Monday, 16 February 2009

Methodologies

Today I was at a course on Qualitative Analysis, just for me to confirm that I really understand all the things I have read. While I was there I was having thoughts of how my methodology has changed from the initial thoughts, and realised that it important to write all this down to log my reasoning. The Question "Are Children's Mobile Libraries expensive toys or investments for the future?" could very well be answered simply by using government statistics, Ofsted figures for reading and literacy, library target figures and library visitor figures matched against local government expenditure on libraries, specifically the running costs of a mobile library. This sort of Quantitative research would give an answer, but not explain the reasons behind the answer. It would not show that at one particular stop, where only ten children come aboard, that the mobile library is visiting a special school and that it is the only place where those children can access appropriate books, for instance. It would not be able to tell simply by the school figures in a specific area that there are certain pockets of disadvantage in that area, certain families that have a poor literacy background and their children are benefiting by the actions of library staff and access to books and ingformation. The point is that the children's mobile library has the opportunity to access people who otherwise would not be able to have the chance to become self learners, would not thave the chance to develop their literacy skills.

This in turn leads to lower self esteem lower achievement and a less informed workforce. It becomes difficult and costly to improve these people's literacy as they become adult, is it more efficient to use the money when they are children? My aim is to asses the social and economical value of children's mobile libraries. In fact is there an impact on the literacy of parents and other family members when children borrow books? The answer to these sorts of questions can be better found by Qualitative research. There are still a variety of ways that I could choose to do this, and I have not completely made up my mind yet. I am certain that I will be a participative observer, visiting, watching and experiencing children's mobile libraries at first hand. I think I will use ethnographic methods to do that part of the research joining in storytelling and informally talking to the children. I need to find which mobile libraries will give me the best opportunity to do that so the type of sampling I use is important. I first thought that random sampling would be the fairest way. This was when I guessed that I would have a large sampling frame, say fifty or more children's mobile libraries operating in Britain. As I have discovered a much smaller number, and uncovered some of the stories of these mobile libraries I realise that each seems to have a certain uniqueness, and some stand out for various reasons. To get a well rounded sample across the range of types of Children's mobile library, then I must use purposive sampling, choosing the best ones to provide an answer.

I am not only sampling the Mobile library, however. I need to learn more about the subject. There is little literature, so I need to talk to people who know about working on children's mobile libraries, and people who have had the experience of monitoring children's literacy before, after and during the experience of regular visits to children's mobile libraries. These people will be chosen by theoretical sampling, because the will provide theoretical insights. I will use these key people to them lead me on to other people who I can interview or form into a focus group (to investigate the Reading Rocket phenomenon, teachers and nursery staff), or to gain access to mobile libraries (Mobile library staff). Could this then be Snowball sampling. I feel that an insider approach will get better, more sympathetic results that If I "Cold Called" mobile libraries.

I need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of these methods, including my own previous experience, the experiences of the staff, the children, and any bias that could creep into the study. It could all become very subjective. I must remember to write up the experience I had of working on a children's mobile library, the experience I have had of teaching children to read and the part the experiences have to play in the research. This is Reflexivity. I need to write some advantae and disadvantage lists. Perhaps it is too early to make methodological decisions, but noot to early to have the disussions with myself. this bit of refelxivity is probalbly a bit botring for anyone following this blog, I apologise, but I need to record my thought processes, because I will forget them by my third year and wonder why I chose to do things in the way I will have done. (There are a lot of tenses in that sentence).

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