Thursday, February 16, 2012

Research Journal Update

I've written before an area of research I am interested in involving information's role in NPDA debate. Specifically, I want to understand how debaters use information and what role access to information plays in NPDA rounds. I've narrowed the area of my initial study down to a research question: Is there are correlation between wireless internet access affect NPDA round outcomes?

At the end of last term I created a study proposal. Since then, I've shown it to a few people and gotten positive and constructive feedback. I've learned a few things from that feedback. Most importantly I've learned that I need to operationalize my variables.

In the initial proposal I poorly defined the particular variables that would be tested. There were a few reasons for that, but one of the primary ones was uncertainty over the type and availability of data. I've done a preliminary survey of debate resources, and found that there is no widespread historical record of debate rounds, beyond the last three years, exists. Even then it isn't standard practice in the community. I don't have enough data to make that a conclusive statement, but it's my strong impression.

Secondly, I didn't understand the research settings. Because I assumed, wrongly, that there was a large preexisting data set, I was under the impression that once I got the data I could go back and church the numbers. Because I didn't understand the data that I would be working with this led to a vague, "after I get data then I will decide what to do," approach. While I think that this may be a useful approach in some hypothetical instance, I learned that it's a good idea to have an understanding about what you need, and after establishing the data needs figure out how to get the data. This process should start with the formation of a hypothesis and then developing a system to test it.

Finally, there was just lack of clarity over the scope of a study. While I learned how to create a study proposal from that class the lack of preparation for publishing wasn't the best foundation for carrying forward the research. To clarify, my proposal was using completely the wrong vocabulary. Once, I was informed about the issues with vocabulary, focusing on the variables became easier.

In short, it never hurts to find out a bit more about your material before you move over.

Right now I have a survey out regarding the historical resources kept by debate teams. Eventually I hope to write an article about that data set, why the problems exist with this data set, and what practices can be adopted to it. It's not what I had intended to start with, but it's a start to understanding information and knowledge management in the NPDA community.

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