September 22, 2010

Qualifying Exams

There comes a point in the PhD program where the student must prove mastery of the field's body of knowledge. That time has come...

Originally, this summer, I was going to take my exams but my personal life decided to interfere and they were delayed. Right now, I have until Oct 23rd to be prepared to write four 5-10 page papers over the course of a weekend. I am unsure of which specific areas to focus in and am daunted by having to write a 5-10 page paper in 4 hours including citations, but I'm pushing on.

I believe my areas of inquiry are: Information Behavior -- needs, searching, seeking, retrieval; Research Methods for IS; Information Theory and Design; and Information Policy and Management. I've been re-reading everything I can get my hands on.

Challenges at this point:
  • Remembering which theory belongs to whom (I've a good handle on which theory falls into which "flavor" of IB
  • Differences between Method, Methodology, Model, Theory, Framework, "type of study"
  • When to use what statistic (T-test, chi2, U, Anova, etc)
  • Information Policy -- I didn't have any classes in this, closest I had was a Public Policy class.
Additionally, once these written exams are over, there is an oral defense. I'm told that this involves answering questions about the papers I wrote during the written exams and a presentation on my ideas of what I am interested in doing for my dissertation - not to be confused with the dissertation proposal defense which comes after I've written the literature and study design portions of the dissertation proper. Here again I'm a bit anxious.

My original idea was to study the knowledge retention of participants in online classes versus in-person classes. This is the question that is most burning on my heart. I want to know whether we are doing the next generation of students a disservice by putting all of their classes online. So far I believe that entails looking at learning styles as well as cognitive styles of the participants. But the one question I keep coming back to is... What the heck does that have to do with Information Science? Only place I can put it within the body of knowledge I'm knee deep in at the moment is to call it Information Use. My thought is that Information Use should include how acquired information is converted into knowledge. It means looking at memory, retention, and forgetting. Perhaps that's it...

R1: Do different learning styles account for information retention in online vs classroom courses?
R2: Do different cognitive styles account for information retention in online vs classroom courses?

Hmmm... but they are not supposed to be Yes/No questions. I'm not sure where this will end up. Check back as I go through the process. And... if you have any input, it is certainly welcome! :)