- June 7th, 2012
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As I write this post, our final research report has just been published after a long thirteen weeks. Simply titled ‘Open Journalism’, we spent the last semester researching and compiling our findings on the state of journalism in Australia, and trying to define what constitutes ‘Open Journalism’ and whether or not this was a viable alternative to the current business model. It was a broad topic to say the least! After lots of discussion and lots of refinement, Katie, Stella, James and I have produced a project that we feel we can be proud of and will hopefully provide others with some insight this area of journalism. Now it’s time to have a final look back at how I’ve handled this process…
ROLE: Part of what made our project work so well, and what made for such a pleasant group environment (this was perhaps one of the best group work experiences I’ve had at RMIT), was that we worked in an incredibly collaborative fashion. Early on in the process, once it became clear that the four of us would be forming a group, we decided that setting a weekly meeting date and time would be incredibly beneficial. Every Monday since around week five we had a regular morning meeting. We would meet, talk about ideas we had had, things we had read and any problems that someone may have been facing. We didn’t have ‘roles’ specifically, but each of us took an interest in a different aspect of the topic. For example, Stella was focusing more on the trust issues that were an inherent problem in the journalistic environment in Australia, and Katie was focused on the role of the journalist. James and I both looked at various aspects of the business models. Each week, we’d set ourselves goals and try to meet them. I think this is most evidenced by this blog post, which I’d written during one of our group meetings, as we were deciding who should examine what. Working on a week-by-week basis made the research process much easier for us to bear, especially when working around various other classes and assignments. Communication was also kept up frequently via our Facebook group.
(HD : 82)
PROGRESS: Setting myself small, achievable goals week by week, and producing small amounts of content consistently throughout the semester, worked incredibly well for all of us. I have found that working this way proved extremely effective for me, and I think I was able to contribute to the group in a substantial matter. I’m able to confirm now that one of the biggest problems I face in terms of research assignments is that while I enjoy the reading, and following the branching paths that the research journey may take me on immensely, actually beginning to surmise that research, and beginning to write my own thoughts is an entirely different matter. This is why I started small, and built up the amount of writing I did over a period of weeks. It got easier as time went on.
I think I understand what in depth research entails far, far more than I did when we began. The amount of critical reading, analysis and the extent to which we followed through links and connections is unlike anything I’ve done before and something that caught me a little by surprise. The research tips that we learnt were definitely useful, even though they seemed rather basic at the time.
(HD : 80)
STRATEGIES:Part of what made that learning process easier (and all credit to James for suggesting the idea right at the beginning) was our research blog . Originally conceived as a place for us to comment on things we’d read and develop our ideas, as well as keeping up on what everyone else was writing and share our ideas and processes with the public sphere, it has in fact become the source of a lot of our content. Rather than aim to write an essay (or two) at the end of the research project, we were able to write a small piece at a time. As was suggested, writing in a public sphere also meant that we thought more about what we were writing – I attempted to be as academic and professional as possible in my writing on the blog.
Another strategy we utilised was the use of a shared Dropbox folder. When we found an article or file that was of use to us, we uploaded it to the folder, which allowed our other group members to see what we were reading (and not accidentally download the same article twice). When it came to writing the bibliography for our website, this made referencing our assignment that much easier.
PROBLEMS: Overall, the problems that we faced were not that big in the scheme of things. Our main issue was in trying to narrow down our topic. There were so many different aspects that we could have looked at, and the original research question was so broad, that we had to do a lot of discussion to narrow it down. For me personally, I had problems trying to keep my research are relevant to the broader topic of Open Journalism. Simply discussing print circulation and issues of falling revenue was not going to cut it. Thankfully, that soon developed into looking at whether the Australian newspaper industry were actually moving towards a more open model model of journalism or not. As can be expected, this problem was resolved simply through simple communication with group members. I brought up my difficulty at a weekly group meeting, we talked through it and came up with the solution.
(HD : 85)
CONNECTIONS/INTERSECTIONS: For me, this course has been invaluable in allowing me to develop and test my skills as a researcher. In the short term, this will be of great help to me next semester when I undertake Research in Contextual Studies, but I also learnt that, as long as you are researching a topic that holds your interest, the research process itself can be very fun and engaging process. I also had the opportunity to improve my networking skills, and this came from seeking out contacts to interview for primary research. I had to force myself to take the initiative, rather than relying on my group members to do a job that I have previously found a little intimidating (and still do, in a way). Although this was a collaborative project, we had to be able to work independently of each other at times, and that meant taking on duties and roles that weren’t necessarily in our comfort zone. For me, this meant approaching strangers. I have been rewarded with a tad more confidence in my ability to deal with similar situations in the future, which I’m certain will occur.
As for my overall mark for this research project, I’m giving myself an HD (85).