Finally, I’ve reached that stage of my PhD where the writing can commence! I think this is the part that most students find challenging – I’m sure I will, but so far I’ve really enjoyed the experience. Doing it part time has allowed me to adopt a far more leisurely pace, which has been enjoyable, and I haven’t ever really felt the need to rush what I’m doing. Of course, I have felt sometimes that I have too much going on, and I have regretted not being able to take more of the opportunities presented by full-time study, but overall I’m pretty satisfied with the progress that I’ve made. It hasn’t hurt that I’ve managed to get published 3 times in peer-reviewed work, so that’s pleasing as well.
I’m ready to start the writing phase of things, now. My supervisor and I talked about what that means, and our discussion centred around my philosophical standpoints – in particular, that related to my data and that related to my methodology. I’m planning to write a lengthy narrative piece about the two projects that made up my data gathering section. Originally, I was considering these to be quite straightforward interpretive ethnographic studies, with myself acting as the participant observer. However, Rick suggested that I consider another perspective – that of phenomenology. Despite being tricky to pronounce, the difference between the two are simple: although both come from the qualitative paradigm, the difference is the level of the researcher’s voice that is present in the actual writing. In other words, how much am I present – through my analysis, through my interpretations, through my comments – in the presentation of the data, compared to how much do I let the voices of my research participants speak for themselves?
Of course, there is the potential to do both; this is what I think might work best. If I undertake a phenomenological approach to the rich descriptions in Section 3 of the thesis, I will allow the students and interview participants to speak about their own experiences in their own words; although it is not possible for me to fully communicate the lived experience of each and every student, and I can only gain a partial understanding of what the JC program was like for them, I can still endeavour to represent it in their own words, with minimal interference from me as the researcher. Of course, the fact that I will select what to represent, and how to represent it means that my voice will never be entirely absent from this section. I will structure these chapters in this way – rather than simply a narrative piece, I will be trying to identify common themes in the two groups – say, for example, the importance of authenticity from the students involved in the project – then I will present the reader with rich descriptions of this and lengthy excerpts of the students speaking in their own words.
Later, after I review the literature and I move onto Section 5: Further Analysis and Discussion, I will be seeking to take a more interpretative role of analysing the data. In this section, I will be much more present in the discourse. I will be trying to identify the links between previous research and my own work, as well as drawing out what this means for civics and citizenship education. In this section, I will be linking social capital and critical consciousness with what I have seen developing amongst the young people who took part in the project. This will require more planning, in the future.