Where's the data? Using data convincingly in transdisciplinary doctoral research

Palmer, Jane and Fam, Dena and Smith, Tanzi and Kent, Jennifer (2018) Where's the data? Using data convincingly in transdisciplinary doctoral research. International Journal of Doctoral Studies, 13. pp. 9-29. ISSN 1556-8881

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to identify some of the issues in writing a trans-disciplinary doctoral thesis and to develop strategies for addressing them, particularly focusing on the presentation of data and data analysis. The paper, based on the authors’ own experience, offers guidance to, and invites further comment from, transdisciplinary doctoral candidates, their supervisors and their examiners, as well as the broader field of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary researchers.
The paper uses the authors’ experience of writing four very different transdisciplinary doctoral theses to examine the diverse responses received from examiners and what this means for the thesis writing process. The theses and examiners’ reports span an array of disciplinary and transdisciplinary epistemologies, ontologies, and world views.
A preliminary review of the examiners’ reports revealed a common concern with the definition of ‘data’ and with ‘data analysis’. The examiners’ reports were then more formally coded and thematized. These themes were then used to reflect critically on the four theses, within a broad interpretive framework based on the idea of writing ‘convincingly’, and in light of current literature on the meaning of ‘data’ and the idea and aims of transdisciplinarity.
The paper offers specific strategies for doctoral candidates, their supervisors, and examiners in working with the burgeoning number of doctoral research projects that are now taking place in the transdisciplinary space.
Doctoral candidates engaged in transdisciplinary research need to define what they mean by data and make data visible in their research, be creative in their conceptions of data and in how they communicate this to examiners, specify the quality criteria against which they wish their work to be assessed and hold discussions with their supervisors about examiner appointments and briefing, and communicate to examiners the special value of transdisciplinary research and the journey on which it takes the researcher. Our conclusion connects these findings to the development of an emerging concept of transdisciplinary research writing.
The paper makes the following recommendations for transdisciplinary doctoral researchers:
• Make the data visible and argue for the unique or special way in which the data will be used
• Make clear the quality criteria against which you expect the work to be judged
• Be creative and explore the possibilities enabled by a broad interpretation of ‘data’
• Transdisciplinary research is transformative. Communicate this to your examiner.
As more complex and ‘wicked’ problems in the world are increasingly addressed through transdisciplinary research, it is important that doctoral research in this area be encouraged, which continues to develop transdisciplinary theoretical frameworks, methodologies and applications. The strategies proposed in this paper will help to ensure the development of high quality transdisciplinary researchers and a greater understanding of the value of transdisciplinary research in the wider research community. It also draws attention to the potential benefits of similar strategies in multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary research.
Further exploration is needed of how researchers across disciplines can ‘talk’ to one another to resolve complex problems, and how the solitary transdisciplinary scholar, such as the doctoral student, can effectively communicate their research contribution to others. These issues could also be explored for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research teams.


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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: This article is licensed to you under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. When you copy and redistribute this paper in full or in part, you need to provide proper attribution to it to ensure that others can later locate this work (and to ensure that others do not accuse you of plagiarism). You may (and we encourage you to) adapt, remix, transform, and build upon the material for any non-commercial purposes. This license does not permit you to use this material for commercial purposes.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Institute for Resilient Regions
Date Deposited: 07 Feb 2018 04:45
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2018 04:45
Uncontrolled Keywords: transdisciplinarity, doctorate examination, doctoral writing, data analysis, higher degree research students, research communication
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2099 Other Language, Communication and Culture > 209999 Language, Communication and Culture not elsewhere classified
13 Education > 1399 Other Education > 139999 Education not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education
C Society > 95 Cultural Understanding > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.28945/3941
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/33620

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