Thursday, December 20, 2007

Passed and awarded

They accepted my dissertation. I got it all sewn and bound by Abbey binding, delivered it to the office so the library now has a copy. I received a letter acknowledging it and telling me that I've been awarded the degree in absentia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Moving on

I'm leaving here. I said it was a one-year blog and it is. I'm starting a new blog on the doctoral experience at but I might pop back to post any final news on the results of my dissertation, if there is any.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Viva done yesterday and it went better than the interview for the PhD. This time I did feel like there was a conversation at one time rather than an inquisition, though the director of studies this time realised how nervous I was.

The first question was about how the philosophy influenced the choice of methods and collection - and I can't remember the whole question.

They also wanted to know what I'd have done differently in the light of the last excitement of negotiating access and having the interview data withdrawn on the last day. What had I learned?

We had a discussion about transaction costs and differences in procedural and outcome accountability. Transaction costs is something to investigate further.

And there was a question about the theory that overlapped both accountability and consultancy - I couldn't remember the different types of literature on consultancy nor the words - but they wanted me to talk about agency theory and the model that I used to show the chain of accountability.

I was a bit disappointed to discover that the examiner had a list of corrections to the references. How could I have missed these! And the director wanted me to remove the use of the first person where I'd reflected on methods. Okay.

Incidentally, they congratulated me on my use of diagrams and tables, which they said helped to show the concepts. Just as well as I'm so low on my verbal reasoning skills that I have to use these other skills.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Constantantly negotiating access

said I on Friday morning around 11.30. I had written what and how I wanted, and taken all the latest 60-80 comments from my supervisor into account. I'd sorted the print layout. I'd practised binding. All I had to do after lunch was tweak the abstract, print and bind three copies. So I went to lunch.

As I came back from lunch, the secretary handed me some post - a self-addressed envelope - and slightly surprised, I thought,
"Oh, good! Someone has returned me a consent form."
It read:
"I don't want you to use any of the information that I gave you."
Director and supervisor #2 came to my rescue, checking that I had had ethics approval, and everything was anonymous. Then the director helped me to put together a fax to the participant in which I assured her of her anonymity, of her service, of her organisation. Director and supervisor #2 said that my dissertation wouldn't be published but be labelled special confidential.

So it was kind of sorted. But I wasn't happy because I want to be able to publish so, Friday evening I took my draft and a bottle of good wine round to the chap who'd given me access in the first place. He was incredibly sympathetic, and practical. He made three suggestions, which I've implemented, and he's sent me an email saying that I can publish!

Hurrah! :) smileys :)

The methods theory that goes with this comes up in a story from Buchanan, Boddy and McCalman about constantly having to negotiate access. They describe similar experiences and one of those 80 comments from my supervisor was to reference them. Good supervisor - aren't I lucky?

[1] Buchanan, D., Boddy, D., McCalman, J. (1988), "Getting in, getting on, getting out, getting back", in Bryman, A. (Eds),Doing Research in Organisations

Friday, September 07, 2007

Final abstract

The aims of this study are to find how public sector authorities account for the use of consultants and how client-consultant relationships affect public accountability.

The media frequently accuse the public sector of profligate expenditure on private consultants. This research examines public accountability for the management of external consultants looking for justification of use. Research literature on consultants refers to client roles, relationships between clients and consultants, and discourses that vary with relationships. Literature on accountability refers to types, chains of relationships, discourses, procedures and outcomes. The study applies agency theory to client roles and relationships to identify problems of different perceptions of accountability between multiple decision makers and stakeholders.

A social constructionist perspective is taken that leads to a qualitative analysis of a single case study of the use of external consultants in a council service review project. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews supported by documentary evidence.

Emerging issues of public accountability include transparency of processes. Different perceptions of accountability revealed unconscious enactment and possible gaps. Findings confirm the literature on accountability and begin to extend research on some types of client-consultant relationships, suggesting public accountabilities in which managers of consultants account proactively and users account reactively. Further research might investigate the institutional pressures that influence accountability and client-consultant relationships.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Activities that are difficult to do

"Things like 15000 word woffles was what made me chose engineering!"
emailed one of my computing students after we'd compared notes on banging our heads against walls. I didn't mean to do anything that involved so many words, but I did want to study for a doctorate - this gives me the first step, but our director of research says it's the hardest thing I'll ever do.

It is difficult to do because abstract and creative. I have to identify the (invisible) gaps in the literature and research on my topic, generate new approaches / ideas / methods to fill in those gaps and explain it logically and coherently to those already well experienced in the field.

See M256 Unit 12 2.2. Table 1 for difficult-to-do activities.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


My overworked #1 supervisor keeps me on my toes. At half past five yesterday evening, he emailed me to warn me that I have more work to do yet. I think it's the coherence between sections that I need. He says:
  1. check I've answered the research questions
  2. check I used concepts from the literature in the analysis
I may have done so, but it's not very clear or explicit.

And in the conclusions, I have to explicitly link back to the research questions and literature to say how the research sheds new light on them. And there I was thinking I'd done this, but evidently not clearly enough for my reader.