I left off the last post on literature work at the point of having a base set of literatures about blogging that I had drawn from peer-reviewed journals. I’d skimmed all of the abstracts once, in order to weed out those that weren’t relevant, and I’d done a counting, sorting and categorizing exercise in order to work out who was researching and writing (in journals) about blogging.
This post is about the next step of mapping. It’s in two stages. The first stage – this post – describes the process that I used. The second post shows some of the types of notes that I took – notes about individual papers, groups of papers and some discursive text.
Pat’s process of mapping
After scoping, my next step was to do a bit more searching and downloading. I went to googlescholar and searched for the term blog. There were 1,590,000 responses, far too many for me to deal with, so I decided arbitrarily to go through the first fifteen screens to see what else I might pick up that seemed relevant. I then imported these abstracts -and in some cases papers -into my Mendeley file. This brought the total corpus of papers to 327. I then went back through this data-base picking out some articles that looked as if they might be relevant to my topic and downloaded these full pdfs (also stored in Mendeley).
At this point I was struck by a vague memory of something on one of my many thumb drives (!). On checking, I found another six articles that I had forgotten I had downloaded earlier. These also went into Mendeley, together with the details of the one book I had actually managed to read relevant chapters from. So the total in Mendeley was now 334. But I had a nagging doubt… so I ran the duplicates check just to make sure and lo and behold I HAD downloaded these six articles as a result of the journals search. So Mendeley went back to 328. (I include this story so you know that I make lots of mistakes and false steps just like everyone else.)
Now, when I say I looked for relevant papers, what exactly was I looking for? The paper that Thesis Whisperer and I are writing is to do with academic blogging and we are trying to develop a taxonomy. So I was looking for:
(a) any blog taxonomies that people had used, or anything that might be related to the practice of developing a taxonomy
(b) anything on academic blogging per se. I was in part interested to see whether there were any ‘building blocks’ for our work, but I also wanted to see what kind of space there was for our contribution. What and who would we be talking to?
(c) anything relevant to writing blogs – why people do it, any evidence about what blogs ‘do’ in the world
(d) anything relevant to the question of Web2 as a democratic arena or as an alternative news source.
I then re-read all of the abstracts. This was my second pass through the data set. This time I skimmed a lot of abstracts and then ignored them. I made no notes about them as they didn’t seem central this particular project. I more thoroughly read the abstract of those I thought were relevant to us, writing down a few words about the argument. I read the entire paper of a relatively small number – thirty two papers – and made more extensive notes about a couple – including copying and pasting some potential quotations (with page numbers) into my word doc.
I then went back over my notes and sorted and categorized the papers. This time, rather than looking for disciplinary categories, I developed some THEMES. Some people might do mind-mapping at this point in time in order to undertake this thematic work, but this data set was small enough for me to do it simply as bullet points in the word doc.
I finally grouped the papers under the themes. All this meant was that I literally moved the notes and citations around the word document to sit under the relevant heading. The first theme was to find papers like ours:
(1) academic blogs – teaching, and papers similar to ours
Then I looked for papers close to ours:
(2) other occupational analyses of blogging
And finally I looked for other papers which might have something to say to our work. These were substantively about content:
(3) Purposes for blogging – (a) motivation (b) relationships and networks and (c) information
(5) Blog ethics
And they were also about the processes of researching:
(8) Categorizing blogs
(9) Methodological issues when researching blogs
(10) Analytic issues when researching blogs, and theoretical approaches to analysis.
Because I didn’t yet have all of the literatures that I needed for the review, I knew that these themes might not be the final set. I saw the mapping as having established the basic topographical features on the map, onto which other details would be introduced – that is other literatures could be added to these themes, they could be re-named, and other themes added. So I knew I might have to add or modify these themes, but this was at least now an ordered literatures landscape, not simply a data-base.
The next stage, focusing in, will work with these themes and add in more literatures and ask different questions. However, the next post will ‘show and tell’ the kinds of notes that I made during step two.