Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dr. Gabriela Avram's class on Research Methods

From analysis you draw conclusions, research is done systematically. My background is an artist which is very important to state at the beginning of my thesis. I have confidence in this area... which allows the reader to understand the angle in which I present my argument.
Research has to be done ethnically, I have to follow a code of conduct, respecting the opinion of the people being studied, respecting the data to be honest about my findings and results.
I should decide on a hypothesis and try to prove if it is right or wrong, conclude why I was wrong and what improvements I could make.
Getting to know the world is called epistemology. In my research I should take this approach to understand the user, so that my decision is informed from this primary research. An example of a good argument  for a thesis would be, 'My Masters Thesis focuses on participatory design techniques that would engage older people with dementia in design of digital technologies. I recruited and worked with numerous older adults and people with dementia and developed technological prototypes in response to the needs they articulated.' This would be a good example of designing technology to support mental well being.
Data collection - Qualitative data collection methods.

Data mining should not be used to replace talking to real people in their environment in which your studying. So what is the difference between Quantitative and Qualitative research methods. Quantitative research is about using statistics i.e data mining. However Qualitative is using the ethnographic approach, "producing thick description" of who are the people, practices, and how they change over time, which allows researcher to get into the picture of the user.
I have mentioned in my previous posts that it is important to state from the start of the Thesis that my project, considering the short period of time in which to complete it, will only afforded me the opportunity to study the user for a short duration of 4 weeks. Also I must declare my biases, who interest me in my research, so that the reader can understand the claims I make with respect to my background. 
When I collect data I have to be reflective, and ask questions such as, 'did my presence influence the interviewee's comments' or anything that might have led to incorrect data. If I think I have influenced their presence I must state this in my report. 
Three types of interviews,
. Structured, yes, no response, downside is that you don't know why they say yes or no.
. Questions that are structured, to allow a greater insight.
. Unstructured interviews, mainly just talking broadly about the area of interest, but difficult to draw conclusions. 
Also a key thing is to use is positive words, for example, there were no PROBLEMS in the project but CHALLENGES.  
Why use interviews. You could use interviews as they are currently the central resource through which contemporary social science engages with issues that concern it (citing Alkinson and Silverman). Only problem with interviewing, people will naturally be biased. Also an important thing to do is make notes of peoples reaction to question when they are asked. It is also a good idea to interview people in their own environment because they will be more relaxed and also could show you their work or things that might be relevant to them in their environment. 
After interview make all the notes that are relevant because when you do the next interview it is likely that you will forget vital information.
As mentioned before it is important to triangulate the information you gather so that you can really grasp the topic area. Also in an interview its good to find out information about the interviewee, their background or any other relevant information that would influence their decision i.e. qualification, studies, their research etc. 
What is the aim? The aim is to understand a phenomenon from the point of view of the participants themselves. It might be that you want to record the interview on a Dictaphone, however it would be wise to stay away from a video camera, because this is too formal. Remember, it is meant to be relaxed, informal so that the research can obtain the useful data to help in the design decision. When finished it would be professional to send the notes to the interviewee that you made, to have them checked so that perhaps any errors could be amended. In the Thesis I would have to include the questions I used in the appendix. 
Creating a focused group will be very rewarding and will create a lot of ideas. Secondary data can be very helpful to show your progress, for example from a blog or a diary. It can support your ideas and illustrate your development and what were your worries. So the key to present is that I actually went through a process, everything that happened, or anything that went wrong can be explained and evaluated. A good way to look at my research is to create a story that illustrates what I seen and experienced and how this can inform me as an interactive designer to create prototypes.  

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