Finding your way in the foggy road of data collection…

This week Coralie Acheson, a 2nd year PhD Researcher in the Ironbridge International Institute for Cultural Heritage, shares her experience of collecting data for her research…

Iron Bridge Blog

My research is on how tourists encounter and negotiate the values of Ironbridge Gorge, a World Heritage Site in Shropshire; part of a collaborative AHRC-funded project looking at the communication of value to different communities of interest at the site. This was my first serious foray into the academic world of cultural heritage following years of studying and working commercially in archaeology. When I started, I knew I had a steep climb in terms of raising my knowledge base in terms of thinking about tourism theory but I hadn’t realised how much I also needed to learn about the actual practicalities of carrying out the research.

I am using a mixed-methods approach – my research involves trying to pin down something both intangible and ephemeral, the ‘communication of value’ to a difficult to define, constantly changing and incredibly varied group of people – so I needed to form a sort of research ‘pincer’! I am using:

  • Interviews – semi-structured, with both those working with tourists, and the tourists themselves;
  • Observation – both remote and participant;
  • Qualitative media analysis of materials produced for and by tourists – think Instagram, guidebooks, signage etc;
  • Visual field notes – a developing collection of imagery which tells a story about my site.

I am currently right in the middle of collecting all of this data and feeling rather swamped. It is like a juggling act trying to process already collected data into initial analysis of some form, carry out more research and preparing for things happening over the next few months. A complex and colour coded diary has become essential! I have found that writing things down has helped me get my head around where I am with my research – not so much for the output but the process of doing it helps me organise my thoughts and get control of the stress!

I have massively benefitted from research training from lots of different sources including an ‘interview for researchers’ course (AHRC), free online courses in social media analytics, one-to-one skill sharing with other PhDs as well as courses available through the university on Endnote and data management. This was all absolutely essential, particularly as I am effectively a social science researcher with an arts background and who is based in the College of Arts and Law. Ultimately, though, the best way to figure out how to do things is just to try them out – go to conferences and present, try different analysis methods you’ve only read about in books – just go for it (within the remit of your ethical approval!) and it will get easier!

Do you want to share your PhD experiences with other postgraduate researchers on this blog? Get in touch with Dr. Eren Bilgen to become one of our guest bloggers.

*NEW* Web of Science Citation Connection

This week Vicky Wallace, our Library Subject Advisor for the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, introduces us to the new ‘Web of Science Citation Connection’

University of Birmingham researchers now have access to ‘Web of Science Citation Connection’.  This package includes a wealth of databases, allowing you to retrieve a great deal more than journal articles; namely information on:
Books:  offering book and book chapter literature searching, and the option to browse within a book to its book chapters, to see where the chapters have been cited.

Data: Search for datasets used by others and gain credit/citations for your own.  The Data Citation Index links the data behind the research to the literature.

Patents: Read accessible summaries of patents written by experts, linked to the original patent.  You can see citations to the patents to help you identify potential competitors/collaborators.

In addition, the package also includes Specialist Subject Databases including BIOSIS Citation Index, Current Chemical Reactions, Index Chemicus, and Zoological Records.

The new package gives us access to these databases for 2010 onwards.

Making the most of Citation Connection

Not sure how useful these resources will be to you?  Use FindIt@Bham to select ‘Web of Science’ (All Databases), undertake a search on your topic, and then use the “document types” filter to see the range of resource types returned alongside the usual journal articles.  Refine and explore the results.

Search Core Collection (Web of Science Citation Indexes) to check citation metrics – calculations will be based on citations in journals and books.   More information about metrics is available on our Bibliometrics website.

Discover the data behind the literature by using Data Citation Index.  Data from stable, up-to-date, peer-reviewed and high quality repositories are indexed; the repositories can be searched or browsed.

Explore patents literature on Derwent Innovations Index.  Consisting of 3 sections (Chemical, Electrical and Electronic, Engineering), patents are harvested from patent offices worldwide, and Derwent’s specialists produce summaries, deciphering the technology to make it more understandable and more accessible.  As well as topic searching, you can search by institution, derwent classification codes and a range of other identifiers.  Explore the links between patents to see patents that share the same technology.  Check citations to the patents, and identify competitors/collaborators.

For further advice and guidance on making the most of these resources, contact your Subject Advisor in Library Services http://Intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/library/subject

 

Visualising your PhD using a Gantt chart

Any project, whether it’s a substantial project such as your PhD thesis or a smaller-scale project like organising an event, will benefit from proper planning.  Project planning is a big topic, but here we will look at one planning tool that you use to help you understand and visualise the relationships between the component activities of your project and time:  a Gantt chart.  Gantt charts are named after Henry Gantt, a mechanical engineer and management consultant who developed the charts in the 1910s, and are very widely used for simple and complex projects, to communicate visually the timescale for a project and to monitor progress against that timescale. Continue reading “Visualising your PhD using a Gantt chart”

5 tips to securing funding for your postgraduate research

Top tips from Tara Wittin, PGR Funding Support Officer in the University Graduate School.

  1. Persevere
funding
Image credit: NY Photographic

If you haven’t been able to secure a prestigious Research Council studentship or a scholarship directly from the University to cover your tuition fees and living costs, don’t give up! These awards are extremely competitive so you shouldn’t be disheartened and there are various other ways to partially fund your studies.

  1. Think outside the box

There are lots of unconventional funding opportunities out there that you might not have thought about.

For example, have you considered applying for funding from a charity? Check out the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding which is all about funding from the voluntary sector and takes you through the whole process from identifying charities to making a strong application. There will be an opportunity to hear more about alternative sources of funding at our upcoming PGR funding advice event on Wednesday 9 November 2016. Continue reading “5 tips to securing funding for your postgraduate research”

Why should I be interested in Open Access?

In Open Access Week, Suzanne Atkins (Library Services) introduces Open Access.

So, you may ask, as a PGR why should you be interested in Open Access (OA)?

openaccessWell, there are several reasons why OA is relevant and important to researchers, particularly in the early stages of their academic career. Open access in its most simple sense, where research can be accessed without payment barriers allowing anyone to read or download it, offers huge opportunities for researchers to make themselves and their work more widely known. Continue reading “Why should I be interested in Open Access?”

Big data, small data, no data

This week, a guest post from Patricia Herterich, Research Repository Advisor in Library Services, on managing your research data.

There are many aspects to a successful PhD project and challenges to master on your way to graduation. You most certainly are aware that you should acquire e.g. writing and referencing skills, but how much time have you spent thinking about the research data management activities you might need to undertake as part of your research?  None yet? Time to get started with our introduction to research data management! Continue reading “Big data, small data, no data”

Bibliometrics for researchers

An introduction to bibliometrics for researchers by Vicky Wallace, Subject Advisor, Library Services

Have you ever heard the term bibliometrics?  Bibliometrics can be described as a means of measuring the impact of a given publication by looking at the number of times subsequent authors have cited that publication.

480px-h-index-en-svg
How to find an author’s h-index.

Bibliometrics can be applied at various levels, including:

  • Author level (e.g. the h-index)
  • Article level (e.g. altmetrics)
  • Journal level (e.g. impact factor)

There are philosophical questions about the merits of using a citation as a measure of impact.  Ask yourself the question of why you cite papers in your work, is it for positive or negative reasons, are you building on a researchers work, criticising it, or acknowledging their contribution to a field?  Also, citation patterns vary across disciplines, with some areas having numerous co-authors and citing prolifically, and other areas citing fewer papers and having more sole authors.  Nevertheless, bibliometrics are often used as a quantitative measure to determine the impact of researchers, research groups, departments and institutions, although this is often tempered by using peer review alongside them to bring in a qualitative element. Continue reading “Bibliometrics for researchers”