Well, most of my work in the last couple weeks have been focussed on theory and method.  On the theory side of the equation I’ve been working to develop the theoretical framework and conceptual tools that I will use in my study.  This has led me into the world of literature on "problematizing," "second-order observation," "imaginaries," "knowledge formation," and all sorts of other fun, exciting, and often very VERY dry stuff.

On the methods side of things I’ve been working on what could be called "research design," specifically that portion of research design concerned with data management.  I am still having success using FileMaker to store all of my annotations and quotes.  I have recently also added an ideas/notes database, moving theory, method, and other notes which were previously just on paper into a searchable databse, tagging each with keywords.  However, I am up to 5 FileMaker databases now, two exam databases and 3 proposal databases.  The two exam ones are linked and two of the proposal ones are linked (annotations and quotes), but the exam databases are not linked to the proposal databases, and among the proposal ones, annotations and quotes are not linked to ideas/notes.  So, there is some work to be done in figuring out a way to link these all together.  I may need to create a larger, master database of some sort.  Having multiple databses is still somewhat manageable at the moment.  But, I anticipate that creating databases on a project-by-project bases will lead to the proliferation of databases, few of which are linked, ultimately defeating the purpose of having them in the first place.  Better to get a viable system up and running now than to wait until there is just too much data to deal with trying to integrate it all.

Next, I have found an awesome application called "The Brain" which is the most flexible, intuitive, mindmapping application that I have ever come across.  I have been searching for quite a while, trying to find an application that would allow me to search my data visually, in a way that allows me to see patterns and connections.  The Brain does exactly that.  If you are someone who needs this kind of capability, I highly recommend it.  I am very picky with this kind of stuff and I can say that it is, absolutely, hands down, the best of its kind.

Of course, mindmapping software, and FileMaker databases, do not run themselves or enter their own data.  So, I’ve also been doing a lot of the dirty work of data entry lately.  I have managed to create 11 annotations and 33 quotes for my proposal so far.  I have a big stack of articles that still need to be annotated and quoted.  Of course, all that data gets entered into FileMaker, and now into The Bran as well.  It’s labor intensive, no doubt, but when it’s done, I have at least two ways to search and sort through my data.  And, because The Brain actually stores quotes and annotations as individual RTF files, that means that they are all searchable by Google Desktop as well.  So, this provides triple redundancy for searching and locating information: FileMaker, The Brain, and Google.  This provides the capability to search massive amounts of textual data, either through keyword search or visually/graphically, finding the information I need quickly.

In the next couple weeks there is a lot to do.  I hope to finish reviewing the literature that I am using to develop a theoretical framework for my study, annotate and quote it, enter that information into FileMake and The Brain, and get my first, actual draft of a dissertation proposal together.  The gamble now is a bet that all the time spent up front to enter data into FileMaker and The Brain will pay off when it comes to actually putting my arguments together to write the proposal.

Finally, a friend sent me a link to program earlier today, called RefViz, which will graphically display relationships among sources in a Reference Manager database, the system I use to store bibiographic information.  I plan to check it out next.  I have many more sources stored in Refernce Manager than I have annotated and quoted.  Being able to look at a graphical display of the relationships among Reference Manager entries could serve as a good tool for "data discover," finding information or leads to information that I didn’t know I had or didn’t know existed. 

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