Defining thesis research questions

Getting down to the right research topic and asking the right questions to address it is a pretty challenging process. About the only thing I can say for certain is that I’ll be looking at blogs at BCIT. My preliminary proposal sought to understand the institute’s experience with blogs and wikis for learning and teaching in the more than five years since they were introduced as part of the Technology Enabled Knowledge (TEK) initiative.

We’re in the early stages of the last first-year course of our MA, which deals with developing a detailed research proposal. What I’ve got to do is focus on a detailed enough topic that it will be worthy of a thesis. It has to be something that is a significant problem, the answer to which will add to the body of knowledge on the topic. The literature seems pretty weak on evaluating blogs as teaching tools and I’m pretty sure this is what got the topic in principle approved.

Through a number of discussions and feedback, it’s become clear to me that researching on only blogs, as opposed to blogs and wikis, will allow me a tighter focus. The fact that very little evaluation of these tools specifically at BCIT has been done also makes it a good topic. Beyond that, though, I’m finding that it’s difficult to decide whether I can hypothesize that adoption of blogs has been weak and attempt to answer why, or that the research be totally inductive and descriptive. There are problems with either approach in terms of framing the research and designing the research vehicle, particularly if I go the survey route.

What follows is probably the second iteration of what will undoubtedly still change somewhat. If you have any thoughts about the this I would welcome comments below.

Web 2.0 is a term encompassing Internet technologies that allow users to collaboratively create and share intellectual property online. Weblogs, or blogs, are writing or journalling web sites that have a number of features for interaction, sharing of content and solicitation of comments/feedback.

Beginning in 2003, the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) implemented blogs for learning and teaching through its TEK (Technology Enabled Knowledge, n.d.) initiative, but there was little strategic oversight or evaluation of the effort. The institute has not made many forays into Web 2.0 for learning, but is beginning to do so with its marketing and communications efforts.

The goal of this research project is to better understand the adoption of blogs at BCIT, and to identify key factors, both positive and negative, in their use as instructional tools at the institute.

Working title
Assessing factors affecting the adoption of blogs as instructional tools at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).

Draft questions

  1. To what extent are blogs currently being used as instructional tools at BCIT?
  2. What key pedagogical and evaluation issues do blogs present for faculty at BCIT?
  3. What technological and support issues do blogs create for staff at BCIT?
  4. How can BCIT use institute-wide experience thus far with blogs to develop institutional strategies for the future?

Again, if you’ve got any thoughts at all on this topic I’d love to read them, particularly if you have experience with designing research on social media in education.