Friday, May 17, 2013

Methods for Gathering Information

Population Survey
The purpose of this survey is to gather demographic data on the editing communities in India. I have chosen to use an electronic survey to gather this information for two reasons: one, I would like to gather empirical data from as large a sample size as possible; and two, the majority of the community members are very accessible via online means, so the dissemination of an electronic survey will effective and timely. The majority of the questions in the survey will have set answers, but a handful of questions will allow participants to enter their own answers. Participants will be asked to provide their Wikipedia User name for purposes of verification; all those surveys with false or non User names will be discarded.

The survey will be created using a survey software called SurveyMonkey, and the survey will be hosted on SurveyMonkey. I have chosen to use SurveyMonkey as it allows for easy distribution of the survey and has sophisticated data analysis tools. This survey will be disseminated on the Wikimedia India community mailing list as well as the various mailing lists and Village Pumps of 19 Indic-Language Wikipedia projects1. The survey as well as the request for participation in the survey will be translated into each required language before it is released.

Aside from the fact that I cannot assume that all Indian editors can read and write in English (though the vast majority can), the survey must appear in 19 different languages for two reasons: one, India is extremely ethnically and lingually diverse, therefore excluding those editors that are not English-literate will not provide a complete picture of demographic composition of the Indian editing community at large; two, the survey itself will be used as the main method of recruiting participants for interviews that will be carried out later on in the research, and an important aspect of this research is to gather qualitative data from women from different linguistic groups as they may have differing or distinct editing experiences.

The data collected through this survey will help me to answer the research questions associated with my first research objective, as well as help guide parts of my analysis of the themes in subsections (i) under my second research objective and my third research objective. Further, much of the information gathered may be very helpful for the various entities involved in carrying out developmental projects for the editing community in India, which is in agreement with my fourth research objective.

Drawbacks: The results of my demographic survey are restricted by the size of my response. If I get a very small number of responses, my research findings will not be particularly representative of the population at large. Further, the responses from the editors may not represent the editing communities at large but instead just those editors that are actively involved in the community at this point in time. There may be editors that are not subscribed to the mailing list, who do not check the Village Pumps, and who edit anonymously. However, the aim of this research is not to generate a significantly profound understanding of the demographic composition of the editing community in India, but instead to provide the initial groundwork for more directed future research.

Semi-structured One-on-One Interviews
The purpose of these interviews is to gather profound experiential, anecdotal, emotive and opinion data. Interviews will be carried out either in person (with an interpreter, when needed), over Skype or similar software or, if absolutely necessary, over email. The interviewees will be asked to choose a location/method which is most comfortable for them. I plan to use semi-structured interviews because while I have a clear list of questions that I would like to explore, I would like the interviews to have more of a conversational structure so that the women feel that they are able to freely expand on their thoughts and discuss related topics and I am able to ask unplanned questions.

I have chosen to gather qualitative information through this method because I would like to explore the barriers and challenges that are experienced by women who currently edit Wikipedia. Much documentary research can be performed that will speculate on the barriers, but in order to gain true insight into those obstacles and struggles that are relevant to the current population, experiential and anecdotal data must be gathered from the lived experiences and realities of current female Wikipedians. Furthermore, their emotive responses and experiences will help me to understand which barriers are the most hindering and discouraging for current editors. All of this data will be instrumental in answering the research questions subsection (i) of my second research objective as well as in the provision of astute research findings that will help me to meet my third and fourth research objective.

Drawbacks: The amount of data that I gather from my interviews will depend on how many women agree to be interviewed, so I may face issues of a very small, unrepresentative sample size. However, I will attempt to ensure that each interview is as profound and explorative as possible, which is why I have chosen to use a semi-structured strategy instead of structured. Similar to the possible complications with the online survey that I have discussed above, the responses that I receive may not be representative of the actual population of women that edit Wikipedia but instead of the population that is currently active in the community and subscribed to the mailing lists. Again, as this is initial research into this topic, I am not aiming to produce research findings that are generalizable for the female Indian editor population as a whole, but instead to generate basic insights that will hopefully stimulate future research in this area.

Group Interviews
Depending on the quantity of responses that I get for my invitation to be interviewed, I may carry out a group interview with female members of the English-language editing community as I feel this may allow me to gather a larger array of data in the limited time I have for my research. In using group interviews, I will be able to collect a large array of different opinions and experiences in one session, as well as allow for a more profound exploration of various challenges and barriers as participants build on their peers’ ideas and opinions. Further, having the participants discuss the barriers and challenges that they have faced and continue to face as editors will enable me to view trends in responses during the interview itself instead of during the comparison of individual interviews after the fact. My reasons for choosing to gather this type of qualitative data are identical to those for the one-on-one interviews: they will effectively contribute to information demands of subsection (i) of my second research objective, my third research objective and my fourth research objective.

Considering that India is geographically very large, it is likely that the responding editors will be located in various different locations throughout India. It would very expensive and timely for each editor to travel to one location for the focus group, and therefore many respondents may not be able to participate. In order to maximize participation should this situation arise, I may elect to hold the focus group over the internet either via IRC chat (or a similar IM client) or a similar platform (like Google Hangout). In order to avoid issues of false representation, the chatroom or Hangout will require a passcode or keyword to enter, which will be provided to the participants beforehand.

Drawbacks: Aside from those drawbacks listed for the one-on-one interviews, I may also face issues related to participants' inability to participate due to geographical or technical limitations. Furthermore, holding the group interview over an online space may encourage more participants than originally expected, and not all participants may be able to voice their opinion and/or share their experiences. In a group interview setting, participants may become pre-occupied discusses topics amongst themselves during the interviews, and may not respond to my questions. However, this may not be a drawback; participants may bring up new discussions and topics that I had not thought of.

The questionnaire will gather qualitative and quantitive data. It will be in electronic form and will be created and hosted on SurveyMonkey. I have chosen to use SurveyMonkey as it allows for easy distribution of the survey and has sophisticated data analysis tools. The questionnaire will be in English, and will request demographic data as well as experiential, anecdotal, feeling and opinion data. The majority of the quantitative questions will have set answers, whereas all of the qualitative questions will require participants to enter answers. Questionnaires will be answered anonymously, and each participant will be assigned a participant number that will be recorded with their individual responses.

I have chosen to use a mixed qualitative/quantitative electronic questionnaire because I do not have the same direct access to a non-editing community as I do an editing community, so the performance of a profound qualitative study on this population would be logistically complicated and timely; an electronic questionnaire will hopefully collect a large enough data pool to identify themes and perform analysis that will contribute to my research while leaving ample space for further research. Further, the demographic information that will be collected will help to inform the analysis of the qualitative data. The findings of this questionnaire will help to answer the questions pertaining to subsection (ii) of my second research objective, as well as help to meet the information demands of my third and fourth research objectives.

Drawbacks: As respondents will be allowed to answer anonymously, there is always a risk of “repeat-offenders”, or individual participants that take the test multiple times, as well as participants supplying and/or misleading false data. In addition, as is a drawback with any questionnaire, my research findings will be restricted by the number of respondents. However, I am not attempting to generate data that is representative of the population; instead, I hope that some of the themes that I am able to identify from this data-gathering exercise will lead to the creation of future research on this topic.

1 Not all Indic-language Wikipedia projects have their own mailing list, though most have both a mailing list and Village Pump. Two languages, Pali and Newari (Nepal Bhasa), do not possess either a Village Pump nor a mailing list, but both have a community page that could possibly be used to disseminate the survey.

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