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Three weeks to viva


During the past week, apart from writing two blog posts, I have read quite a number of articles written by my external examiner and made notes on those aspects of them which underpin aspects of my research. In addition, I have followed up the links to critical realism that I mentioned in my last blog. Somewhat usefully, I have found an article that specifically looks at links between critical realism and systems thinking and critiques the focus in sociology on Parsons and Luhmann’s social systems theories, effectively ignoring the wider systems discipline (Elder-Vass, 2007). If I had read this material earlier, I could have used it in my theoretical background chapter, but I couldn’t read or know about everything.

I went to a workshop on Friday presented by Wendy Hollway and organised by colleagues at Sussex. Again, the material covered could have been useful to me both in planning my data gathering approach and in my data analysis. It extended the ideas from Merrill and West (2009) that introduce psychoanalytic thinking to qualitative methodology and addressed directly the problem of people becoming invisible in research findings if there is too heavy an emphasis on scientific methods, including thematic analysis.

This reading is helping me to understand better some of my unresolved dilemmas and taking my thinking forward in ways that I find useful, whether or not anybody else does!

The third area I have given some time to is the hoary old issue of my ontology and epistemology. This is something I want to talk to my supervisors about when I meet them later today for a viva prep session. I am still very confused about what the two terms mean in practice, though I did read a useful section in Ritchie and Lewis (2003), which discussed the view that it is possible to develop a pragmatic ‘toolbox’ approach that can incorporate different methodological and epistemological approaches. I guess this reflects the comment I mention in my previous blog post about ‘epistemological eclecticism’ and does feel a more comfortable fit than some of the labelling that seems to be used to describe epistemology and ontology. Will see what supervisors think.

For the next two weeks I will be buried in marking so not sure how much time or opportunity I will have for thinking about viva. I am told by others that distractions can be good, so I’ll also continue to think about how I am going to furnish the rooms in my new home (move planned for early June – but not immediately following viva!)


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