Friday, 11 November 2011

SIGs & Inquiry Tools

The Campus Session on 9th October was a chance to pick up some helpful points towards the completion of Module 2. We opened with looking at questions that could be asked about inquiry topics and looked at tools such as a mind map to generate questions. Some find this a useful tool and it’s useful to consider issues and the wider context of considered topics. Questions can seek to uncover linkages between different concepts around the topic. What if? Why? Finding a variety of questions to ask comes out of thinking wider that the topic and reflection on causes, effects and impact.

Questions should be explored by starting a SIG or joining in conversations which have been started on Facebook. Building up links with your SIG is of paramount importance as you will need to trial and test tools of inquiry. It is of course possible to move outside a class SIG to carry out such a pilot. You can use your own professional network, organization to trial these tools. Testing these tools is a pilot at this stage and you should use it to review and develop these tools for your actual inquiry in the final module (3). You need to reflect on how useful the tools are in answering the questions you need answered for your inquiry. For instance you need to weigh up the kind of information you can gather. For instance how could an interview and an observation give you different kinds of data. Can you be sure that respondents in an interview are not merely just giving you the responses that they think are “right” or what they think you want to say. While on the other hand an observation could produce a different finding. For instance, if your topic was about the protection of data in the workplace you might pose such a question in an interview – “How do you ensure that the information on your computer is secure?”. Their reply might be “I put passwords on all sensitive documents and if I have to leave my desk then I ensure that I log off so that another person cannot access my files”. Observing the same person in a work situation could present a different picture. For instance you might note that they frequently leave their desk in the course a day and do not log off every time they go. You might also note that you heard them onto the computer onto the helpdesk and you actually heard them give their password to the technician. The two kinds of information paint two very different pictures.

You have the opportunity in this module to test the different tools and think about what kind of information each of them will give. Your inquiry plan will then include a review of the tools you have tested and enable you to give an account which tool(s) you intend to use in the actual inquiry. This will call upon you to provide sound reasoning and judgement in coming to your decision.


  1. Thank you rosemary, but for some reason i have come to this great and big question which still bugs me, how do you get performing arts students interest in design inquries.
    although my successful has managed to caught ones eyes but i knwo as a student i need more.

  2. Thanks for the post Rosemary - it's really useful for me as I haven't been able to get to the Campus Sessions this term. I am looking forward to testing out the research tools, enabling me to design my research plan for next term. Do you have any more stories to share about when different methods of research might yield different findings? Your example about data protection got me thinking....the person in the example was claiming to keep their computer safe and secure but through observation we may discover that they are actually not. But isn't it just as possible that the presence of an observer would make someone behave in a way is not usual - 'being on their best behaviour' because someone is watching? (I suppose this is the whole covert v. overt argument).

    I imagine that through piloting the tools I will find that no research method is without it's flaws. Perhaps this indicates that a multi-tool design is best and most reliable?