In this reblogged post, Daniel K offers some insights and advice on writer’s block — sometimes a problem for thesis writers as well as professional authors. Another useful source of comfort and concrete advice on the “work avoidance problem” is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and its sequel, Turning Pro. If you are feeling “stuck” — take a look!   — Edprof

Kay Solo

I recently got into a discussion on another social network on the subject of writer’s block, and I learned that the issue of whether writer’s block is real or not is actually a point of contention. I’ve always taken the side that writer’s block is a very real thing (I’m a writer, it’s an occupational hazard), but there are many more who disagree, even to the point where I was in the minority in said discussion. I thought it was fitting for a blog post, both since I commonly write about writing and because I feel rather strongly on the subject. I should warn you readers, though: this post will get long.

The post in question was basically ten quotes from various authors talking about how writer’s block doesn’t exist, how it’s actually more like idea block and how anyone who uses that excuse is obviously just coming up…

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Interview Question Design Tips

There are many excellent books about qualitative research design.  These are especially valuable for those who are working without access to a mentor.  Even for those who have had classes, read books and worked with mentors, when it comes to actually designing a study, it is easy to forget some of the finer points.  This can lead to research designs (for example, interview questions) that need improvement.  As a grad student, I had the great good fortune to work with several first-rate teachers of qualitative research — Steven J. Taylor, Marion Lundy Dobbert, Gary Allen Fine, and Michael Quinn Patton.  Each generation of scholars and researchers must learn anew.  So, I pass their legacy along as I am able.

In the interest of brevity, from time to time, I will pass along a couple of “tips and tricks” to keep in mind when designing qualitative studies.  In this post, I offer three tips for avoiding design errors that can undermine the quality of your interview questions.  The media environment may tilt us all toward formulating suboptimal and problematic interview questions.  We hear a LOT of journalists posing questions that are fine for journalism, but not for social science.

Today’s tips:

Avoid “DOUBLE-BARRELED” questions.  (Asking two questions rolled into one.)  Example: “What jobs did you do at home and how did you feel about them?”  Too complicated to answer!  It can also be hard to analyze answers because in some cases, you might not be able to tell which question the interviewee is referencing in their reply.

Avoid LEADING questions.  Note that the question above is also a LEADING question.  It introduces the term “jobs” into the conversation about home life, therefore “leading” the interviewee to (perhaps) narrow her focus to a particular domain or way of thinking about her experiences.  It also assumes that we have all had “jobs” (and also that we think of certain kinds of activities as such).

And finally, avoid WHY questions.  This is because we never really know why.  Therefore, when asked, we tend to just make something up to be polite.  Again, it is just too complicated!  Better to employ that trusty tactic — “Tell me more about that…” after the interviewee “spontaneously” introduces a term or an experience that is relevant to the research question.

There you are — a few things to ponder as you (hopefully, also) enjoy the joys of the summer season.

–EdProf