15)

The author’s summary reference to her intentions concerning the presentation of a case for leveraging both the canonical or quantitative mechanisms enabling verification, along side those of a more qualitative nature as a means to pursue discovery (p. 39) — hope I’ve got the associations correct!

Similarly, the author’s introduction of a framework for understanding the objectives of canonical methods underpinning social science research: appropriately representative sampling; operationalization — the mechanisms that enable uniform (hopefully) understanding of the researchers intent through the questions posed, and the capture of participant responses; and generalizability — the capacity of response patterns gleaned through analysis of participant responses to accurately suggest behaviors of a larger community (p. 42-44).

Luker, Chapters 4/5

  • A framework for assessing the effort to refine a research interest into a research question: that it reflects an attempt to posit relationship(s) among concepts; that a range of possible answers can be examined; and that such answers suggest the means to enhance the dialogue concerning an intellectual pursuit(s)  (p. 51-52)
  • The challenges inherent in the effort to frame a research question, as illustrated by the “gorilla” experiment (p. 62)
  • A reason to be hopeful concerning the likelihood of one’s efforts to ready a research paper for publication; that good papers are in demand, and publishers willingly engage with prospective authors who show promise (p. 74)
  • Concerning a literature review, the important role of material published in media formats other than books: journals, government documents, etc. (p. 80)
  • The “Venn diagram” as a means to enable recognition of complementary relationships (p. 81)
  • Strategies that will very likely enhance the quality of a literature review: endeavoring to establish a relationship with a seasoned research librarian; reviewing a dissertation as a means to constrain the titles chosen for a closer look; and the understanding that one must be consciously selective (to “harvard”) concerning the material chosen for closer review (p. 84-96).

A modest first offering…

Michael Watchorn