Investigation and/or intervention

I don’t know why this penny didn’t drop before – it seems so obvious now that it has….how systems thinking approaches and tools are sometimes framed as approaches for investigation and other times as approaches for intervention – or even as some sort of ‘woolly’ in between….

There was some person … who had caused the intervention to happen, someone without whom, there would not be an investigation at all…

Checkland and Poulter, 2010, p. 211 [my emphasis]

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Forming a research question for action research

The minute I wrote that title, I realised that in a strict sense it is a little back to front.  We all know that our choice of research methodology should follow the definition of our aims, objectives and research question – form should follow function!  At least that is what the text books say.

But I’ll readily confess that I became a research student because I wanted the opportunity to learn more about and experience action research – others do that too for example some embark on a PhD because they want to home their quantitative data analysis skills.  So the ‘search’ for a research question and defining aims and objectives is also informed by the sort of knowledge, skills and experience I want to develop through my PhD and ultimately the sort of researcher I want to be.

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In my own words…

I’ve reached that stage in my PhD programme where I have to start ‘formalising’ my research proposal.  I need to iterate a few drafts over the next few weeks with a view to submitting it for formal assessment towards the end of July.  In the same time period, I do my first proper draft of an ethics application. That isn’t the ‘end point’, it can be refined or even changed after that – but it is a goal to be reached and a goal to make the most of.

But there lies a problem.  As I read – both the ‘content’ literature and the methodological literature – I can easily talk to myself about what I want to do and why, but when I get faced with the structure (template) for a research proposal, it just won’t come out, I can’t construct all those ideas into a coherent sounding explanation.  So I wondered whether writing it in my own words first of all would help – hence this blog.  Some researchers refer to this sort of thing as first person memos – so given it has a name, it must be an appropriate way of moving forward!  I have no idea as I start whether it is going to be one long blog or the first of a series focussing on different parts of a research proposal but here we go anyway….

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Is your office killing you?

You only have to search Google images with the key words “dilbert open plan” to find some Dilbert strips that make you giggle – I found the strips of May 31, 2011, November 2, 2012, May 14, 2003 and October 17, 1998 particularly funny.  But look down at some of the comments and it all gets a little more serious – on the most part, people don’t like working open plan.

All the Dilbert gags aside, I’ve just spent a few weeks carrying out a literature review into the health harms/benefits of different sorts of office.  It led me to conclude that this isn’t a laughing matter…

The short story is – depending in part on your personality and the particular nature of your work – but on the whole…

If your office is shared, larger and/or has a density that makes it feel crowded – your health is at risk.  Your health is more at risk if your own workspace in that office is further from a window, nearer to circulation areas and/or the distractions of shared facilities.  If you are by the window – especially if you have a green view – you seem to be protected a little.  If you have some control – over your own light, your own temperature, your own ventilation – then it helps again.  It gets worse if control is removed, for example you have no input into the decor of your office or you are told no personal items on your desk. Continue reading

Do we need to ‘change our behaviour’ or ‘develop our practice’?

In public health, the notion of behaviour change has been around for a while.  The focus stems from the desire to reduce or eliminate ‘health risk behaviours’ like smoking or alcohol or to introduce ‘health enhancing behaviours’ like physical activity or nutritious diets.  There has been plenty of research by health psychologists to explain how behaviour change happens (descriptive theories) that are now being used to design interventions (turning them into prescriptive theories but that’s another matter).

But that’s not what I want to focus on – there has been this odd creep of phrases like ‘behaviour change’ into the language of leadership and management. It seems not only do leaders and managers need to ‘change their behaviour’, they also need to know how to change that of their ‘subordinates’.  I’m all for seeing how helpful ideas can be when you transfer them across disciplines but I feel very uneasy about this transfer. Continue reading

Change again…

I have been thinking a lot about change recently.  I have got this muddled mess in my head about it.  But as I sat down to write this blog, I realised I have been here before…

30/10/10 – one of my first ever blogs – The nature of change

12/11/10 – not long after Changing practice

27/12/10 – Worldviews and theories of change

14/3/11 – Managing systemic change

I think my latest quest perhaps has more to do with ‘managing’ change, rather than change per se.  I think it was in B822 Creativity, innovation and change that the following approaches to change were laid out: Continue reading

So ‘absent competence’ or ‘constrained capability’?

After all those weeks of writing very academically about my research topic, I’m finding it hard to explain it all ‘in lay terms’ – removing all the public health speak; Systems speak; and, research speak.  I want to write a briefing note to share the findings – not least with the participants – but short of copying and pasting the relevant bits into a new document I am stuck as to how to make it readable, understandable and engaging.  How do I ‘sell’ the ideas that I have developed – I think they are really helpful ideas, but they are only helpful if you realise the problem that they help with exists in the first place!

So I thought I would try and do it bloggy style here to break the academic mode of writing – in the hope that I can subsequently write something that fits in the middle. Continue reading

My Research as an ‘event’ in a longer stream of inquiry

My last post set me off on a stream of thought in relation to what I am doing in my research – is it inductive? is it deductive? is it emic? is it etic?  I’ve started to realise that it is best to think of these pairs in terms of dualities, rather than dualisms. Through the research, there is an interplay.  But also I realised that my Research Project (with a big R and big P) does not stand alone – it is located in a wider stream of inquiry and it’s location in time impacts on what it is and how I relate to it. Continue reading

What could a Discovery interview look like?

In some ways, it seems a little odd worrying about this ‘detail’ at an early stage.  But I’m finding it difficult to talk about the bigger picture without trying to get a first ‘cut’ of the ‘design’ of the initial interviews.  Using the word ‘design’ reminds me about issues of the ‘design turn‘, which I must come back to in more detail later.  But for now, what do I mean when I say ‘do an AI interview’? Continue reading