Getting ready for the fieldwork and a little the-end-of-year-two note

I’m going home next week for my fieldwork and will be there for the whole semester (four months). It has been quite a while since I went through my panel review in January this year. So, what had I done in the past SEVEN months? You might have seen in my earlier posts that I had worked on the ethical approval process and some conference presentations. Recently, I have just submitted an article to the Cambridge Open Review Educational Research Journal (find out more about the journal here). Still, my priority is getting ready for my fieldwork in my home country!

I started to write chunks of my thesis draft as suggested by Richard, my supervisor. So far, I have had the introductory part of my thesis (which includes the opening, background to my study and a review of literature or some possible theoretical framework) and the methodology chapter. The benefits of drafting these parts of the thesis before going to the field cannot be underestimated. Certainly, I’ll have to rewrite all of them in the writing-up stage, but this drafting has helped me, theoretically, methodologically and psychologically!

First, when trying to write the opening part of the thesis (i.e. “the introduction to the study and the thesis”), I had to think back (to the time before the panel) what exactly I want to do and why because it has been a while and my memory is not so good. This part of the thesis is very short (a page and a half for mine) but it helps me frame how I want my thesis to look like and what path I want to walk on.

Second, I developed my approved proposal into the methodology chapter. In this chapter, I have written specifically on the detailed methods of data generation/collection. In the proposal, I used the future tense when describing “the plan”. This time, I have been using the past tense (e.g. I sent out an abc and asked my participants to blah blah blah) so that I will not have to change the tense again after the data generation process. J I have also kept a research journal about how my thinking has changed and why while writing.

Third, my thesis draft is now about 9,000-word long. Quantitatively, I feel that I have had something in my hands, and that something is about 1/8 of my thesis! This is the reason why I said the drafting has helped me psychologically. There’s still a long way to go, but I will not have to start from zero when I return from my fieldwork. And let’s discuss the quality later on.

Finally, this month also marks the end of the year two of my PhD studies. I have done quite a number of things which wouldn’t be possible without my supervisory team. I’d like to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Richard Fay, my main supervisor for his help, support, encouragement and some healthy amount of pressure he has given to me. Sometimes I am afraid that Richard might think that I haven’t learned anything from him (especially in academic writing) but he’s so kind me. Thank you so very much Richard for putting up with me.





  • Magda Rostron

    Good luck with field work, Khwan!
    Keep us posted on your progress.


  • Thank you so much Magda. I have just recovered from my jet lag and I’m now trying to get back to my normal routine (doctoral work, of course 🙂

    I agree with all of your points, especially the one in number 5. I feel happy and excited with my research although I can’t help feeling anxious about what’s going to happen in the field. I’ll try to be disciplined with my working time, but will be flexible with my participants’ schedule as they are all busy teachers (and we know what it’s like).

    For now, I need to motivate myself well to start the work that I had planned so I can feel alright about myself. Thank you for your helpful tips. I’ll keep all records and arrange distance supervisions with Richard and Susan (my co-supervisor) soon.

  • Magda Rostron

    Hi Khwan,

    here are just a few reflections on being an in-context researcher…

    In his post on the LTE blog (16 Aug 2014), Dylan wrote: “Being an in-context student (South Korea) my journey is quite a solitary one. I’ve made sporadic visits to Manchester over the first 2 years of my PhD journey and of course I’m about to make another one for my panel. However, in hindsight I feel that this solitary experience is something which has pushed my quite hard (in addition to my supervisor of course!!). When I say solitary of course in this day and age I do have access to my peers online and I’ve taken advantage of this from time to time…”

    His words struck a chord with me. Like Dylan, I am also an in-context researcher, on a “solitary” journey (enriched by online contacts, exchanges and correspondence with my supervisors and fellow researchers). I agree that the experience can push you harder in terms of self-motivation, but it can also be challenging. It becomes particularly true when you start your field research.
    I have a few reflections I would like to share here – they might be helpful.

    The main points are: approval, support, time management and planning, workload, intrinsic motivation, “long distance supervision”.

    1. A formal approval for the proposed research (including your selected methodological tools, timing, location, ethical safeguards) by the institution where you intend to conduct your research (and where you happen to work?) is absolutely crucial. Once you secure it, make sure that it is well documented (emails, written letters of consent etc.). Make copies and keep them safe!

    2. You will need an endless supply of good will and support from your colleagues (if you are doing your research in your work place, like I did). You may want to include them or their students as your study participants, so make sure you explain your project to them clearly and fully answer all their questions if they have any (students as participants are a separate ethical issue, of course).

    My colleagues were exceptionally supportive (and patient!) during my field research – but I always sent them emails in advance and went to talk to each one of them personally BEFORE I sent an email with a request for something or other. I was occasionally asked to report on my progress to my supervisors and administration at work which I did happily – but I like talking about my research. ?

    3. Time management is my weak point, but I think I’m not alone in this. However, field research (the way I did it, anyway) is dependent on good planning – I conducted questionnaires, observations and interviews with other teachers as well as their students over a period of two consecutive semesters, so had to consult with my colleagues on the times they were available and could accommodate my research activities. I had to plan very carefully what I wanted to do, plan again, change, change changes, you name it – but it all worked out in the end. All noted down, documented, confirmed, filed, stored, etc.

    4. Be realistic about your research workload – you can only do so much and you only NEED so much. I had to combine my research timetable with my teaching load and other professional duties, still do, in fact as I begin to write my thesis. It’s hard – getting into a routine of working and writing takes a bit of time. I found my routine when I was off work in May and June, but now that I’m back and have new classes, I’m still searching for the most efficient schedule for what I want to do this semester (this should stabilise in the next week or so). Your research becomes your life…

    5. If you love what you are researching, you’ll be all right.

    6. Finally – one of the most essential elements of in-context doctoral work, long distance supervision. My supervisors, Richard and Charlotte (initially Richard and Julian) have been superb. They are there when I need them. I have regular skype sessions with Richard, sometimes with Charlotte, too – very helpful. I should be more involved with the LTE blog, more digitally collegial, but here is where I fail, not them. I visit Manchester fairly regularly, it’s important to maintain that connection, but with email and skype it’s really quite easy to stay in touch anyway. You can do skype sessions – I tend to do skype chat and then copy and paste what we said, edit it and use as a reference point (easier than taking notes while talking). Email and chat are good because you get to put into (written) words what’s been of interest or concern to you and that’s always potentially fruitful.


  • Thank you, Susan. See you soon!

  • Susan Dawson

    Enjoy the fieldwork, Khwan. We’ll miss seeing you around!

  • Yes, here it is.
    Some Intercultural Implications of ASEAN and Thai Educational Policies for Thai Higher Education
    In this paper, I present my thematic analysis of selected policy documents produced by the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) or by Thailand, a member state within ASEAN and my home educational context. In particular, I focus on the Thailand Commission on Higher Education policies in which the possible impact of the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) on the Thai higher education are considered. I will first outline the background to my study, and then, present my analysis of the documents selected. Informed by this analysis, I draw some conclusions regarding how the chosen policy documents comment on the complexities of this globalised and interconnected era and the skills these policies seem to focus on with regard to Thai graduates functioning well in this era. I conclude with a discussion of some possible implications for the role of Thai higher education institutions and teachers like me.

    Keywords: Thailand, higher education, policy documents analysis, ASEAN Economic Community, Intercultural age

    Basically I developed this article from the papers I gave at the BAAL (IC) SIG and Cambridge Kaleidoscope. It’s not easy to put words and unsettled logic onto the paper!

  • Richard Fay

    Hi Khwan, kind words 🙂

    Worth uploading the abstract for your Cambridge journal article here?