Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thinking Through Data Analysis

Gotta loosen up, sit with the data for a long long while. That's how ideas come. Need to be both mentally and physically limber -- yet even one or the other at a time is hard to muster!

Here's what I'm thinking though --

I've got 2 sets of data. Comments on essays, and interviews about same.

Analysis of the comment data can only go so far -- looking at what was commented on, looking at what they said, and categorizing both. (Eg, 20 people commented on this use of a preposition, X number commented on prepositions in general, X number commented on the use of the phrase "harmonious society" across several essays; most common word used in comments was "wrong" or "native" or whatever.)

There are a lot of ways analysis of interviews can go, though -- I'm thinking of going with sort of 'how language attitudes are constructed' in a sense, or how acceptability is negotiated between interviewer and interviewees.

[SIDE NOTE -- I sometimes hate the postmodern thing of being like "see, I'm really totally being critical and analyzing everything because I included myself in the analysis like I'm just one of the participants" -- it's actually very good in the sense that it takes the researcher's role seriously -- I'm a social actor in this project, just like everyone else --  but it also sort of tries to offer reflexivity as proof of critical rigor, an innoculation against invalidity. (Is that a word?) Couldn't I, in the end, be totally wrong in my analysis of how what I'm doing influences others, or how what they're doing influences me? Analysis is only as strong as the theory you use to do it, and I'm suspicious of theories.]

Anyway, I like this, because in a lot of ways the interviews go differently depending on my relationship with the interviewee and how I relate to their position. At least I think they do - see "side note." I said in a term paper for a doctoral seminar that

Recognizing my professional identity/ies as multiple and shifting, I believe I can identify with, in some ways, the North American academy, the Chinese ELT community, foreign teachers in China, and international graduate students studying English in China, among others. If I can recognize each of these communities as having some impact on my own construction of English writing in China, perhaps the co-constitutive character of my own research and writing will be bolstered.

Despite that sounding a little naive and/or jargony, I do think it's related here. I think I'm trying to be "all things to all people" in a way. With Chinese teachers: "we all teach in CHinese universities, we all know what it's like." With foreign Ts in China, "we all know what it's like to be a whitey in China." With non-Chinese teachers in Canada, "Yeah, we do things differently here than they do over there."

Anyway....I don't need to go too much further with this train of thought, but it's something to think about. 

Oh yeah: the other thing I was going to say was that interviews don't have to directly correlate to specific stuff in the comments. Obvs they mostly do, but they can be more about understanding the process of negotiating the concept of 'acceptability' (or what is or isn't standard E / Chinese E) than about how specific decisions about comments were made and how that relates to the comment data. I think.