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Hypermedia Online Publishing: the Transformation of the Scholarly Journal

14.2.1 Survey phase

The examiner identifies the primary data collection phase of this thesis as a significant shortcoming, arguing that it provides insufficient data to substantiate and balance the rich theoretical framework. Let me respond to this on three fronts.


All research is a compromise between what the researcher would ideally like to achieve and what is possible within a range of real world constraints. No-one has enough time or money to do everything they wish to do. In my case, I was working in a department at Deakin University that provided little financial support for my research activity (although I gratefully acknowledge the support of the then Department of Librarianship, Archives and Records at Monash University for the mailed survey questionnaire). This constrained what I was reasonably able to collect and analyse, and meant that I needed to piggyback my data collection activities onto other research projects. The EPICentre (Electronic Publishing Innovations Centre) research project was one such initiative. I was able to join this team with the support of my supervisor, but came in when the team had already established a research plan and timetable. The survey instrument thus had to primarily meet the needs of this project; any use I could make of the data was regarded as secondary. The Victorian Association for Library Automation (VALA) Travel Scholarship was another research project that I was able to repurpose for this thesis. In this case, the questions I asked in my case studies were governed by the overall direction of the research proposal that was funded, one with a strong focus on the role of libraries rather than other stakeholders.


Another problem was gaining access to respondents. At the time of the survey, Internet surveys via email were starting to show declining response rates as the novelty for respondents began to wear off. Use of mailing lists to distribute such surveys requires the permission of the list moderators (in the case of moderated lists, obviously) and this could not be taken for granted. The EPICentre team contained a list moderator for the e-journal Psyche and thus I had guaranteed access to this list.


The final problem was the pace of change. The examiner suggests that the survey instruments should have been designed to collect data to fill in the gaps in earlier work from other researchers. The difficulty here is that over the four years during which the thesis has been conducted the field of research has developed enormously. As the EPICentre project team (of which I was a member) found, researching an extremely dynamic field poses particular challenges. In particular, many of EPICentre's findings seemed quite obvious at the end of the research, but were by no means obvious at its beginning. Hindsight is indeed a wonderful thing, and a number of the perceived deficiencies of this thesis can be explained by reference to it.

To summarise, then, the original email survey was driven by the needs of the EPICentre team, the lack of resources to analyse the data and the requirements for access to a mailing list. The print survey needed to replicate those questions for comparability with the earlier results and was therefore similarly constrained. Had I not been part of the EPICentre team I could have designed a very different survey instrument, but not necessarily had the resources or access to distribute and analyse it. The VALA case study work was strongly focused on the role of libraries.

Last modified: Monday, 11-Dec-2017 14:40:56 AEDT

© Andrew Treloar, 2001. * http://andrew.treloar.net/ * andrew.treloar@gmail.com