I have reached a sticking point in my thesis work. Yesterday, I sat down to write a rough draft of my research proposal, and found that I was still struggling my research design. In particular, I am having much internal conflict over which population I want to work with, how I want to collect my data (my methodology), and how I will design those methods of data collection to provide answers to my research questions. The third issue is really the main issue, as it is the cause of my struggles with the first and second.
Without resolving these issues, I cannot move forwards in my research design.
Here are the three issues that I'm currently struggling with, along with some of the major questions associated with each issue:
Currently, I'm worried about finding the right populations to work with. The editing communities themselves are quite accessible via my contacts and their mailing lists. However, I am worried I will get very limited results if I just work with this community of already-established editors. I would therefore like to data-gather from a non-editing population. But which population? I thought of trying to work with the students who were part of the Pune Pilot Project of 2011 that was run by the India Wikimedia Chapter (the report on which can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:India_Education_Program/Analysis/Independent_Report_from_Tory_Read) and women who have been participating in the current outreach programs put on by the A2K team, and to focus on women that had started editing but had stopped. My other idea was to reach out to various FOSS mailing lists in India and use them as my non-editing population (as a similar study, "Wikipedia's Gender Gap" by Linda Steiner and Stine Eckert, used to survey wikipedia readers).
In order to collect this data, I wasn't sure if I should identify participants and do interviews (particularly with the students and women that have been involved in outreach projects) or design a survey similar to the one that Sarah Stierch designed, the Women and Wikimedia Survey (https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Women_and_Wikimedia_Survey_2011#Demographics), which collected both quantitative and qualitative data.
Further, I would really like to do some research on both the English language editing community and the 20 other Indic language editing communities. Most of the communities have a very small population of editors, with, from what I gather, only a few women. However, I'm not sure how do-able this is. Do I do a basic demographic survey of all the populations, just to see how many women editors there are, what background they come from, etc.? Or do I try with the quantitative and qualitative survey? Or, do I abandon all of that and just work with the English Language editing community for qualitative data?
Questions: Should I try to work with both editors and non-editor communities? Should I attempt to work with both the English Language and Indic-language communities? Should I use a survey to try to gather both qualitative and quantitative data for these populations?
I'm worried about the scope of my research. I don't want to overreach myself (by proposing to do too much data-gathering), but I also want to be able to generate useful data. Right now, I'd like to perform a basic demographic survey on all of the language communities just to get a better idea of how many women are editing in the various communities, what their backgrounds are, etc. Then I was thinking that I would perform either: 5 interviews with women editors from the community and five interviews with women that are non-editors (hopefully, depending on response) OR a focus group with each of the two populations. Then I began thinking about how large these populations are, and if this would really be representative, and came back to my joint qualitative-quantitative survey idea just so I could possibly get a larger sample size (depending, of course, on survey response). Also, because India is a big country, I'm a bit worried about how much I'll have to move around, and began wondering if focus groups could be done online (maybe through Google hang-out?), and how legitimate that would be.
Questions: Should I used a mixed methodology? How do I choose a sample size that is large enough without overreaching myself? How legitimate is qualitative data that is gathered via online in the academic world?
I'm struggling to figure out how I investigate my more abstract questions through my methodology.
Questions: How do I find out what kind of socio-economic barriers that Indian women face I'm working with a mostly mostly English-speaking, middle class Indian population? How do I investigate the barriers that prevent local knowledge from becoming part of Wikipedia in this population?
Hoping a Skype meeting with Professor Chan will help me overcome some of these conflicts, and enable me to complete my research proposal and ethics review!