Monday, December 27, 2010

Learning & research insights and conclusions

This post presents ten learning and research insights based on my doctorate studies. The rationale for this was to present the conclusions of my learning experience in a classified way:

1. Sharing is better. With the one –on-one interview I have learned that it is important to make a proper introduction to the interviewee. Showing some examples and describing your research is essential for them to get a clearer picture and be willing to share their thought and perceptions. I realized that the introduction at the second interview where I explained more about my research and the topic of online CRM and opening the three sites for illustrating the concept enabled the interviewee to understand and relate to the topic and as a result to be more cooperative. The interview even started the interview by say: “I must say that your introduction got me in the mood”.

2. Define topic, research questions as specific and clear as possible. Defining the topic and research questions took some time. I found this stage to be quite frustrating since I was not able to move forward with my research without carefully finalizing those sections. Moreover, even after I thought that I have the appropriate definition and questions I went back and redefined those several more times. Clear definition of topic and research questions are pre-requisitions for continuing with the research.

3. Short, clear and simple questionnaire. From my limited experience, people are not very keen about filling-in questionnaires, surveys and interviews. When I asked my acquaintances to fill in my questionnaire the first question most of them asked me is how long it is. Only after I assured them that it is less than 10 questions they promised to fill it in. Designing a short, straight forward questionnaire can help with the completion rate.

4. Offer incentive. With the questionnaire I emailed it and published the link for it on my facebook, twitter status and also my blog. I asked people to fill in my questionnaire and forward it to their friends who might want to complete one as well. A friend of mine emailed it to an acquaintance, who invited her for a date (they are still dating thanks to my questionnaire!). Leveraging this story, I emailed the questionnaire again asking people to fill in my questionnaire and by doing so they might ‘win’ an unexpected date. The feedbacks were very positive and completion rate went up. By offering an incentive, not necessarily tangible, people might be curious and more willing to cooperate.

5. Respects Privacy. When asked people to fill in the questionnaire and also to be interviewed I sensed they feel a bit uncomfortable. I tried to share some details about the research with them to help them feel comfortable and also promised them that they are not required to reveal private information and it is anonymous. This made them feel more comfortable about participating in the research.

6. Use Technology. I realized that using technology for research purposes can be very helpful for gathering information – distributing questionnaire online through social networks, emails, blogs and organizing information with Mendeley software.

7. Reflective learning diary on the go. Keeping track of the learning experience while doing the research is better than waiting with this to the last minute. In the beginning I managed to write down some points but somewhere along the way, with all the work around it, I stopped doing so. It was much challenging to try and remember what happened instead of reflecting along the entire process.

8. Reflective learning = blog writing. By conducting this research and trying to keep track of my progress, I have realized that one of the things that made the reflective learning experience better was my experience with writing a professional blog. It is also reflected in the format of this diary.

9. Short cover story. During the ethnography people looks at me and tried to understand what exactly is my role with the three students. When being asked I said that I’m conducting a research about donation and I felt they are comfortable with my answer. I did not go into details and they were satisfied about the answer.

10. Managing Time efficiently. As it takes time to get in the research state of mind, defining specific time at the schedule is very important. Also, spending more than 3 hours working on the research at the writing phase, I found it fairly challenging. The gathering data stage is also very time-consuming. I realized that all phases take more time than what I have expected.