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From: Mark Burton <[log in to unmask]>
To: David Fryer <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: History chapter
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Date sent: Sat, 11 Dec 2004 18:06:49 -0000
Thanks for your email. Here is a response.
All research methods are problematic. Perhaps 'questionnaire' is a
misleading term for what we are doing here. It isn't the more usual
kind of questionnaire with fixed answer options (multiple choice or
yes/no - for example). Instead it provides respondents with the
opportunity to write down their thoughts in relation to the prompt
questions. There is no pretence that the sample is representative
(representative of what?) but rather the method is what has been
called 'illuminative' - i.e. to seek some other participants' ideas to
cast light on the topic. Nor is this the only information that we will
use in writing the chapter - see the previous outline I circulated and
some of us discussed at Exeter. With regard to the assumptions made in
selecting the questions, some of these are based on our previous work,
which was partly based on bibliographical research, but also on having
been in British psychology since the beginning of the 1970s. But yes
they are arbitrary in the sense that others might have chosen
different questions. What I think we are doing here, in both writing
the chapter, and in seeking input from the wider CP community is
essentially a kind of qualitative investigation - that is (as the
Banister et al text defines it)
‘... the interpretative study of a specified issue or
problem in which the researcher is central to the sense
that is made.’
Banister, et al., 1994: 2
As such, there is no pretence of given objectivity - we need to
construct the objectivity through the engagement of our various
subjectivities with the multiple sources of information we gather.
Unfortunately, as we are indeed all busy this can be no more than a
provisional and tentative attempt - something we will need to be clear
about when writing the chapter.
With regard to the possible abuse of the list, I've had a look at the
listserve site and can't find any rules for its use - unless there
were a demand for such, that is probably no bad thing. Nobody would
have to respond, and I'd anticipate a pretty low response rate. By
signing up to a list, you in effect invite unsolicited correspondence,
and I don't see how this is any different. However, there are some
alternatives:- Sendout the questionnaire but apologise as we do it (!)
Sendout a preliminary email - that would allow people to object.
If there were a strong feeling against the distribution, then we
could go to the next option.
Postthe questions on the website - this might sweep in some
more respondents, but also circulate the list, with the link and
invite responses. I would advise, however, that the more
complicated it is to do, the fewer responses we'll get.
The alternative of starting a discussion could be tried - I think
the questionnaire would be a good way to trigger this - but
realistically I'd be surprised if it is more than the usual
handful of contributors who join in (despite there being 94 on the
We just write the chapter without offering people the opportunity
of contributing their views - this will happen if we can't agree a
way forward, since the deadline looms.
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