Grad Coach

How To Write The Conclusion Chapter

A Simple Explainer With Examples + Free Template

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD) | Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021

So, you’ve wrapped up your results and discussion chapters, and you’re finally on the home stretch – the conclusion chapter . In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to craft a high-quality conclusion chapter for your dissertation or thesis project.

Overview: The Conclusion Chapter

  • What the thesis/dissertation conclusion chapter is
  • What to include in your conclusion
  • How to structure and write up your conclusion
  • A few tips  to help you ace the chapter
  • FREE conclusion template

What is the conclusion chapter?

The conclusion chapter is typically the final major chapter of a dissertation or thesis. As such, it serves as a concluding summary of your research findings and wraps up the document. While some publications such as journal articles and research reports combine the discussion and conclusion sections, these are typically separate chapters in a dissertation or thesis. As always, be sure to check what your university’s structural preference is before you start writing up these chapters.

So, what’s the difference between the discussion and the conclusion chapter?

Well, the two chapters are quite similar , as they both discuss the key findings of the study. However, the conclusion chapter is typically more general and high-level in nature. In your discussion chapter, you’ll typically discuss the intricate details of your study, but in your conclusion chapter, you’ll take a   broader perspective, reporting on the main research outcomes and how these addressed your research aim (or aims) .

A core function of the conclusion chapter is to synthesise all major points covered in your study and to tell the reader what they should take away from your work. Basically, you need to tell them what you found , why it’s valuable , how it can be applied , and what further research can be done.

Whatever you do, don’t just copy and paste what you’ve written in your discussion chapter! The conclusion chapter should not be a simple rehash of the discussion chapter. While the two chapters are similar, they have distinctly different functions.  

Dissertation Conclusion Template

What should I include in the conclusion chapter?

To understand what needs to go into your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to understand what the chapter needs to achieve. In general, a good dissertation conclusion chapter should achieve the following:

  • Summarise the key findings of the study
  • Explicitly answer the research question(s) and address the research aims
  • Inform the reader of the study’s main contributions
  • Discuss any limitations or weaknesses of the study
  • Present recommendations for future research

Therefore, your conclusion chapter needs to cover these core components. Importantly, you need to be careful not to include any new findings or data points. Your conclusion chapter should be based purely on data and analysis findings that you’ve already presented in the earlier chapters. If there’s a new point you want to introduce, you’ll need to go back to your results and discussion chapters to weave the foundation in there.

In many cases, readers will jump from the introduction chapter directly to the conclusions chapter to get a quick overview of the study’s purpose and key findings. Therefore, when you write up your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to assume that the reader hasn’t consumed the inner chapters of your dissertation or thesis. In other words, craft your conclusion chapter such that there’s a strong connection and smooth flow between the introduction and conclusion chapters, even though they’re on opposite ends of your document.

Need a helping hand?

dissertation chapter 2 summary example

How to write the conclusion chapter

Now that you have a clearer view of what the conclusion chapter is about, let’s break down the structure of this chapter so that you can get writing. Keep in mind that this is merely a typical structure – it’s not set in stone or universal. Some universities will prefer that you cover some of these points in the discussion chapter , or that you cover the points at different levels in different chapters.

Step 1: Craft a brief introduction section

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the conclusions chapter needs to start with a brief introduction. In this introductory section, you’ll want to tell the reader what they can expect to find in the chapter, and in what order . Here’s an example of what this might look like:

This chapter will conclude the study by summarising the key research findings in relation to the research aims and questions and discussing the value and contribution thereof. It will also review the limitations of the study and propose opportunities for future research.

Importantly, the objective here is just to give the reader a taste of what’s to come (a roadmap of sorts), not a summary of the chapter. So, keep it short and sweet – a paragraph or two should be ample.

Step 2: Discuss the overall findings in relation to the research aims

The next step in writing your conclusions chapter is to discuss the overall findings of your study , as they relate to the research aims and research questions . You would have likely covered similar ground in the discussion chapter, so it’s important to zoom out a little bit here and focus on the broader findings – specifically, how these help address the research aims .

In practical terms, it’s useful to start this section by reminding your reader of your research aims and research questions, so that the findings are well contextualised. In this section, phrases such as, “This study aimed to…” and “the results indicate that…” will likely come in handy. For example, you could say something like the following:

This study aimed to investigate the feeding habits of the naked mole-rat. The results indicate that naked mole rats feed on underground roots and tubers. Further findings show that these creatures eat only a part of the plant, leaving essential parts to ensure long-term food stability.

Be careful not to make overly bold claims here. Avoid claims such as “this study proves that” or “the findings disprove existing the existing theory”. It’s seldom the case that a single study can prove or disprove something. Typically, this is achieved by a broader body of research, not a single study – especially not a dissertation or thesis which will inherently have significant  limitations . We’ll discuss those limitations a little later.

Dont make overly bold claims in your dissertation conclusion

Step 3: Discuss how your study contributes to the field

Next, you’ll need to discuss how your research has contributed to the field – both in terms of theory and practice . This involves talking about what you achieved in your study, highlighting why this is important and valuable, and how it can be used or applied.

In this section you’ll want to:

  • Mention any research outputs created as a result of your study (e.g., articles, publications, etc.)
  • Inform the reader on just how your research solves your research problem , and why that matters
  • Reflect on gaps in the existing research and discuss how your study contributes towards addressing these gaps
  • Discuss your study in relation to relevant theories . For example, does it confirm these theories or constructively challenge them?
  • Discuss how your research findings can be applied in the real world . For example, what specific actions can practitioners take, based on your findings?

Be careful to strike a careful balance between being firm but humble in your arguments here. It’s unlikely that your one study will fundamentally change paradigms or shake up the discipline, so making claims to this effect will be frowned upon . At the same time though, you need to present your arguments with confidence, firmly asserting the contribution your research has made, however small that contribution may be. Simply put, you need to keep it balanced .

Step 4: Reflect on the limitations of your study

Now that you’ve pumped your research up, the next step is to critically reflect on the limitations and potential shortcomings of your study. You may have already covered this in the discussion chapter, depending on your university’s structural preferences, so be careful not to repeat yourself unnecessarily.

There are many potential limitations that can apply to any given study. Some common ones include:

  • Sampling issues that reduce the generalisability of the findings (e.g., non-probability sampling )
  • Insufficient sample size (e.g., not getting enough survey responses ) or limited data access
  • Low-resolution data collection or analysis techniques
  • Researcher bias or lack of experience
  • Lack of access to research equipment
  • Time constraints that limit the methodology (e.g. cross-sectional vs longitudinal time horizon)
  • Budget constraints that limit various aspects of the study

Discussing the limitations of your research may feel self-defeating (no one wants to highlight their weaknesses, right), but it’s a critical component of high-quality research. It’s important to appreciate that all studies have limitations (even well-funded studies by expert researchers) – therefore acknowledging these limitations adds credibility to your research by showing that you understand the limitations of your research design .

That being said, keep an eye on your wording and make sure that you don’t undermine your research . It’s important to strike a balance between recognising the limitations, but also highlighting the value of your research despite those limitations. Show the reader that you understand the limitations, that these were justified given your constraints, and that you know how they can be improved upon – this will get you marks.

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

Next, you’ll need to make recommendations for future studies. This will largely be built on the limitations you just discussed. For example, if one of your study’s weaknesses was related to a specific data collection or analysis method, you can make a recommendation that future researchers undertake similar research using a more sophisticated method.

Another potential source of future research recommendations is any data points or analysis findings that were interesting or surprising , but not directly related to your study’s research aims and research questions. So, if you observed anything that “stood out” in your analysis, but you didn’t explore it in your discussion (due to a lack of relevance to your research aims), you can earmark that for further exploration in this section.

Essentially, this section is an opportunity to outline how other researchers can build on your study to take the research further and help develop the body of knowledge. So, think carefully about the new questions that your study has raised, and clearly outline these for future researchers to pick up on.

Step 6: Wrap up with a closing summary

Tips for a top-notch conclusion chapter

Now that we’ve covered the what , why and how of the conclusion chapter, here are some quick tips and suggestions to help you craft a rock-solid conclusion.

  • Don’t ramble . The conclusion chapter usually consumes 5-7% of the total word count (although this will vary between universities), so you need to be concise. Edit this chapter thoroughly with a focus on brevity and clarity.
  • Be very careful about the claims you make in terms of your study’s contribution. Nothing will make the marker’s eyes roll back faster than exaggerated or unfounded claims. Be humble but firm in your claim-making.
  • Use clear and simple language that can be easily understood by an intelligent layman. Remember that not every reader will be an expert in your field, so it’s important to make your writing accessible. Bear in mind that no one knows your research better than you do, so it’s important to spell things out clearly for readers.

Hopefully, this post has given you some direction and confidence to take on the conclusion chapter of your dissertation or thesis with confidence. If you’re still feeling a little shaky and need a helping hand, consider booking a free initial consultation with a friendly Grad Coach to discuss how we can help you with hands-on, private coaching.

dissertation chapter 2 summary example

Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

You Might Also Like:

How to write the discussion chapter



Really you team are doing great!


Your guide on writing the concluding chapter of a research is really informative especially to the beginners who really do not know where to start. Im now ready to start. Keep it up guys

Really your team are doing great!

Solomon Abeba

Very helpful guidelines, timely saved. Thanks so much for the tips.

Mazvita Chikutukutu

This post was very helpful and informative. Thank you team.

Moses Ndlovu

A very enjoyable, understandable and crisp presentation on how to write a conclusion chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Jenna.


This was a very helpful article which really gave me practical pointers for my concluding chapter. Keep doing what you are doing! It meant a lot to me to be able to have this guide. Thank you so much.

Suresh Tukaram Telvekar

Nice content dealing with the conclusion chapter, it’s a relief after the streneous task of completing discussion part.Thanks for valuable guidance

Musa Balonde

Thanks for your guidance


I get all my doubts clarified regarding the conclusion chapter. It’s really amazing. Many thanks.


Very helpful tips. Thanks so much for the guidance

Sam Mwaniki

Thank you very much for this piece. It offers a very helpful starting point in writing the conclusion chapter of my thesis.

Abdullahi Maude

It’s awesome! Most useful and timely too. Thanks a million times


Bundle of thanks for your guidance. It was greatly helpful.


Wonderful, clear, practical guidance. So grateful to read this as I conclude my research. Thank you.

Submit a Comment Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • Print Friendly

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, automatically generate references for free.

  • Knowledge Base
  • Dissertation
  • Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Published on 8 June 2022 by Tegan George .

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process . It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation, such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

In the final product, you can also provide a chapter outline for your readers. This is a short paragraph at the end of your introduction to inform readers about the organisational structure of your thesis or dissertation . This chapter outline is also known as a reading guide or summary outline.

Table of contents

How to outline your thesis or dissertation, dissertation and thesis outline templates, chapter outline example, sample sentences for your chapter outline, sample verbs for variation in your chapter outline, frequently asked questions about outlines.

While there are some inter-institutional differences, many outlines proceed in a fairly similar fashion.

  • Working Title
  • ‘Elevator pitch’ of your work (often written last).
  • Introduce your area of study, sharing details about your research question, problem statement , and hypotheses . Situate your research within an existing paradigm or conceptual or theoretical framework .
  • Subdivide as you see fit into main topics and sub-topics.
  • Describe your research methods (e.g., your scope, population , and data collection ).
  • Present your research findings and share about your data analysis methods.
  • Answer the research question in a concise way.
  • Interpret your findings, discuss potential limitations of your own research and speculate about future implications or related opportunities.

To help you get started, we’ve created a full thesis or dissertation template in Word or Google Docs format. It’s easy adapt it to your own requirements.

 Download Word template    Download Google Docs template

Chapter outline example British English

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overusing the same words or sentence constructions, which can make your work monotonous and repetitive for your readers. Consider utilising some of the alternative constructions presented below.

Example 1: Passive construction

The passive voice is a common choice for outlines and overviews because the context makes it clear who is carrying out the action (e.g., you are conducting the research ). However, overuse of the passive voice can make your text vague and imprecise.

Example 2: IS-AV construction

You can also present your information using the ‘IS-AV’ (inanimate subject with an active verb) construction.

A chapter is an inanimate object, so it is not capable of taking an action itself (e.g., presenting or discussing). However, the meaning of the sentence is still easily understandable, so the IS-AV construction can be a good way to add variety to your text.

Example 3: The I construction

Another option is to use the ‘I’ construction, which is often recommended by style manuals (e.g., APA Style and Chicago style ). However, depending on your field of study, this construction is not always considered professional or academic. Ask your supervisor if you’re not sure.

Example 4: Mix-and-match

To truly make the most of these options, consider mixing and matching the passive voice , IS-AV construction , and ‘I’ construction .This can help the flow of your argument and improve the readability of your text.

As you draft the chapter outline, you may also find yourself frequently repeating the same words, such as ‘discuss’, ‘present’, ‘prove’, or ‘show’. Consider branching out to add richness and nuance to your writing. Here are some examples of synonyms you can use.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organise your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract   in the table of contents.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

George, T. (2022, June 08). Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved 14 May 2024, from

Is this article helpful?

Tegan George

Tegan George

Other students also liked, dissertation table of contents in word | instructions & examples, how to write a dissertation proposal | a step-by-step guide, thesis & dissertation acknowledgements | tips & examples.

  • Privacy Policy

Research Method

Home » Chapter Summary & Overview – Writing Guide and Examples

Chapter Summary & Overview – Writing Guide and Examples

Table of Contents

Chapter Summary

Chapter Summary

Chapter summary is a brief overview of the key points or events covered in a specific chapter of a book, academic paper, or other written work. It typically includes a concise description of the main ideas, arguments, or themes explored in the chapter, as well as any important supporting details or evidence .

Chapter summaries are often used as study aids, providing readers with a quick way to review and understand the content of a particular section of a longer work. They may also be included as part of a book’s table of contents or used as a promotional tool to entice potential readers.

How to Write Chapter Summary

Writing a chapter summary involves condensing the content of a chapter into a shorter, more concise form while still retaining its essential meaning. Here are some steps to help you write a chapter summary:

  • Read the chapter carefully: Before summarizing a chapter, it is important to read it thoroughly to ensure that you understand the main ideas and points being made.
  • Identify the main ideas: Identify the main ideas and arguments that the chapter is presenting. These may be explicit, or they may be implicit and require some interpretation on your part.
  • Make notes: Take notes while reading to help you keep track of the main ideas and arguments. Write down key phrases, important quotes, and any examples or evidence that support the main points.
  • Create an outline : Once you have identified the main ideas and arguments, create an outline for your summary. This will help you organize your thoughts and ensure that you include all the important points.
  • Write the summary : Using your notes and outline, write a summary of the chapter. Start with a brief introduction that provides context for the chapter, then summarize the main ideas and arguments, and end with a conclusion that ties everything together.
  • Edit and revise: After you have written the summary, review it carefully to ensure that it is accurate and concise. Make any necessary edits or revisions to improve the clarity and readability of the summary.
  • Check for plagiarism : Finally, check your summary for plagiarism. Make sure that you have not copied any content directly from the chapter without proper citation.

Chapter Summary in Research Paper

In a Research Paper , a Chapter Summary is a brief description of the main points or findings covered in a particular chapter. The summary is typically included at the beginning or end of each chapter and serves as a guide for the reader to quickly understand the content of that chapter.

Here is an example of a chapter summary from a research paper on climate change:

Chapter 2: The Science of Climate Change

In this chapter, we provide an overview of the scientific consensus on climate change. We begin by discussing the greenhouse effect and the role of greenhouse gases in trapping heat in the atmosphere. We then review the evidence for climate change, including temperature records, sea level rise, and changes in the behavior of plants and animals. Finally, we examine the potential impacts of climate change on human society and the natural world. Overall, this chapter provides a foundation for understanding the scientific basis for climate change and the urgency of taking action to address this global challenge.

Chapter Summary in Thesis

In a Thesis , the Chapter Summary is a section that provides a brief overview of the main points covered in each chapter of the thesis. It is usually included at the beginning or end of each chapter and is intended to help the reader understand the key concepts and ideas presented in the chapter.

For example, in a thesis on computer science field, a chapter summary for a chapter on “Machine Learning Algorithms” might include:

Chapter 3: Machine Learning Algorithms

This chapter explores the use of machine learning algorithms in solving complex problems in computer science. We begin by discussing the basics of machine learning, including supervised and unsupervised learning, as well as different types of algorithms such as decision trees, neural networks, and support vector machines. We then present a case study on the application of machine learning algorithms in image recognition, demonstrating how these algorithms can improve accuracy and reduce error rates. Finally, we discuss the limitations and challenges of using machine learning algorithms, including issues of bias and overfitting. Overall, this chapter highlights the potential of machine learning algorithms to revolutionize the field of computer science and drive innovation in a wide range of industries.

Examples of Chapter Summary

Some Examples of Chapter Summary are as follows:

Research Title: “The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health: A Review of the Literature”

Chapter Summary:

Chapter 1: Introduction

This chapter provides an overview of the research problem, which is the impact of social media on mental health. It presents the purpose of the study, the research questions, and the methodology used to conduct the research.

Research Title : “The Effects of Exercise on Cognitive Functioning in Older Adults: A Meta-Analysis”

Chapter 2: Literature Review

This chapter reviews the existing literature on the effects of exercise on cognitive functioning in older adults. It provides an overview of the theoretical framework and previous research findings related to the topic. The chapter concludes with a summary of the research gaps and limitations.

Research Title: “The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Leadership Effectiveness: A Case Study of Successful Business Leaders”

Chapter 3: Methodology

This chapter presents the research methodology used in the study, which is a case study approach. It describes the selection criteria for the participants and the data collection methods used. The chapter also provides a detailed explanation of the data analysis techniques used in the study.

Research Title: “Factors Influencing Employee Engagement in the Workplace: A Systematic Review”

Chapter 4: Results and Discussion

This chapter presents the findings of the systematic review on the factors influencing employee engagement in the workplace. It provides a detailed analysis of the results, including the strengths and limitations of the studies reviewed. The chapter also discusses the implications of the findings for practice and future research.

Purpose of Chapter Summary

Some Purposes of the Chapter Summary are as follows:

  • Comprehension : A chapter summary can help readers understand the main points of a chapter or book. It can help readers remember important details, keep track of the plot or argument, and connect the key ideas.
  • Review : A chapter summary can be a useful tool for reviewing the material covered in a chapter. It can help readers review the content quickly and efficiently, and it can also serve as a reference for future study.
  • Study aid: A chapter summary can be used as a study aid, especially for students who are preparing for exams or writing papers. It can help students organize their thoughts and focus on the most important information.
  • Teaching tool: A chapter summary can be a useful teaching tool for educators. It can help teachers introduce key concepts and ideas, facilitate class discussion, and assess student understanding.
  • Communication : A chapter summary can be used as a way to communicate the main ideas of a chapter or book to others. It can be used in presentations, reports, and other forms of communication to convey important information quickly and concisely.
  • Time-saving : A chapter summary can save time for busy readers who may not have the time to read an entire book or chapter in detail. By providing a brief overview of the main points, a chapter summary can help readers determine whether a book or chapter is worth further reading.
  • Accessibility : A chapter summary can make complex or technical information more accessible to a wider audience. It can help break down complex ideas into simpler terms and provide a clear and concise explanation of key concepts.
  • Analysis : A chapter summary can be used as a starting point for analysis and discussion. It can help readers identify themes, motifs, and other literary devices used in the chapter or book, and it can serve as a jumping-off point for further analysis.
  • Personal growth : A chapter summary can be used for personal growth and development. It can help readers gain new insights, learn new skills, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

When to Write Chapter Summary

Chapter summaries are usually written after you have finished reading a chapter or a book. Writing a chapter summary can be useful for several reasons, including:

  • Retention : Summarizing a chapter helps you to better retain the information you have read.
  • Studying : Chapter summaries can be a useful study tool when preparing for exams or writing papers.
  • Review : When you need to review a book or chapter quickly, a summary can help you to refresh your memory.
  • Analysis : Summarizing a chapter can help you to identify the main themes and ideas of a book, which can be useful when analyzing it.

Advantages of Chapter Summary

Chapter summaries have several advantages:

  • Helps with retention : Summarizing the key points of a chapter can help you remember important information better. By condensing the information, you can identify the main ideas and focus on the most relevant points.
  • Saves time : Instead of re-reading the entire chapter when you need to review information, a summary can help you quickly refresh your memory. It can also save time during note-taking and studying.
  • Provides an overview : A summary can give you a quick overview of the chapter’s content and help you identify the main themes and ideas. This can help you understand the broader context of the material.
  • Helps with comprehension : Summarizing the content of a chapter can help you better understand the material. It can also help you identify any areas where you might need more clarification or further study.
  • Useful for review: Chapter summaries can be a useful review tool before exams or when writing papers. They can help you organize your thoughts and review key concepts and ideas.
  • Facilitates discussion: When working in a group, chapter summaries can help facilitate discussion and ensure that everyone is on the same page. It can also help to identify areas of confusion or disagreement.
  • Supports active reading : Creating a summary requires active reading, which means that you are engaging with the material and thinking critically about it. This can help you develop stronger reading and critical thinking skills.
  • Enables comparison : When reading multiple sources on a topic, creating summaries of each chapter can help you compare and contrast the information presented. This can help you identify differences and similarities in the arguments and ideas presented.
  • Helpful for long texts: In longer books or texts, chapter summaries can be especially helpful. They can help you break down the material into manageable chunks and make it easier to digest.

About the author

' src=

Muhammad Hassan

Researcher, Academic Writer, Web developer

You may also like

Research Paper Citation

How to Cite Research Paper – All Formats and...

Data collection

Data Collection – Methods Types and Examples


Delimitations in Research – Types, Examples and...

Research Paper Formats

Research Paper Format – Types, Examples and...

Research Process

Research Process – Steps, Examples and Tips

Research Design

Research Design – Types, Methods and Examples

Dissertations: Introductions & Conclusions

  • Choosing a topic
  • Research Proposal
  • Reviewing the literature
  • Introductions & Conclusions
  • Writing Chapters
  • Wrapping Up
  • Abstracts & Summaries
  • Managing Expectations


  • Useful words & phrases

The introduction of a dissertation conveys the purpose and significance of a research study. It introduces readers to the topic of the research and helps them to understand how and why the study was conducted. It also presents an overview of the dissertation.

In writing the introduction to our dissertation, we could explain the topic / issue we would like to research and why this topic is important. We could also state clearly how we intend to research this topic and why our chosen method of investigation is the most appropriate way to research this topic.  We could try to include these features in our introduction so that readers understand the function of each point in our introduction.

  • In this dissertation, I will argue that...
  • This dissertation will explore the following questions...
  • The purpose of this dissertation is to...
  • The following is a brief overview of...
  • It is widely believed that...
  • However, there is growing evidence to suggest that...
  • This dissertation will challenge the conventional wisdom that...
  • The findings of this study have important implications for...
  • The purpose of this dissertation is to examine /analyse /investigate...
  • This study seeks to explore the impact/effect of...
  • Over the past [time period], numerous studies have focused on...
  • The significance/importance of [this topic] lies in...

This research seeks to make a contribution to knowledge through foregrounding the participation of children's centre practitioners in empirical research and theorising. Lansdown (2006) argues that those working with the youngest of children have, overall, been less proactive in the participation debates and theoretical discussions than practitioners working with older children, although clearly many early years practitioners do promote participatory practices with children. Through designing and conducting participatory action research projects with children and their parents, I, as a practitioner working with other practitioners, have sought to address this disparity through our own practice, reflection and theorising.

Example 2

This introductory chapter explains overuse injury. It addresses overuse injury causal mechanisms and stages because psychological factors are linked to injury via the mechanisms and stages. The harms of overuse injury are then presented in terms of prevalence and severity, followed by a summary of what little is known about the psychological antecedents of overuse injury. Given the paucity of overuse injury research, and research specific to psychological factors of overuse injury, a rationale for employing the social identity approach as a theoretical framework for the study of overuse injury is given. Finally, the notion that mental toughness plays a role with overuse injury within the social identity framework is examined.

Through working with many different midwives in different areas, this researcher realised that the practice of the Continuity of Care Model varies from midwife to midwife. The researcher also noticed that many midwives from the community were keen to start the model but were apprehensive as they had not worked on the delivery suite. Moreover, midwives on the delivery suite who have not been in the community for a long time also felt apprehensive. The upskilling of midwives working in certain areas could become challenging as they have worked in one area only for a long time. The concept of caring for women is the same but the skills can be seen to be different. Hence, it would be interesting to conduct research into midwives’ perspectives on the Continuity of Care Model.

There is a gap in understanding between the studies of employment relationships on the one hand, and employee rewards on the other. This gap is broadly manifested in two ways: firstly, by the absence of holistic approaches that seek to articulate the interactions between the employment relationship and employee reward systems. Secondly, by the differences in approach taken between these fields. These shall be considered in turn.


The conclusion section of our dissertation should effectively communicate the purpose, significance, findings, and implications of our research.

To write a clear and concise conclusion, a starting point would be to:

  • Summarise our research findings
  • Discuss the implications of our findings
  • Restate what the research set out to investigate
  • Highlight the key message you want to make

It is important to use clear and concise language when writing introductions and conclusions. We should also avoid using jargon or technical terms that our audience may not be familiar with, or we should explain these.

  • In conclusion, I have argued that...
  • The evidence presented in this dissertation suggests that...
  • This dissertation has explored the following questions...
  • I hope that this dissertation has given you a better understanding of...
  • The findings of this study highlight...
  • This research contributes to the existing literature by...
  • These findings have important implications for...
  • Future research should further investigate/address...
  • The insights gained from this study can be applied to...

This chapter begins by summarising the main findings from the study, advanced in the three empirical chapters. I also discuss some of the limitations of the study and provide suggestions for further research. Following this, I outline the contribution to knowledge this thesis makes. Finally, the thesis ends with some reflexive concludings. I intentionally choose to call these 'concludings' to reflect the idea that the knowledge co-constructed with the children, parents and staff of TPCC and my reflexive readings and re-presentations of the data are both partial and provisional, and therefore open to further reflection and discussion.

In Chapter 2 I argued that children's participation means different things, in different contexts. Whilst typologies of participation are a useful starting point for conceptualising the field, they fail to take account of children's participation in their different socio-spatial contexts. Consequently, a primary goal of this research was to understand what young children's participation means and looks like in the multidisciplinary context of an English children's centre. In this thesis I have argued that participation encompasses recognition of young children's agentic capacities in relation with other people, places and things. Yet, participation differs from agency in that it also carries a political element, in the sense of children negotiating with others, making decisions and/or influencing their situation. Hence, young children's participation is both procedural (in that it encompasses children's agentic action and embodied performance in space) and substantive (in that children participate in decision-making, citizenship practices, minor politics and democracy).

This thesis has offered a comprehensive study of the way in which racisms have impinged upon and been generated by English football and football culture in both the more ‘traditional’ and more ‘modernised’ eras of the game in complex and linear ways. The thesis has also offered an evaluation of a series of national responses to racisms in the game under the period of study, with particular reference to the Football Task Force and the national Kick It Out campaign and its predeccessors. An evaluation of the extent to which professional football clubs nationally have engaged with the philsophy of anti-racism and with the more practical recommendations embodied in the Football Task Force and in the activities of the Kick It Out campaign form a central tenet of the empirical findings generated by this thesis.

More in-depth studies of two localised initiatives to combat racism and racialised exclusion in football in the North of England and the East Midlands offer a detailed account of the successes and difficulties engendered by work of this kind at the local level. This final chapter has identified a number of common themes that are present throughout the thesis with regard to popular conceptualisations of ‘race’, racism and anti-racism in British society, British sports and, more specifically, in English football and football culture. This final chapter has also cemented some of the key theoretical arguments and assertions made throughout the thesis in a clear and coherent manner. The consistency of these theoretical arguments and their rootedness in sociological understandings of the subject under study suggest that this thesis successfully offers an integrated and holistic evaluation of ‘Racisms and Anti-Racism in English Football’.

Example 3

There is a plethora of data that chronicles the underrepresentation of Black students in gifted and AP programs (Fraizer, 1995; Ford, 1996; 2006; 2010; Grantham, 2004; Moore, Ford, & Milner, 2005; Solorzano & Yosso, 2001; Tomlinson, 2002; Whiting, 2009) in our nation. However, very little data originates from the students themselves (Noguera, 2003, Thompson, 2002). This study provided high achieving Black students a platform in which they could share their experiences and perceptions about the barriers they perceive that prevent them from enrolling in gifted and AP classes. “This waste of human potential and talent must be rectified” (Whiting, G. 2009, p. 232). Findings from the interviews revealed significant factors that contributed to students’ reluctance to participate in gifted and AP programs to include lack of teacher encouragement, not fully understanding the benefits of the programs, fear of stress and failure, and not wanting to stand out from their peers.

My findings highlight that even if better identifying tools and tests were designed that resulted in a greater number of Black students sitting in the classrooms of gifted and AP programs, it will be in vain if we do not address the historical and systemic racism along with the long standing dominant ideology that has permeated our schools’ corridors

The results of this study suggested that in order to recruit and retain high achieving Black students in gifted and AP programs, educators, administrators, parents, and policy makers must be willing to look beyond the traditional means of identifying potential for gifted and AP programs and consider that Black students face unique challenges; challenges that with encouragement, training, and support of research based findings such as those used to guide this study, can be used to decrease the barriers many Black students perceive when considering these programs.

Example 4

The intent of this study was to improve instrumental music education instructional practice. To that end, conclusions from this study have implications for improving music teaching and learning. Consistent with definitions of creativity selected by participants in this study, winds and percussion instrumental music teachers should continue to provide students opportunities to perform repertoire and learn “classics” of the wind band literature. A quality music education should, however, include more than performing existing repertoire. Students should learn and perform new repertoire, improvise and compose music in the context of what they learned, and respond appropriately to both recreating and generating music.

Journal of Suffolk Student Research

The Journal of Suffolk Student Research is an online academic journal, dedicated to the publication of high-quality undergraduate and postgraduate student research undertaken by University of Suffolk students. The journal will showcase the most outstanding student research undertaken at the University of Suffolk. It aims to promote and recognise this outstanding student research by offering valuable early experience of academic publishing and the peer review process. 

Find out more here

  • << Previous: Reviewing the literature
  • Next: Writing Chapters >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 1, 2024 4:22 PM
  • URL:

➔ About the Library

➔ Meet the Team

➔ Customer Service Charter

➔ Library Policies & Regulations

➔ Privacy & Data Protection

Essential Links

➔ A-Z of eResources

➔ Frequently Asked Questions

➔Discover the Library

➔Referencing Help

➔ Print & Copy Services

➔ Service Updates

Library & Learning Services, University of Suffolk, Library Building, Long Street, Ipswich, IP4 1QJ

✉ Email Us: [email protected]

✆ Call Us: +44 (0)1473 3 38700


Chapter 3: Method

This chapter presents the methods and research design for this dissertation study. It begins by presenting the research questions and settings, the LibraryThing and Goodreads digital libraries. This is followed by an overview of the mixed methods research design used, incorporating a sequence of three phases. Each of the three methods—qualitative content analysis, a quantitative survey questionnaire, and qualitative interviews—are then presented in detail. The codes and themes used for analysis during the qualitative phases are discussed next. The chapter continues with sections on the management of the research data for this study; the validity, reliability, and trustworthiness of study findings; and ethical considerations. The invitation letters and informed consent statement; survey instrument; interview questions; a quick reference guide used for coding and analysis; and documentation of approval from LibraryThing, Goodreads, and the FSU Human Subjects Committee are included in appendices.

3.1. Research Questions

As stated in Chapter 1 the purpose of this research, taking a social perspective on digital libraries, is to improve understanding of the organizational, cultural, institutional, collaborative, and social contexts of digital libraries. The following two research questions satisfy the purpose of the proposed study within the approach, setting, and framework introduced in Chapter 1 :

  • RQ1: What roles do LibraryThing and Goodreads play, as boundary objects, in translation and coherence between the existing social and information worlds they are used within?
  • RQ2: What roles do LibraryThing and Goodreads play, as boundary objects, in coherence and convergence of new social and information worlds around their use?

These two questions explore the existing and emergent worlds that may surround digital libraries in social, collaborative use and behavior. RQ1 focuses on examining how LibraryThing and Goodreads may support existing collaboration, communities, and other social activities and behaviors across social and information worlds, with a specific eye to translation, characteristics indicating coherence of existing worlds, and uses of the digital libraries as boundary objects. RQ2 focuses on examining how LibraryThing and Goodreads may support coherence and convergence of new, emergent social and information worlds and their characteristics, as indicated by use of the digital libraries (as boundary objects) as new, localized standards. The questions focus on the roles of each digital library, be there one role, multiple roles, or possibly no role played by LibraryThing and Goodreads. These roles may or may not include explicit support for collaboration, communities, or social contexts. The research questions use and incorporate the definitions, concepts, and propositions of social digital libraries (see section 2.4.3 ), the social worlds perspective (see sections and 2.8.1 ), the theory of information worlds (see section 2.8.2 ), and the synthesized theoretical framework for social digital libraries (developed in section 2.8.3 ). Coherence and convergence are seen as the same concept in boundary object theory (see section ), leading to overlap between the concepts—and the two research questions—in operational data collection and analysis. The connotations of the two indicate convergence will lead to new, emergent worlds, and this meaning is indicated by its use in RQ2, but not RQ1.

3.2. Setting: Case Studies of LibraryThing and Goodreads

In this dissertation study, the boundary objects of interest are defined and given as two digital libraries: LibraryThing and Goodreads (see sections 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 below). This approach is opposite the procedure used by Star and Griesemer (1989), who first identified the populations of communities, users, and stakeholders in their study, then examined the boundary objects they used. Starting with the boundary objects is in line with Star’s later work (Bowker & Star, 1999; Star et al., 2003). Bødker and Christiansen (1997); Gal, Yoo, and Boland (2004); Henderson (1991); and Pawlowski, Robey, and Raven (2000) have used this approach to varying extents, proving its validity and usefulness as an approach to take for studying social digital libraries as boundary objects.

3.2.1. Case Study Approach

This research takes a case study approach, where "a detailed" and intensive "analysis of … individual case[s]"—LibraryThing and Goodreads—will be performed (Fidel, 1984, p. 274). The research looked to generate "a comprehensive understanding of the event under study"—uses of these digital libraries as boundary objects within and across existing and emergent social and information worlds—and develop "more general theoretical statements about regularities in the observed phenomena" surrounding social digital libraries (p. 274). Case studies often focus on the cycle of research methods which inform each other through a longer, more detailed research process than using a single exploratory method. A case study approach fosters multiple opportunities to revisit and reanalyze data collected earlier in the study, revise the research design as new facets and factors emerge, and combine multiple methods and data sources into a holistic description of each case. The research design used here, employing two qualitative and one quantitative method in a cycle (see section 3.3 ), follows this approach.

Yin (2003) breaks the process of conducting a case study into five phases. The phases "effectively force [the researcher] to begin constructing a preliminary theory" prior to data collection (p. 28), as done in Chapter 2 . Each of Yin’s five steps can be found in sections of this dissertation. First, one must determine the research questions to be asked; these were included in section 3.1 above. Second, one must identify what Yin calls the "propositions," statements "direct[ing] attention to something that should be examined within the scope of study" (p. 22). The theoretical framework developed earlier (see section 2.8) and the purpose of this research as stated in Chapter 1 provide this necessary focus from a conceptual perspective. The operationalization of this focus is discussed for each method in sections 3.4.4 , 3.5.3 , 3.6.4 , and 3.7 . Third, Yin says one must determine the unit of analysis, based on the research questions. In this study, the overall units of analysis are the two social digital libraries under consideration, LibraryThing and Goodreads; other units of interest include communities, groups, and individuals. The specific unit of analysis for each method of data collection is discussed in sections 3.4.1 , 3.5.1 , and 3.6.2 . Fourth, one must connect "data to [theoretical] propositions," matching patterns with theories (p. 26). Using the theoretical framework developed in section 2.8 in data analysis (see sections 3.4.4 , 3.5.5 , 3.6.6 , and 3.7 ) provides for this matching process. For the final step, Yin says one must determine "the criteria for interpreting [the] findings" (p. 27); the criteria chosen for this research are discussed in the data analysis sections ( 3.4.4 , 3.5.5 , 3.6.6 , and 3.7 ) and are considered in light of concerns of validity, reliability, and trustworthiness ( section 3.9 ) and the benefits ( section 1.7 and Chapter 5 ) and limitations ( section 5.6 ) of the study.

This research employed a multiple-case, "holistic" design at the highest level, focusing on LibraryThing and Goodreads as units, but what Yin (2003, p. 42) calls an "embedded" design, with multiple units of analysis considered in each method, at lower levels. Examining two social digital libraries allows them to be compared and contrasted, but commonalities were expected to emerge—and did—across the two cases to allow theoretical and practical conclusions to be drawn (see Chapter 5 ). Yin stated case study designs must be flexible and may change as a result of research not turning out as expected, and subtle changes were made to what was intended to be a flexible plan for case studies of LibraryThing and Goodreads and their use as boundary objects within and across existing and emergent social and information worlds.

3.2.2. LibraryThing

LibraryThing (LT) is a social digital library and web site founded in August 2005 (LibraryThing, n.d.-a), with over 1.8 million members as of June 2014 (LibraryThing, 2014). It allows users to catalog books they own, have read, or want to read (LibraryThing, n.d.-b); these serve as Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records (FRBR) items (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2009). Users can assign tags to books, mark their favorites, and create and share collections of books with others; these collections are searchable and sortable. LT suggests books to users based on the similarity of collections. Users can provide reviews, ratings, or other metadata (termed "Common Knowledge"; LibraryThing, 2013) for editions of books (FRBR’s manifestations and expressions) and works (as in FRBR); this metadata and users’ tags are shared across the site (LibraryThing, n.d.-c). LT provides groups (administered by users or staff), which include shared library collection searching, forums, and statistics on the books collected by members of the group (LibraryThing, n.d.-d). Discussions from these forums about individual books are included on each book’s page, as are tags, ratings, and reviews. Each user has a profile page which links to their collections, tags, reviews, and ratings, and lists other user-provided information such as homepage, social networks used (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and a short biography (LibraryThing, n.d.-c).

Examining LibraryThing in light of the definition of social digital libraries (see sections 1.1 and 2.4.3 ) shows the following:

  • LT features one or more collections of digital content collected for its users, who can be considered a community as a whole and part of many smaller communities formed by the groups feature. This content includes book data and metadata sourced from and libraries using the Z39.50 protocol (LibraryThing, n.d.-b); and user-contributed data, metadata, and content in many forms: tags, favorites, collections, reviews, posts in discussions, and profile information.
  • LT features services relating to the content and serving its user communities, including the ability to catalog books; create collections; discuss with others; and search for and browse books, reviews, tags, and other content.
  • LT is managed by a formal organization and company, and draws on the resources of other formal organizations (, libraries) and informal groupings (LT users) for providing and managing content and services.

As a large social digital library and web site, open to the public and with multiple facets, LibraryThing is well-suited as a setting and case for examining the role of digital libraries within and across communities. The existing research literature on LibraryThing has focused on its roles for social tagging and classification (e.g. Chang, 2009; Lu, Park, & Hu, 2010; Zubiaga, Körner, & Strohmaier, 2011) and in recommendation and readers’ advisory (e.g. Naughton & Lin, 2010; Stover, 2009). This study adds an additional view of the site as an online community and social digital library.

3.2.3. Goodreads

Goodreads (GR), similar to LibraryThing, is a social digital library and web site founded in January 2007 (Goodreads, 2014a). As of June 2014, it has 25 million members. Users can "recommend books" via ratings and reviews, "see which books [their] friends are reading; track the books [they are] reading, have read, and want to read; … find out if a book is a good fit for [them] from [the] community’s reviews" (para. 2); and join discussion groups "to discuss literature" (Goodreads, 2014b, para. 11). As with LibraryThing, Goodreads users can create lists of books (called "shelves"), which act as site-wide tags anyone can search on (para. 5). Searching and sorting are possible for other metadata and content types; metadata can apply to editions (manifestations or expressions) of a book or to whole works (in FRBR terms; International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, 2009). Groups can be created, joined, and moderated by users (including Goodreads staff); they can include group shelves, discussion forums, events, photos, videos, and polling features. Users have profile pages, which may include demographic information, favorite quotes, writing samples, and events. Users who have greater than 50 books on their shelves can apply to become a Goodreads librarian , which allows them to edit and update metadata for books and authors (Goodreads, 2012d, "What can librarians do?" section). In March 2013—during the early stages of this dissertation research— acquired Goodreads (Chandler, 2013).

Examining GR in light of the definition of social digital libraries (see sections 1.1 and 2.4.3 ) shows the following:

  • GR features one or more collections of digital content collected for its users, who can be considered a community as a whole and part of many smaller communities formed by the groups feature. This content includes book data and metadata previously sourced from Ingram (a book wholesaler), libraries (via WorldCat and the catalogs of the American, British, and German national libraries), and publishers (Chandler, 2012), and now from Amazon since their purchase (Chandler, 2013); and user-contributed metadata and content, including shelves, lists, forum posts, events, photos, videos, polls, profile information, and book trivia.
  • GR features services relating to the content and serve its user communities, including the ability to catalog books; create shelves; discuss with others; and search for and browse books, reviews, lists, and other content.
  • GR is managed by a formal organization and company—Goodreads Inc., although now owned by Amazon—and draws on the resources of other formal organizations (Amazon, Ingram, OCLC via WorldCat, libraries, and publishers) and informal groupings (GR users, the librarians group) for providing and managing content and services.

As with LibraryThing, Goodreads is well-suited as a setting and case for examining the role of digital libraries within and across communities, because it is a large social digital library and web site that is open to the public and has multiple facets. There is little existing research literature on Goodreads, limited to its use in recommendation and readers’ advisory (e.g. Naik, 2012; Stover, 2009) and examining its impact on the practice of reading (Nakamura, 2013). This study adds an additional view of the site as an online community and social digital library.

3.3. Research Design

Use of a mixed methods research design combines qualitative and quantitative methods together to emphasize their strengths; minimize their weaknesses; improve validity, reliability, and trustworthiness; and obtain a fuller understanding of uses of social digital libraries as boundary objects within and across social and information worlds. Definitions of mixed methods research vary but core characteristics can be identified, which Creswell and Plano Clark (2011, p. 5) summarize as

  • collection and analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data;
  • integration of the two forms of data at the same time, in sequence, or in an embedded design;
  • prioritizing one or both forms of data;
  • combining methods within a single study or multiple phases of a larger research program;
  • framing the study, data collection, and analysis within philosophical, epistemological, and theoretical lenses; and
  • conducting the study according to a specific research design meting the other criteria.

This study meets all of these criteria. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected and integrated in sequence; qualitative data was prioritized, but not at the expense of quantitative data collection; multiple methods were used within this one study; and the study was based on the theoretical framework developed and the tenets of social informatics and social constructionism explained in Chapter 2 .

This study took a philosophical view of mixed methods research similar to the view of Ridenour and Newman (2008), who "reject[ed] the [standard] dichotomy" between qualitative and quantitative research methods, believing there to be an "interactive continuum" between the two (p. xi). They stated "both paradigms have their own contributions to building a knowledge base" (p. xii), suggesting a holistic approach to research design incorporating theory building and theory testing in a self-correcting cycle. Qualitative methods, Ridenour and Newman argued, should inform the research questions and purpose for quantitative phases, and vice versa; they termed this process an "interactive" one (p. xi). Research designs should come from the basis of "the research purpose and the research question" (p. 1), what "evidence [is] needed," and what epistemological stance should be taken "to address the question" (p. 18).

Greene (2007) presented a similar argument, stating "a mixed methods way of thinking actively engages with epistemological differences" (p. 27); multiple viewpoints are respected, understood, and applied within a given study. She acknowledged the tensions and contradictions that will exist in such thought, but believed this would produce the best "conversation" and allow the researcher to learn the most from their study and data (p. 27). Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) encompassed multiple viewpoints and potential designs in their chapter on choosing a mixed methods design (pp. 53–104). They considered six prototypical designs: (a) convergent parallel; (b) explanatory sequential; (c) exploratory sequential; (d) embedded; (e) transformative; and (f) multiphase.

The research design for this dissertation study is a variation on a multiphase design incorporating elements of the explanatory sequential and exploratory sequential designs of Creswell and Plano Clark. Three methods were use for data collection, following the process proposed by Ridenour and Newman (2008) and taking the approach to thought suggested by these authors, Creswell and Plano Clark (2011), and Greene (2007). The selection of this design and these methods was based on the research purpose discussed in Chapter 1 , the research questions introduced in section 3.1 , and the research setting explained in section 3.2 . The methods used were

  • content analysis of messages in LibraryThing and Goodreads groups ( section 3.4 );
  • a structured survey of LibraryThing and Goodreads users ( section 3.5 ); and
  • semi-structured qualitative interviews with users of LibraryThing and Goodreads ( section 3.6 ).

The holistic combination of these methods, interrelated in a multiphase design, has allowed for exploratory and descriptive research on social digital libraries as boundary objects incorporating the strengths of quantitative and qualitative methods and the viewpoints of multiple perspectives.

3.3.1. Integrated Design

A sequential, multiphase research design was employed for two reasons. First, each of the methods above required focus on data collection and analysis by the researcher. Trying to use a parallel or concurrent design, conducting content analysis alongside a survey or a survey alongside interviews, could have caused excess strain; a sequential design improved the chances of success, the quality of data collected and analyzed, and the significance of and level of insight in the study’s conclusions. Second, each method built on the methods before it. The design of the survey and interview instruments was influenced by ideas drawn from the literature and theories for the study and by elements of interest uncovered during the content analysis phase. The interviews focused on gathering further detail on and insight into findings from the survey results and the content analysis. This combination of methods allowed for exploring each case through content analysis, obtaining summary explanatory data through surveys, and then detailed descriptive and explanatory data through the interviews, achieving the benefits of both the exploratory and explanatory research designs presented by Creswell and Plano Clark (2011, pp. 81–90).

Creswell and Plano Clark (2011) expressed caution, noting multiphase research designs often require substantial time, effort, and multi-researcher teams. The three phases used here were not lengthy or intensive enough to cause lengthy delays in the completion of this dissertation. This is one coherent dissertation study, instead of the long-term, multi-project research program Creswell and Plano Clark cite as the prototypical multiphase design. While it was known in advance this would not be the speediest dissertation research project, using a sequential design allowed for the results from each phase to emerge as the research proceeded, instead of having to wait for all phases to complete as in a concurrent design. A complete and insightful picture of the findings and conclusions of the dissertation came within a reasonable amount of time and with a good level of effort.

3.4. Content Analysis

Content analysis has been defined as "a technique for making replicable and valid inferences from texts (or other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their use" (Krippendorff, 2004a, p. 19), with emphasis often placed on "the content of communication" (Holsti, 1969, p. 2)—specific "characteristics of messages" (p. 14)—"as the basis of inference" (p. 2). Early forms of content analysis required objectivity and highly systematic procedures (see Holsti, 1969, pp. 3–5, 14). The form of content analysis used in this study considers the meaning and understanding of content to "emerge in the process of a researcher analyzing a text relative to a particular context" (Krippendorff, 2004a, p. 19), a subjective and less rigid approach. Such text or content may have multiple, socially constructed meanings, speaking to more "than the given texts" (p. 23); they are indicative of the "contexts, discourses, or purposes" surrounding the content (p. 24).

There are at least three categories of content analysis, which Ahuvia (2001) labels traditional , interpretive , and reception-based ; other authors and researchers (e.g. Babbie, 2007, p. 325; Holsti, 1969, pp. 12–14) break content analysis into latent (subjective and qualitative) and manifest (objective and quantitative) categories of analysis. Early content analysis was purely objective and generated quantitative summaries and enumerations of manifest content, but qualitative and latent analysis have found greater acceptance over time (Ahuvia, 2001; Holsti, 1969, pp. 5–14; Krippendorff, 2004a). This study used the interpretive approach and focused coding on the latent content—the underlying meaning—of the data gathered. This section discusses the application of content analysis in the first phase of this dissertation research, including (a) the choice of the unit of analysis; (b) the population and sampling method chosen; (c) the sampling and data collection procedures followed, including a pilot test; and (d) how the data was analyzed.

3.4.1. Unit of Analysis

The unit of analysis chosen for the content analysis in this study was the message . LibraryThing’s and Goodreads’ group discussion boards are organized into threads, each of which may contain multiple individual messages. Analysis of these individual messages was aimed at uncovering indications of the roles the two digital libraries play in existing and emergent social and information worlds. Analysis began with the individual messages to ensure details and phenomena at that level were captured, but over time went beyond individual messages to the thread or group levels, since these phenomena served as instantiations of social and information worlds or as sites for interaction and translation.

3.4.2. Population and Sampling

The broader population of messages could be defined as all messages posted in public LibraryThing and Goodreads groups, but the logistics of constructing a sampling frame for such a population were and are all but impossible; it is improbable the two sites would provide data on all messages posted if it is not required of them by law. Recent messages from active groups were of most interest and use for this study. The population of messages was defined as all messages from the most active LibraryThing groups in the past week (taken from ) and the most recently active Goodreads groups (taken from ) as of April 30, 2013, the day data collection began for the content analysis phase of the study. The sampling frames were restricted to as close to but no more than 100 groups as possible, based on LibraryThing’s list claiming to list the 100 most active groups; the actual frames consisted of 91 LibraryThing groups and 93 Goodreads groups once duplicates were removed. During the planning and design of this study, Goodreads provided a list of "recently popular" groups (at ) that was akin to LibraryThing’s list in nature; that list was taken down sometime in early 2013 due to it causing a server slowdown (Jack & Finley, 2013). Using the most recently active groups did not guarantee consistent popularity or activity over a recent time period (such as a week), but did address the need to collect recent messages from active groups and was deemed the most acceptable source for a sampling frame still available.

To obtain a sample of messages from this population, a stratified random sampling method using the levels of group, thread, and message was employed. From the lists identified above, five groups were selected at random from each digital library (for a total of ten), but with the following inclusion and exclusion criteria applied to help ensure representativeness and allow for meaningful analysis:

(a) At least one group from each digital library with over 100 messages posted in the last week was selected. (b) At least one group from each digital library with under 100 messages posted in the last week was selected. (c) Any group with fewer than 60 messages total was removed and a new group selected. (d) Any group with fewer than two members was removed and a new group selected. (e) Any group used in the pilot study (see below) was removed and a new group selected.

Due to constraints placed on this research by Goodreads and the nature of this digital library, all group selections for Goodreads required approval from at least one group moderator per group. Prior to the collection of any data, such moderators were messaged via the site using the invitation letter found in Appendix A , section A.1.1 , and provided their consent for their group to be included in the research by agreeing to an informed consent statement (see Appendix A , section A.1.2 ). Any groups for which the moderator did not provide consent within two weeks were removed from the sample and a new group selected, using the same procedures and initial list of groups.

Two additional groups, one from LibraryThing and one from Goodreads, were used for a pilot study of the content analysis procedures, selected at random using the same procedure as above but with only criteria (c) and (d) applied. As with the main sample, the moderator for the Goodreads group selected was contacted to obtain his approval and consent prior to data collection; the moderator of the first group did not respond within two weeks, so a new group was selected. These two groups were selected in December 2012, earlier than the main sample, using the two lists of groups as they were at that time. For the pilot, threads were selected systematically and at random from the threads shown on the group’s front page (i.e. the most recent and active threads) until the total messages per group reached between 50 and 60; in both cases only one thread was selected containing 60 messages. Any thread with fewer than two messages was to be excluded from selection. All messages in the selected threads, up to the 60-message limit, were part of the sample for the pilot test, which totaled 120 messages. At 20% the size of the intended sample for the main content analysis phase, the pilot sample provided sufficient data to assess if the proposed procedures were appropriate and how long this phase of the study would take. The pilot study allowed adjustments to be made for the main content analysis phase, based on problems and difficulties observed.

For the main content analysis phase, the ten groups were selected on April 30, 2013, a later date than the two for the pilot test, using the two lists of groups as they were as of that day. A few weeks later, threads were systematically selected at random from the threads shown on each group’s front page (i.e. the most recent and active threads) until the total messages per group reaches between 50 and 60. As with the pilot, any thread with fewer than two messages was excluded from selection. No more than the first 20 messages in each thread selected were part of the sample, a change from the pilot test made to ensure at least three threads per group were selected and improve the representativeness of the sample. This was intended to lead to a total sample of between 500 and 600 messages, about half from LibraryThing and half from Goodreads. The samples in practice consisted of 286 messages from LibraryThing and 233 from Goodreads, for a total of 519 messages (see also Chapter 4 , section 4.1 ). For all random and systematic sampling in the pilot and main data collection stages, the starting point and interval was chosen by generating random numbers using Microsoft Excel’s RANDBETWEEN function.

This stratified random sampling procedure was chosen to encourage representativeness of the resulting sample while ensuring data allowing for meaningful analysis was selected. Messages, threads, or groups could be selected purposively, but such a method could result in a sample biased towards a given type of message, thread, or group. Random sampling of groups and threads from the population deemed useful for analysis produced a sample of messages from LibraryThing and Goodreads that can be judged to be quite representative, if not quite equivalent to one generated from simple random sampling since the sampling frames did not include the entire population of groups. The sizes of the sample at each stratum were chosen to balance representativeness against the time and resources necessary to complete content analysis.

3.4.3. Data Collection Procedures

Messages were collected by using a Web browser to access the LibraryThing and Goodreads web sites, following the sampling procedures discussed above. Once a thread was displayed on the screen, up to 20 messages from the thread—starting with the earliest messages—were copied and pasted into a Microsoft Word document; one such file was maintained per thread. As found in the digital libraries, each message’s author, date/time posted, and message content was saved to that file. Images or other media included were saved in their original context as best as possible. Members’ identities, as indicated by their usernames, were used to allow for identifying common message authors in a thread, for analysis of the flow of conversation, and for identifying potential participants for later phases of the study. Identities remained confidential and were not be part of further analysis, results, or publications; psuedonyms are used in this dissertation (see section 4.1 ). Avatars from Goodreads were discarded, as members’ usernames were sufficient for this purpose. These documents were stored as discussed in section 3.8 on data management.

3.4.4. Data Analysis

For analysis, the documents were imported into NVivo qualitative analysis software, version 10, running on a MacBook Pro via a virtualized Windows 7 installation. Each message was examined and codes were assigned based on its latent meaning and interpretation. The codes to be assigned drew from boundary object theory, the social worlds perspective, and the theory of information worlds, which served as an interpretive and theoretical framework for the content analysis (cf. Ahuvia, 2001). These codes were common to multiple phases of this study, and can be found in section 3.7 below. So-called "open" codes, not included in the list but judged by the researcher to be emergent in the data and relevant to the study’s purpose and research questions, could be assigned during the content analysis and coding process, as recommended by Ahuvia (2001) for interpretive content analyses and others for general qualitative data analysis (e.g. Charmaz, 2006). Findings from the data as coded and analyzed, including open codes, are included in Chapter 4 , section 4.1 . Pilot test

These coding and analysis procedures were piloted first, using data from two of the groups, prior to their use in the main content analysis phase. Two volunteer coders, doctoral students at the FSU School of Information [1] , applied the coding scheme and procedures developed for analyzing qualitative data in this study, presented in greater detail in section 3.7 below. The researcher applied the same scheme and procedures. Measures were in place to ensure the validity, reliability, and trustworthiness of the data and analysis, as discussed in section 3.9 below. Both intercoder reliability statistics and holistic, qualitative analysis of the results were used to clarify the scheme and procedures after each round of coding. Changes that were made to procedures and the coding scheme, and issues encountered with intercoder reliability statistics, are discussed at length in section 3.7 below.

3.5. Survey

Surveys are a common research method in the social sciences, including library and information science. They allow characteristics of a population to be estimated, via statistics, through analysis of the quantified responses given to questions by a small sample of the population (Fowler, 2002; Hank, Jordan, & Wildemuth, 2009; Sapsford, 1999). Surveys consist of "a set of items, formulated as statements or questions, used to generate a response to each stated item" (Hank et al., 2009, p. 257). The data collected may describe the beliefs, opinions, attitudes, or behaviors of participants on varied topics, although most research surveys have a special purpose and focus (Fowler, 2002). This is true in the case of the survey used here, which focused on obtaining data on uses of LibraryThing and Goodreads by a sample of its users, in the specific context of their usage as boundary objects within and across social and information worlds.

The following sections cover the components of survey research methods cited by Fowler (2002, pp. 4–8) and Hank et al. (2009) as they apply to the survey used in this study. These include discussion of the unit of analysis, population, and sampling (sections 3.5.1 and 3.5.2 ); concept operationalization and survey question design (sections 3.5.3 ); pretesting and data collection ( section 3.5.4 ); and data analysis ( section 3.5.5 ). The survey was designed as a coherent whole—as recommended by Fowler (2002, p. 7)—and in relation to the content analysis and interview methods used in other phases of the study.

3.5.1. Unit of Analysis

For the survey phase of this dissertation study, the unit of analysis was the individual LibraryThing or Goodreads user . These users were—and are—understood to be members of one or more communities, social worlds, or information worlds, and to be members of or frequent one or more LibraryThing or Goodreads groups. Analysis of their responses to questions about these groups and other communities they were part of allowed for greater understanding of the roles the digital library plays for them in context of these worlds. Tentative conclusions could be made about the nine groups from which users were surveyed and about the communities associated with these groups, but generalization to LibraryThing and Goodreads as a whole was not possible, as explained in section 3.5.2 below.

3.5.2. Population and Sampling

The broader population of LibraryThing and Goodreads users totals over 26 million people, and the logistics of constructing anything resembling a sampling frame—i.e. a complete list of all users of the two sites—are all but impossible. Given the focus in the content analysis phase on nine groups (five from LibraryThing, four from Goodreads), narrowing the population to include any user who visits, frequents, or is a member of one or more of these groups made the task of sampling possible and the population compatible with the population of messages used in the content analysis phase. This narrowing of population led to a less representative population than that of all LibraryThing and Goodreads users, limiting the kinds of analysis that could be done of the survey (further details below and in Chapter 4 , section 4.2 ,).

Two sampling methods were used to select potential survey participants from this population:

  • A purposive sample, consisting of all LibraryThing users who posted a message within the five LibraryThing groups selected for the content analysis phase. The pool of messages included the messages selected for the main sample in the content analysis phase. (Goodreads did not consent to messaging of Goodreads users for this purpose, so Goodreads users were excluded from this sample.)
  • A convenience sample, consisting of all LibraryThing and Goodreads users who responded to an invitation to participate posted to each of the nine groups selected for the content analysis phase (procedures detailed in section 3.5.5 below).

All users who met the criteria (having posted a message or responded to the invitation) and human subjects requirements for age (between 18 and 65) were allowed to participate, helping to increase the responses collected and the representativeness (as best as possible) of the results obtained.

A true random sample, even from the narrower population, could not be drawn because the researcher could not generate a complete list of visitors to and members of the selected groups. Obtaining such a list from LibraryThing and Goodreads—or the group moderators, should they have access to one for their group—would have placed an unreasonable burden on the digital libraries and could have jeopardized their cooperation in and the successful completion of this study. Such a list would have violated the privacy rights of the members of these groups. A random element is included in the sampling process by using the random groups selected during the content analysis phase, but the sample still lacks much of the representativeness of a true random sample. Users could choose to participate or not and not all users of the nine groups were guaranteed to see the invitation, making it impossible to infer beyond the sample due to selection bias. One may assume survey respondents are at least moderately representative of the population of users of the nine LibraryThing and Goodreads groups, and so conclusions can be inferred about those users through nonparametric statistics. Further details are given in Chapter 4 , section 4.2 .

3.5.3. Operationalization of Concepts and Instrument Design

The phenomena of interest for the survey were similar to the phenomena of interest in the content analysis and interview phases of the study: the concepts of boundary objects, translation, coherence, information worlds, social norms, social types, information values, information behaviors or activities, social worlds, organizations, sites, and technologies. Conceptual definitions for these are found in boundary object theory, the social world perspective, the theory of information worlds, and the synthesized theoretical framework for social digital libraries (see Chapter 2 ). For the purposes of the survey and in the context of answering the research questions of this study, these concepts were operationalized through a set of Likert scaled questions (Brill, 2008; McIver & Carmines, 1981), adapted from the conceptual definitions found in the literature, theories, and synthesis thereof. These questions can be found as part of the survey instrument in Appendix B , section B.1 .

Four to six Likert items (Brill, 2008; McIver & Carmines, 1981) for each of the concepts and phenomena of interest were included in the survey. A symmetric five-point scale was used for each item, as is traditional for Likert items (Brill, 2008); five response choices provides for higher levels of reliability without offering respondents too many choices (Brill, 2008), and questions can be re-scaled without significant loss of statistical validity (Dawes, 2008). Each item used the following labels for response choices: Strongly Agree(5), Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree(1). In analysis, each of the items was assigned a numeric rating (5–1) and summed to form Likert scales for each phenomenon (Brill, 2008; McIver & Carmines, 1981). Statistical analysis checked the internal consistency and reliability of each scale, with items dropped that contributed to lower levels of reliability (see sections 3.5.5 and 3.9 below, and Chapter 4 , section 4.2.1 ). Using at least four items per scale allowed for appropriate statistical analysis to proceed.

Questions were developed, based on the literature and theoretical framework reviewed in Chapter 2 , to measure each of the phenomena of interest. Hank et al. (2009, pp. 257–258) provided a list of suggestions for constructing survey instruments and writing questions: ensure questions are answerable, stated in complete sentences, use neutral and unbiased language, are at an appropriate level of specificity, and are not double-barreled. They suggested participants should not be forced to answer any one question. Fowler (2002, pp. 76–103) included a chapter on designing questions that are good measures in his book on survey research methods. He cautioned researchers to be careful questions are worded adequately; mean the same to and can be understood by all respondents; can be answered given the respondents’ knowledge and memory; and do not make respondents feel uncomfortable and desire not to give a true, accurate answer. According to Fowler, researchers should not ask two questions at once. Sapsford (1999, pp. 119–122) agreed and suggested care should be taken to ensure questions are precise, lack ambiguity, and are easy to understand and in colloquial language. The questions developed for the survey in this study, found in Appendix B , section B.1 , were developed by the researcher and reviewed by the researcher and his supervisory committee in light of this advice.

An additional set of demographic and usage questions was part of the survey instrument, in a separate section at the end as recommended by Peterson (2000, as cited in Hank et al., 2009, p. 258). These questions allowed for collection of data on other variables of potential relevance to and having possible impact on the phenomena of interest, including use of the Internet, LibraryThing and Goodreads, the groups feature of the sites, and other social media and social networking web sites; and demographic factors such as age and gender. These demographic questions can be found in Appendix B , section B.1 .

3.5.4. Data Collection Procedures pretest.

The first stage of data collection was to pretest the survey instrument to help ensure its reliability and validity (Hank et al., 2009, p. 259). A convenience sample of graduate students and graduate alumni of Florida State University was invited to pretest the survey and answer a few short, open-ended questions about their experience. Recruitment took place via face-to-face discussion, e-mail, and Facebook messages. All pretesters came from the School of Information; initial attempts were made to have this sample represent multiple departments from the university, but no students from other departments contacted (Business and Communication) volunteered. Flyers were posted later in the pretest period and the survey opened up via a direct link, to see if undergraduate or graduate students from other departments would be interested, but no responses were received through the link. One School of Information faculty member did volunteer his time to pretest the survey, and his input was welcomed alongside the students. Minor changes were made as a result, reducing the number of questions slightly to reduce perceived repetitiveness and clarifying other questions that pretesters reported getting stuck on. The pretest helped confirm the length of time for completion of the survey. Main survey

The second stage of data collection was to select the samples discussed in section 3.5.2 and send invitations to participate to them. A couple of weeks before this began, the researcher contacted LibraryThing and the moderators of each Goodreads group to inform them of the beginning of the survey. A staff member from LibraryThing posted a short message in each group to let users know that the research would be taking place and had been given LibraryThing’s approval, to ensure invitations were not seen as spam. (LibraryThing required this step as part of their approval of the research; see Appendix E , section E.1 .) Goodreads moderators were welcome to inform their groups of the upcoming research.

The purposive sample was drawn from LibraryThing users who posted messages collected during the content analysis phase. Each of these users was sent an invitation letter, included in Appendix A , section A.2.1.1 . The private message features of LibraryThing were used to send the invitations to the selected users; while LibraryThing users can include an e-mail address in their profile, not all did so. Reminder invitation letters ( Appendix A , section A.2.1.2 ) were re-sent two weeks and four weeks after the beginning of data collection to remind individuals who had not completed the survey and thanking users who had. The convenience sample was drawn by posting an invitation, included in Appendix A section A.2.2 , to each of the LibraryThing and Goodreads groups selected during the content analysis phase. This invitation was re-posted to the same groups two weeks and four weeks after the beginning of data collection, to help ensure as many group members and visitors as possible saw it and had a chance to respond. Permission was granted by LibraryThing and Goodreads staff for this method of data collection (see Appendix E , sections E.1 and E.2 ).

Participants were given a total of six weeks to complete the survey from August 26th, 2013, the date data collection first began for this phase of the study. The survey was expected to take users about 15 to 20 minutes, an estimate confirmed by the pretesters—with more subject knowledge—taking between 7 and 16 minutes. The reminders at two and four weeks, number of visitors to and members of the nine groups, and number of users directly invited on LibraryThing led to sufficient data for analysis (see Chapter 4 , section 4.2 ), although snowball sampling and other techniques were held in reserve in case they were necessary. Compensation

To encourage participation, compensation was offered in the form of a drawing for one of ten $25, Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million gift cards. These stores were selected since they include the most popular online bookstore—, who after this selection was made acquired Goodreads—and the two most popular brick-and-mortar bookstores (which also have an online presence). Participants were given a choice of which store they would prefer, increasing the potential usefulness of the gift card to them and reducing potential bias created by supporting only one store. Other bookstores are smaller, do not offer online gift cards, or have few locations; offering gift cards from every possible store would present logistical challenges. The e-mail addresses of all participants who completed the survey and included an e-mail address in their response were entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (maintained under the data management procedures detailed in section 3.8 ). Gift card codes were e-mailed to 10 random e-mail addresses—selected by using Excel’s RANDBETWEEN function to generate 10 random numbers between 1 and the number of users who took the survey, then selecting those users from the spreadsheet—for the store they selected as preferred; these were sent on November 9 th , about one month after the survey was closed. Funds for the gift cards came from a Beta Phi Mu Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, which I acknowledge and am thankful for. Online hosting

The survey instrument was hosted online using Qualtrics online survey software, made available by FSU to all students and faculty. An online, Internet-based survey provided the greatest chance of reaching users of LibraryThing and Goodreads in the context of their use of the site and their interactions with other users. It cost less—survey hosting for a questionnaire of any length is provided free by Qualtrics in association with FSU—and took less time than a self-administered paper survey was expected to, while providing for honest answers and requiring less direct researcher involvement compared with an administered paper or telephone survey (Fowler, 2002, pp. 71–74). Participants completed the survey by following a link in the invitation letters; two separate links were used for users of LibraryThing and Goodreads, so that the survey could be personalized to refer to each digital library by name. Consent and follow-up

The first page of the survey included an informed consent statement, included in Appendix A , section A.2.3 , which participants had to agree to before they could begin answering the survey questions. As seen by the last few questions in Appendix B section B.1 , participants were asked for their e-mail address for purposes of compensation, if they were interested in participating in a follow-up interview, and if they desired a report of the findings of the research once the study was complete. These e-mail addresses are being kept confidential and are stored in a secure, password-protected encrypted volume, the password known to the researcher but no one else. Details of data management are discussed in section 3.8 .

3.5.5. Data Analysis

The survey results were analyzed using SPSS statistical analysis software running on Windows, accessed through a virtual lab environment supported by FSU. First, the Likert scales were analyzed to determine the internal consistency and reliability of the scales via Cronbach’s alpha, following the procedures related by George and Mallery (2010). Individual items were dropped from a scale if their removal would increase the Cronbach’s alpha (and the reliability) of the overall scale. This procedure and its results are detailed in Chapter 4 , section 4.2.1 . The average of the remaining items in the scale was then taken, resulting in one value ranging from one to five for each of the concepts being measured. Combined with the demographic variables collected in the second half of the study, these were analyzed using appropriate, mostly nonparametric statistics including chi-square analysis, Mann-Whitney U tests, median tests, Kruskal-Wallis tests, Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and Kendall’s τ correlations (see Chapter 4 , section 4.2 for details).

3.6. Interviews

Qualitative interviewing, used in the third phase of this study, is a descriptive and interpretive research method that seeks meaning (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). While interviewers may seek basic facts, explanations, and statistics, nuanced explorations and descriptions of phenomena are of core interest. Interviews in qualitative and mixed-methods research projects are used "to understand themes of the lived daily world from the [participants’] own perspectives" (p. 24), through researcher interpretation of "the meaning of the described phenomena" (p. 27). Interviews for research purposes are often seen as a form of "professional conversation" (p. 2; see also Lincoln & Guba, 1985a, p. 268; Sutton, 2010, p. 4388) between the interviewer and the interviewee, on given themes introduced by the interviewer but assumed to be of mutual interest to the interviewee. The two "act in relation to each other and reciprocally influence each other" (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 32). Interviewees choose specific instances, examples, or areas within the chosen theme(s) to discuss with the interviewer.

Interviews serve as a source of data on phenomena from the past, present, or (potential) future of interviewees, including "persons, events, activities, organizations, feelings, motivations, claims, concerns, … other entities" (Lincoln & Guba, 1985a, p. 268), and the complex interrelations between all of these. Interviews can help to verify ("member check"), extend, and triangulate data and information already obtained via other methods (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; Lincoln & Guba, 1985a). They allow for the gathering of research data when the researcher or his/her colleagues cannot conduct an ethnographic participant observation due to time, location, language, or other constraints (Sutton, 2010).

This dissertation study used semi-structured qualitative interviews employing the critical incident technique (Fisher & Oulton, 1999; Flanagan, 1954; Woolsey, 1986) to explore and describe the phenomena surrounding the roles of LibraryThing and Goodreads, as boundary objects, within and across social and information worlds. Interviews helped find nuances and details that were not possible to determine through the survey questionnaire and were missed, glossed over, or not observable during content analysis. The following sections discuss the strengths of interviews for this study, the chosen unit of analysis, population and sampling procedures, design of the interview instrument, procedures used for conducting the interviews, and data analysis.

3.6.1. Strengths of Interviews

The strengths of qualitative interviews are a good fit with the framework and perspective taken in this dissertation. These strengths are evidenced by many of the studies of social digital libraries reviewed in Chapter 2 using interviews (Bishop, 1999; Bishop et al., 2000; Chu, 2008; Farrell et al., 2009; Marchionini et al., 2003; Star et al., 2003; Van House, 2003; You, 2010) and the frequent use of interviews in studies of social and information worlds and of boundary objects (see Burnett, Burnett, et al., 2009; Burnett, Subramaniam, et al., 2009; Chatman, 1992; Clarke & Star, 2008; Gal et al., 2004; Gibson, 2011, 2013; Kazmer & Haythornthwaite, 2001). Thick, nuanced description of meanings, close to users’ thoughts (Forsythe, 2001; Geertz, 1973; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009), was intended to help expose the social construction of these meanings and of the phenomena of social and information worlds, which happened (see Chapter 4 , section 4.3 ). Since true ethnographic observation would be difficult to arrange and could miss the social elements of interest, qualitative interviews were the best choice for returning rich, descriptive data on participants’ social and information worlds and the roles LibraryThing and Goodreads play in them. The qualitative interviewing literature states that its flexibility as a technique addresses the different contexts interviewees—with varying interests and backgrounds—come from, allowing the interviewer to adjust (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009; Westbrook, 1997); this was true in practice in this case. The development of rapport can build opportunities for future follow-up, longitudinal research with the same participants, exploring the results of this study in greater detail (Westbrook, 1997). The understanding of participants of the roles of LibraryThing and Goodreads in the social and information worlds they are part of is at the core of this study, and the obtaining of descriptions and perspectives of participants’ "lived worlds" and their "understanding of the meanings in their lived world" was an appropriate use of interviews and played to their strengths (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009, p. 116).

3.6.2. Unit of Analysis

The unit of analysis chosen for the interview phase of the study was the individual user of LibraryThing or Goodreads. These users were understood, as in the survey phase, to be part of one or more social or information worlds, and their participation in and responses to the interview informed analysis of the roles of LibraryThing and Goodreads in their experiences, in these existing worlds, and in the potential emergence of new worlds. As discussed above and in Chapter 2 , while individuals were interviewed the theoretical framework underlying this proposed study allowed for multi-leveled analysis, taking advantage of the strengths of interviews over other methods while minimizing their weaknesses.

3.6.3. Population and Sampling

The broader population of LibraryThing and Goodreads users totals over 26 million people; as with the survey phase of the study, sampling from this large population would present major logistical challenges. Given the existing sample of users selected to take the survey, restricting the sample of potential interview participants to this subgroup of the population—a ready-made sampling frame—provides a manageable task, if perhaps not anything approaching a true random sample. This method of sampling is appropriate in this case since data is available from the survey about these users, their social and information worlds, and the roles LibraryThing and Goodreads may play in them, leading to more insightful interview data.

The interview phase used purposive sampling of users whose survey responses indicated they could provide insightful data on the roles of LibraryThing and Goodreads in existing and emergent social and information worlds. Determination of this indication was done by looking at the content analysis and survey findings and prioritizing which scores on which variables were most of interest. Users who indicated they would be willing to participate in follow-up research served as the sampling frame, from which participants were sampled and chosen with an eye towards obtaining thick description (Geertz, 1973) of the picture of the phenomena under study, given other constraints such as time and availability. As interviews continued towards saturation, these criteria were reviewed and revised, and ensuring that interviewees were at least moderately representative of the group of survey participants became a concern. True and complete representativeness is not necessary when using qualitative interviewing, but saturation of findings is a necessary requirement (Bauer & Aarts, 2000; Gaskell & Bauer, 2000; Westbrook, 1997), and so sampling continued "until further exemplars"—interviewees in this study—"fail[ed] to add new nuances or to contradict what is understood" from the existing collected data (Westbrook, 1997, p. 147). This sampling method was chosen to obtain data to answer the research questions—from the interviews and in combination with findings from the other two methods—and to provide an accurate representation of LibraryThing and Goodreads in the context of the communities of users from the nine groups selected at the beginning of the content analysis phase.

Participants who were selected due to expectations they would provide insightful data through an interview were invited to take part via the e-mail addresses they provided when confirming their willingness to participate in an interview. The letter prospective interviewees were sent is in Appendix A , section A.3.1 . An initial sample of six prospective interviewees—three from each digital library—was e-mailed at first, to allow interviews to be arranged within a week or two of the contact date and not be forgotten about by participants if scheduled too far in advance. Further prospective participants were invited every week or two thereafter, when necessary to increase the sample size. If and when selected users did not respond to the initial request, a second request was made one to two weeks later, except in the cases at the end of the interview data collection when saturation had been reached. New users replaced the original ones in the sample if the latter did not respond after two to three weeks. Pretest

Prior to collection of actual interview data, the interview instrument and procedures (as discussed in the next two sections) were pretested with an additional convenience sample of two FSU School of Information alumni and one FSU School of Information faculty member who helped pretest the survey. The procedures for this were identical to the procedures discussed below for the main interview phase. Pretesting allowed for potential refinement of the instrument and procedures, ensuring questions are understandable by a broader population, and making any necessary adjustments to the sampling method for the main interviewing process. No transcriptions or data analysis from this pretest took place, and audio recordings that were made to test procedures were only used to refine the interview instrument and procedures; they were deleted once the main interviews began. No specific changes were made to the instrument, although the potential need for additional prompting in association with a few questions was observed; quirks and foibles of the recording software were discovered, leading to tighter and more careful following of recording steps for the main set of interviews.

3.6.4. Instrument Design

The interviews were semi-structured; they used an instrument as a guide, but were treated as a conversation guided by the interviewer’s questions and the interviewees’ personal responses and reflections (Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009; Lincoln & Guba, 1985a). The instrument, included in Appendix C, provided pre-planned questions and themes, but additional follow-up questions and prompts not included in the instrument emerged from the conversation and its natural progression. This allowed key themes related to the research questions to be discussed and focused on without restricting the interview to no more than a given set of questions in advance (cf. Suchman & Jordan, 1990).

Key themes explored in the interviews included

  • participants’ use of LibraryThing or Goodreads, focusing on use as a boundary object;
  • the social and information worlds of participants, and their relationship to LibraryThing or Goodreads;
  • the characteristics of these social and information worlds—their social norms, social types, information values, information behaviors, activities, organizations, sites, and technologies—and their impact on the user and their use of LibraryThing or Goodreads;
  • translation between, coherence across, and convergence of social and information worlds, via LibraryThing or Goodreads; and
  • the emergence of new social or information worlds through translation, convergence, or related activities and behaviors of LibraryThing or Goodreads users.

Focusing on critical incidents (Fisher & Oulton, 1999; Flanagan, 1954; Woolsey, 1986) of times when users interacted with others using the LibraryThing or Goodreads digital libraries helped provide a rich environment and context for exploration of these themes in detail with each interviewee. Among the interviews the degree of focus by individuals on the critical incident versus the broader spectrum of their use varied, but this was accepted as a natural, emergent element of the interviews, and follow-up questions and prompts were used to ensure sufficient data was elucidated on the incidents. The questions included in the instrument and in prompts and follow-ups used drew from the advice set down by Kvale and Brinkmann (2009, pp. 130–140) in their discussion of scripting interviews and types of interview questions, including

  • introducing themes before asking detailed questions;
  • focusing on descriptions of what occurred and how during critical incidents, instead of why it happened (at least to begin with);
  • following up on responses as appropriate;
  • seeking projection of interviewees’ opinions or the opinions of others in their social and information worlds; and
  • checking the researcher’s interpretation of previous findings and interview responses.

3.6.5. Data Collection Procedures

As mentioned above, prior to collection of actual interview data the interview instrument and procedures was pretested with two FSU iSchool graduate alumni and one FSU iSchool faculty member. Preparation and recording

After participants agreed to be interviewed by replying to the invitation discussed in section 3.6.3 , a specific date and time was arranged for the interview to take place. Since no participants were at locations close to Tallahassee (and few were expected to be), face-to-face interviews would have been difficult to accomplish. For this reason, it was planned that interviews would take place using online audiovisual media, as popular in studies of "Internet-based activity … where the research participants are already comfortable with online interactions" (Kazmer & Xie, 2008, pp. 257–258). Interviewees were offered a choice of Skype (, Google Hangouts (accessible via, Apple FaceTime (, or telephone. Interviews were audio recorded, with interviewee permission; GarageBand ( and Soundflower ( software were used to record Skype and Apple FaceTime calls, while telephone calls were recorded via Google Hangouts, Google Voice (, GarageBand, and Soundflower software. No users chose Google Hangouts, and more than expected chose telephone calls; while online audiovisual media were the intended plan, interviewees’ preferences were attended to, and this did not cause any major issues with collecting interview data.

The interviewer took any notes he felt necessary on his impressions of the interview as soon as the interview has concluded, to not distract the interviewee with note taking but help ensure an accurate capturing of the interview process. Most interviews took between 40 and 55 minutes; full details are given in Chapter 4 , section 4.3 . These interview procedures allowed for a level of data equivalent to or greater than face-to-face interviews to be gathered, eliminating any potential weaknesses from a non-traditional interview setting while maintaining the strengths of synchronous interviews (Kazmer & Xie, 2008). Introduction and informed consent

The interview process began with introductions, thanking the interviewees for participating, explaining the logistics of the interview, and ensuring that informed consent was obtained. Since obtaining written consent in person was not possible, participants were e-mailed a link to a page (the content for which is shown in Appendix A , section A.3.2 ) requesting their consent for the interviews, including the interview informed consent form, a couple of days before the interview. (This used the same FSU-partnered Qualtrics system as for the survey.) I requested interviewees to review this page and ask any questions they had. Before the interview recording began, consenting participants clicked an "I consent" button at the bottom of the page; some did this before audio or video contact was made, others waited until I directed them there just before the interview began. I then reviewed "the nature and purpose of the interview" with the interviewee, to ensure they knew the overall theme and topic of discussion (Lincoln & Guba, 1985a, p. 270). Prior to the critical incident portion of the interview, I asked a general, "grand tour"-type question (with follow-up prompts as necessary) to explore participants’ use of LibraryThing or Goodreads, the reasons for this use, and the groups they participate in. Critical incident technique

The biggest portion of the interview employed the critical incident technique, a flexible interviewing technique intended to obtain "certain important facts concerning behavior in defined situations" (Flanagan, 1954, p. 335). First developed for use in aviation psychology, it has become a popular interviewing technique in the social sciences, education, and business, including LIS (Butterfield, Borgen, Amundson, & Maglio, 2005; Fisher & Oulton, 1999; Urquhart et al., 2003; Woolsey, 1986). It is often used in exploratory research to build theories, models, or frameworks for later testing and refinement, as typified by Savolainen’s (1995) research establishing his Everyday Life Information Seeking (ELIS) model. Flanagan (1954) outlined five main stages in the technique. The first two stages are to provide further operational definitions and structure for interviews, which have been discussed in the sections above. The fourth and fifth, procedures for analysis and interpretation of data gathered from interviews, are discussed in sections 3.6.6 and 3.7 below.

The third stage is the actual collection of a critical incident from each interviewee. In a critical incident interview, after initial introductions and formalities, the interviewer asks the interviewee to recall an incident where given situation(s) or behavior(s) occurred, as defined during the previous stages. Per Flanagan (1954), these incidents should be recent enough to ensure participants have not forgotten the details of them. Specific language is used to get interviewees to think of such an incident. In this study, the following language was used, with slight changes incorporated in the context of a given interview:

Now I’d like you to think of a time within the past few weeks where you interacted with others, either people you already knew or people you did not know, while using [LibraryThing / Goodreads]. (Pause until such an incident is in mind, or gently prompt the interviewee if they have trouble recollecting one.) Could you tell me about this interaction and how it came about?

This initial question allowed interviewees to refresh their memory of the incident by going over it in their mind, and provided data on their overall impressions of the interaction and how it came about. After this initial discussion, I guided the conversation with gentle prompts and follow-up questions designed to steer the conversation about the incident to the themes mentioned in section 3.6.4 above. Main questions were included in the interview instrument (see Appendix C ); prompts were not. All questions and prompts were aimed at eliciting "the beliefs, opinions, … suggestions … thoughts, feelings, and [reasons] why participants behaved" that way during their interaction (Butterfield et al., 2005, p. 490), in the context of LibraryThing or Goodreads and the social and information worlds at play in the incident. Finishing up

Once the critical incident had been explored at length, the interview concluded with final questions intended to help validate and generalize the findings obtained from the critical incident portion of the interview, a process often called "member checking" (Lincoln & Guba, 1985a). I gave an overall impression of the role or roles I felt LibraryThing or Goodreads played in the incident and in the interviewee’s overall use of the site, and would ask if the impression seemed correct to the interviewee or—if they responded before I could get to that part—engaged them in further reflective conversation. Interviews confirmed if the incidents participants shared matched their overall experiences. The interview concluded by me thanking interviewees for their time and participation, and answering any questions they had (as a couple did about where the research was going or when they would hear about the overall findings). As mentioned above, as soon as the interview was over I took time to write up any notes I felt were necessary, to capture any elements of the experience that risked being lost due to fading memory. Interviewees were then thanked again for their participation and help via e-mail follow-ups a few days to a week later.

3.6.6. Data Analysis

All interview audio was transcribed by the researcher, who used Audacity software ( to play back the interview and Microsoft Word to enter the transcription. Parts found to be difficult to understand could be slowed down or amplified in volume using the built-in features of the Audacity software; it provided noise reduction features that were helpful for one or two interview recordings. Any notes taken not already in digital form were transcribed. All notes, audio, and transcriptions were stored as discussed in section 3.8 .

Data analysis proceeded in a similar fashion to the content analysis phase of the study. Transcripts and notes were imported into NVivo 10 qualitative analysis software, which was used to look over each file and assign codes to sentences and passages. As with the earlier qualitative method, the codes assigned draw from boundary object theory, the social worlds perspective, and the theory of information worlds, which served as an interpretive and theoretical framework for analyzing the meaning of interview responses. They can be found in section 3.7 below. Open codes not included in the list but judged to be emergent in the data and relevant to the study’s purpose and research questions could be assigned during the coding process, as recommended by Charmaz (2006) and Kvale and Brinkmann (2009, p. 202), among others; these codes included open codes from the content analysis phase. Measures to ensure the trustworthiness of the data and analysis were taken as discussed in section 3.9 .

3.7. Qualitative Data Analysis

All qualitative data—consisting of the messages collected for the content analysis and transcripts and notes from the interviews—were imported into NVivo 10 qualitative analysis software, which was used to look over each transcript and assign codes.

For analysis, an approach similar to grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1994) and its constant comparative method was taken, but without the same focus on open coding. Codes were first applied to sentences in messages or in participants’ interview responses (as transcribed). Only the lowest, most detailed level of codes, as presented in the codebook (as 3.7.2 and 3.7.3 below), were applied. Two exceptions to sentence-level coding were allowed. For the content analysis phase, no more than two codes could be applied to an entire message if there was clear evidence for them throughout the message. For the interview phase, no more than two codes could be applied to a paragraph, answer to a question, or short exchange (no more than half a page) if there was clear evidence for them throughout the paragraph, answer, or exchange. No other exceptions were allowed to this rule; codes could not be applied to units smaller than sentences (to provide sufficient context), and were required to be applied individually to multiple messages, answers, or exchanges. Memos and annotations were made to explain any cases where code(s) were applied across multiple sentences within a message or interview transcript at once, and to explain codes in greater detail where deemed necessary; a general rule of "if in doubt, add an annotation" was followed throughout analysis. These rules were refined and clarified after initial pilot testing, details of which are given in section 3.7.1 below.

After initial analysis, higher levels of analysis looked at the coding in the context of paragraphs, entire messages, message threads, and larger portions of interview transcripts, considering these in light of other threads, messages, and interviews. Throughout the coding and analysis process, consideration of the social and information worlds was explicitly multi-leveled: worlds of multiple sizes, shapes, and types were considered throughout the processes of collecting and analyzing data. The boundaries of these worlds, and where these worlds fell on the continuum of existing and emergent worlds, was considered emergent from the data, based on the conceptual, theoretical, and operational definitions given in earlier sections and in the coding scheme below. Memos and annotations were provided to explain the levels of social and information worlds under consideration, especially when boundary-related codes were applied.

The search, query, and report features of NVivo were used in further analysis and the writing of sections 4.1 and 4.3 of Chapter 4 . While messages and individual interviews (as the units of analysis) and sentences within them were coded as individual units, higher level units—passages, threads, groups, social and information worlds, and LibraryThing and Goodreads—were considered as the analysis proceeded. This allowed findings and conclusions to be drawn at multiple levels, as can be seen in Chapters 4 and 5 .

3.7.1. Pilot Testing and Resulting Changes

Pilot testing of the coding scheme and analysis procedures was conducted prior to the content analysis phase. Two fellow FSU iSchool doctoral students, having basic familiarity with the theories incorporated into the theoretical framework used here, were recruited to test intercoder reliability. Each student volunteer was provided with a "quick reference" version of the coding scheme in sections 3.7.2 and 3.7.3 below, with the final version used by the researcher as a guide for analysis included in Appendix D . Pilot test coders were given a summary of the coding rules and guidelines discussed herein. The second volunteer discussed the coding scheme, rules, and guidelines at some length with the researcher—including some brief practice coding—before coding began, and both volunteers took part in debriefing sessions with the researcher after coding had been completed. The researcher and the first volunteer coded the messages selected for the pilot test of the content analysis phase—120 messages, 60 each from one LibraryThing and Goodreads group. Changes were made after this coding cycle based on intercoder reliability statistics—using Cohen’s (1960) kappa as calculated by NVivo—and qualitative and holistic analysis of the results, and a second cycle proceeded. Further changes were made after this second cycle.

Changes were made to address weaknesses identified in the original procedures, coding scheme, and theoretical framework, to help ensure theoretical and operational clarity. Changes made after the first cycle were as follows:

Codes were only to be applied at the sentence level, with two exceptions as mentioned earlier.

Memos and annotations were stressed, especially to explain codes applied at levels higher than the sentence level and to explain coding in greater detail where deemed necessary.

Boundaries of worlds were to be considered emergent from the data, with memos and annotations recommended to explain the level of social and information worlds under consideration.

Definitions for all concepts were refined and tightened.

Cases where social norms or information value had broad application, across substantial parts of a thread or interview, were to be memoed or annotated instead of coded, since the latter was seen to be of less use for later analysis.

Information behavior was tightened, to consider only behavior that was normative at some level and to exclude general occurrences of information behavior, since under the latter interpretation whole threads and interviews could be coded.

If it was unclear whether a new world—of any size or scale—had truly emerged, memos and annotations were recommended to express the degree of confidence.

Three subcodes were added to account for different cases of LibraryThing or Goodreads acting as a standard boundary object: as an emergent site, an emergent technology / ICT, or another type of emergent boundary object.

Changes were made after the second cycle of coding and discussion among the researcher and multiple committee members, as follows:

The distinction between existing and emergent was stressed to be along a continuum, and to be a phenomenon that would emerge from the research data, similar to the size and shape of the worlds and their boundaries. Memos and annotations were further stressed to elaborate on where given cases fall on this continuum.

Codes and procedures were acknowledged to be complex, and to be using theories that had not been combined in previous research; the theoretical framework is emergent. As such, intercoder reliability statistics—as run using Cohen’s (1960) kappa after each coding cycle of the pilot test and initially planned for a portion of the interview data—were considered a less appropriate measure of the potential trustworthiness, credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability of the findings than originally thought. Both pilot tests showed that reaching high statistical levels of intercoder reliability would require extensive training of other coders—difficult if not impossible in dissertation research—and much fine-tuning of rules and procedures, fine-tuning that does not fit the interpretive and social constructionist paradigms in use for this research. Other techniques for ensuring qualitative trustworthiness (Gaskell & Bauer, 2000; Lincoln & Guba, 1985), already built into the study (see section 3.9.3 ), would now be emphasized alongside intracoder reliability checking at the conclusion of the study; results of the latter are included in Chapter 4 .

The following sections present the coding scheme used for each research question, as revised after the pilot testing. Section 3.7.2 includes the codes focusing on existing social and information worlds (RQ1), while section 3.7.3 includes the codes focusing on emergent social and information worlds (RQ2). The distinction between existing and emergent was treated as along a continuum, where the degree to which a world is existing or emergent was allowed to emerge from the research data. Frequent memos and annotations were made on this during analysis. An operational definition is given for the concept each code represents, as used in the coding and analysis of data from the content analysis and interviews phases. These definitions come from the literature review presented in Chapter 2 and the theories and theoretical framework described therein, with contributions from definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary’s online version ( where necessary and appropriate. A summarized version of the coding scheme, used as a quick reference during coding and analysis, is included as Appendix D.

3.7.2. Existing Worlds translation.

Star and Griesemer (1989) defined translation as "the task of reconciling [the] meanings" of objects, methods, and concepts across social worlds (p. 388) so people can "work together" (p. 389). Multiple translations, gatekeepers, or "passage points" can exist between different social worlds (p. 390). This was operationalized as the process of reconciliation and translation of meanings—taken to include understandings—between different people, social worlds, or information worlds. Coherence

While Star and Griesemer (1989) never gave coherence an explicit, glossary-style definition, it can be conceptualized as the degree of consistency between different translations and social or information worlds. Boundary objects play a critical role "in developing and maintaining coherence across intersecting social worlds" (p. 393). Coherence was operationalized using the common characteristics of social and information worlds, coded under the definitions given below. Coding took place at the level of these characteristics, not for coherence in general.

Social norms : Burnett, Besant, and Chatman (2001, p. 537) defined social norms as the "standards of ‘rightness’ and ‘wrongness’ in social appearances" that apply in an information world. Jaeger and Burnett (2010, p. 22) restated this as "a world’s shared sense of the appropriateness—the rightness or *wrongness—*of social appearances and observable behaviors." Drawing from these, social norms were operationally defined as the common standards and sense of appropriate (right or wrong) behaviors, activities, and social appearances in an information world. In some cases, a substantial part of or an entire thread or interview could be seen as socially normative, but it was decided that in those cases the social norms code would not be applied to every message or sentence, as doing so would not be of much use for later analysis. Instead, a memo or annotation was made to note and discuss the application of social norms to large parts of a thread or interview.

Social types : Burnett et al. (2001, p. 537) defined social types as "the [social] classification of a person." Jaeger and Burnett (2010, p. 22) elaborated on this, stating social types are "the ways in which individuals are perceived and defined within the context of their [information] world." This was operationalized following the latter definition and to include explicit and implicit roles, status, and hierarchy.

Information value : Jaeger and Burnett (2010, p. 35) defined information value as "a shared sense of a relative scale of the importance of information, of whether particular kinds of information are worth one’s attention or not." Such values may include, but are not limited to, "emotional, spiritual, cultural, political, or economic value—or some combination" (p. 35). Values may be explicit and acknowledged, or implicit within message content or interview responses. A succinct operational definition, used in this study for coding, is that information value is a shared sense, explicit or implicit, of the relative scale of the importance—emotionally, spiritually, culturally, politically, and/or economically—of information and whether it is worth attention. As with social norms, if a substantial part of or an entire thread or interview was seen as expressing the shared information values of a world, the code was not applied to every message or sentence; instead a memo or annotation was used.

Information behavior and activities : Burnett and Jaeger (2008, "Small worlds" section, para. 8) defined information behavior as "the full spectrum of normative [information] behavior … available to members of a … world"; this was restated in different words by Jaeger and Burnett (2010, p. 23). Information behavior can include seeking, searching, sharing, or use of data, information, or knowledge; communication and interaction; and avoidance of data, information, or knowledge. Strauss (1978) did not provide an explicit definition of activities, but his use of the word within the social worlds perspective corresponds with one of its senses in the Oxford English Dictionary: "something which a person, animal, or group chooses to do; an occupation, a pursuit" ("Activity," 2012). A slight restriction was placed on this operationally, that the "something" should have an informational component (with information construed to include data and knowledge). Operationally, this code was used to identify occurrences of normative, chosen information behavior and information-based occupations or pursuits—defined broadly—by members of a world. Such behavior had to be normative at some level to be coded, and general occurrence of information behavior were not coded, since under such an interpretation whole threads and interviews could be construed as such.

Organizations : Strauss (1978) stated social worlds may have "temporary divisions of labor" at first, but "organizations inevitably evolve to further one aspect or another of the world’s activities." This sense is similar to the definition of an organization as "an organized body of people with a particular purpose" found in the Oxford English Dictionary ("Organization," 2012). A combination of the two was used for operational coding: organizations are organized, but possibly temporary bodies with the particular purpose of furthering one aspect or another of the world’s activities. Boundary object

Codes were applied for treatment of the digital library as a boundary object. This was operationalized by coding passages where the digital libraries cross the boundaries between multiple existing social or information worlds and are used within and adapted to many of them "simultaneously" (Star & Griesemer, 1989, p. 408) while "maintain[ing] a common identity across sites" (Star, 1989, p. 46). Instances of the boundary object’s use as a common site and information and communication technology (ICT) were coded using the definitions below. Coding took place at the level of these characteristics, not for boundary objects in general.

Common site : Strauss (1978) related sites to "space and shaped landscape"; the term’s use under the social worlds perspective corresponds to this sense given in the Oxford English Dictionary: "a position or location in or on something, esp. one where some activity happens or is done" ("Site," 2012). This location may be a physical, virtual, or metaphorical space, as seen in many of the concepts of community reviewed in Section 2.2. A succinct operational definition, used for coding, is that sites are spaces, positions, or locations—physical, virtual, or metaphorical—where information-related activities and behaviors take place.

Common information and communication technologies (ICTs) : Strauss (1978) defined technology as "inherited or innovative modes of carrying out the social world’s activities" (p. 122). ICTs are often referred to in the literature of LIS, knowledge management, education, and other fields without explicit definition, and there is no one historical source all uses stem from. Remaining compatible with most of this literature and adapting from the definitions of Strauss (1978) and the Oxford English Dictionary ("Technology," 2012), ICTs were operationalized for coding purposes as inherited or innovative processes, methods, techniques, equipment, or systems—developed from the practical application of knowledge—used for carrying out information or communication-related behaviors and activities.

3.7.3. Emergent Worlds convergence.

Convergence is seen in similar light to coherence, defined above as the degree of consistency between different translations and social or information worlds. Convergence was operationalized through the emergence of common characteristics in new social and information worlds (or proto-worlds), to be coded under the definitions given in section above for social norms , social types , information value , information behaviors / activities , and organizations . Coding took place at the level of these characteristics, not for convergence in general; coding was kept separate from that for these characteristics under coherence. If it was unclear whether a new world—of any size or scale—had truly emerged, memos and annotations were made to express the degree of emergence seen in the data. Boundary object as standard

Treatment of LibraryThing and Goodreads as a new, local standard for a new, emergent social or information world was coded in this category, to distinguish it from treatment of the digital libraries as boundary objects within and across existing information worlds ( section ). This will be operationalized under three subcodes, where all coding would take place:

Emergent site : Under the definition of sites given above, cases of LibraryThing or Goodreads serving as an emergent, standard, and influential space, position, or location for information-related activities and behaviors were coded here. Clear evidence of the digital library serving as a new standard site for an emergent world was necessary. This code could be applied alongside the "emergent technology" code below, and in many cases this happened.

Emergent technology / ICT : Under the definition of technologies given above, cases of LibraryThing or Goodreads providing emergent and standard processes, methods, techniques, equipment, or systems—developed from the practical application of knowledge—used for carrying out information or communication-related behaviors and activities in an emergent world were coded here. Clear evidence of the digital library providing or serving as a new standard technology within an emergent world was necessary. This code could be applied alongside the "emergent site" code above.

Emergent boundary object : Cases where LibraryThing or Goodreads served as an emergent, standard boundary object, but not as a site or technology, were coded here. Clear evidence of the digital library serving as such a role was necessary, and clear evidence that it was not serving as a site or technology was required. This code was expected to be rare and in reality was; it was applied only a few times in the content analysis and not at all in the analysis of the interviews. It was included to ensure all cases of LibraryThing or Goodreads serving as a new, standardized boundary object wer captured. This code was considered mutually exclusive with the "emergent site" and "emergent technology / ICT" codes above.

3.8. Data Management

I have kept all data from this study in digital format on my personal laptop computer. Survey data was kept in Microsoft Excel (.xls/.xlsx) format, interview audio in .mp3 format, and messages and interview transcripts in Microsoft Word (.doc/.docx) format. A password protected and encrypted disk image was created and used for all dissertation data, the password known to the researcher but no one else. Within this image, separate folders were created for each phase of the study. All data analyzed using the coding scheme discussed in section 3.7 above—including messages, interview transcripts, and notes—was also kept in an NVivo project (.nvp) file at the top level within the image. This disk image will be kept until the date arrives for destruction of records from this dissertation.

Filenames for data served and continue to serve as metadata, reflecting the source of the data (participant pseudonym or group name for individual data, phase name for collated results), the date it was collected, the digital library the data refers to (LibraryThing or Goodreads), and the type of data it represents (e.g. thread, survey response, interview transcript, interview notes, preliminary analysis). For example, bob_GR_transcript_022914 . doc could be the filename for the transcript—in Microsoft Word format—of an interview with "Bob," a Goodreads user, conducted on the fictional date February 29, 2014. Three additional spreadsheets (in Microsoft Excel format) were created to provide metadata. Two—one for LibraryThing and one for Goodreads—link participants’ names and e-mail addresses to their psuedonyms; the other has kept track of survey data for interviewees, and was used during interview recruitment to help determine who would be invited to participate.

Encrypted and password-protected backups of all research data have been made on a weekly basis (with rare exceptions due to travel) onto an external hard drive kept at the researcher’s home. Additional encrypted and password-protected backups have and will be made onto recordable CDs or DVDs, to be kept in a filing cabinet belonging to the researcher in the Shores Building on FSU’s main campus or, once the researcher leaves FSU, in a similar secure work location. All research data for this study, including backups, will be deleted and destroyed by April 30 th , 2019 (this date being fewer than five years from the completion of the study). Appropriate excerpts from the data (using pseudonyms) and synthesized data analysis, findings, and conclusions—including the completed dissertation, journal articles, and conference papers—may be shared with other researchers, scholars, and the general public up to and beyond the date given above. Future research data and findings building on the data collected and conclusions drawn during this study may be shared with other researchers, scholars, and the general public, subject to restrictions put in place by the researcher’s home institution and funding source(s) at the time of such research.

3.9. Validity, Reliability, and Trustworthiness

3.9.1. holistic: mixed methods, case studies.

The validity and reliability of mixed methods studies can be assessed in two ways (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011). One can look at the research as a whole, considering the study’s design, interrelations, and how everything fits together to ensure high levels of validity and reliability. Towards this view, Creswell and Plano Clark provided a list of potential validity threats in mixed methods research and strategies for minimizing these threats (pp. 242–243), which have been followed throughout the design and execution of this research.

Yin (2003) provided similar guidance for case study designs, summarized in his Figure 2.3 (p. 34). Each of these has been implemented in this study as follows:

"Use multiple sources of evidence": Three different methods of data collection have been used, each sampling across different groups and users from LibraryThing and Goodreads.

"Establish chain of evidence": The methods were linked together and informed each other. Data from content analysis helped inform the survey instrument, while the content analysis and survey data helped inform the interview instrument, process, and analysis. Data from all three methods has been tied together in the overall findings and conclusions from the study (see Chapter 5 ).

"Have key informants review draft case study report": While this specific technique was not used, I confirmed with interviewees that my impression of the critical incident they shared was accurate prior to the conclusion of each interview. Participants who requested a report of the findings on completion will receive one within a few weeks after defense of this dissertation.

"Do pattern-matching": Here Yin refers to looking for "several pieces of information from the same case [that] may be related to some theoretical proposition" (p. 26). This study achieved this by maintaining a consistent focus on the same phenomena throughout all three phases and using the same themes—based on the theoretical framework developed in section 2.8 —for coding the messages (in the content analysis phase) and interview transcripts (in the interview phase).

"Do explanation-building": Here Yin refers to establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between patterns in data and theoretical propositions. The pattern-matching above, combined with the theoretical framework discussed in section 2.8 and the philosophical and epistemological viewpoint provided by social informatics and social constructionism, allowed such explanations to be developed through synthesis of data from all three phases (see Chapter 5 , sections 5.1 and 5.2 ).

"Address rival explanations": While I admit favoring the theories used in the theoretical framework developed in section 2.8 , other theories related to communities, collaboration, information behavior, and knowledge management—reviewed elsewhere in Chapter 2 —could have provided a better explanation. The existing literature in these areas and my knowledge of them is used in later sections of Chapter 5 to address possibilities beyond the theoretical framework that relate to the findings seen here.

"Use logic models": Due to limitations of this study (see Chapter 5 , section 5.7 ), a visual model may be premature at this point. I may develop figures, diagrams, and other visual aids to help present the findings as part of posters, conference papers, journal articles, and research presentations.

"Use theory in single-case studies; use replication logic in multiple-case studies": While this is a multiple-case design, only two cases are considered here. Theory—the theoretical framework in section 2.8 —and replication logic—multiple groups and two digital libraries—have played important roles in the design and execution of this dissertation study.

"Use case study protocol": Constraints placed on procedures by the two sites were unavoidable, but where possible the same procedures were used for LibraryThing and Goodreads. Messages were collected and analyzed the same way; surveys distributed, collected, and analyzed the same way; and interviews followed the same themes and procedures. The extra requirement to obtain the consent of group moderators put in place by Goodreads prior to collecting messages and survey responses from users of that digital library did not cause great differences in the data collected or its comparability with that from LibraryThing groups. The researcher took care to document the study as it proceeded, including deviations in procedures that became necessary; the most notable of these was the need to vary the intended statistics and accept greater limitations on the survey results than were at first intended, as discussed above and in Chapter 4 , section 4.2 .

"Develop case study database": Given few cases in this study, a formal database was not constructed. The data management procedures discussed in section 3.8 and NVivo qualitative analysis software—which runs on a Microsoft SQL Server database—provided similar benefits to Yin’s recommendation here.

While holistic consideration of validity and reliability is useful, a second approach is necessary: examining the validity and reliability of each phase of a mixed-methods study—quantitative and qualitative—as an individual method. Each type of research has "specific types of validity checks" to perform (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011, p. 239), since—despite the continuum mentioned by Ridenour and Newman (2008)—different methods require different measures of their reliability and validity. The two sections below take this approach and apply it to the quantitative—survey—and qualitative—content analysis and interview—phases of the dissertation study conducted here.

3.9.2. Quantitative: Survey

Validity and reliability for quantitative research are given substantial treatment in research methods textbooks, such as Schutt (2009, pp. 130–141) and Babbie (2007, pp. 143–149). The validity of the survey data can be broken down by the different types of validity these and other authors identify as used for quantitative research:

Face validity (Babbie, 2007, p. 146; Schutt, 2009, p. 132): Given that the survey questions were developed from the theories discussed in Chapter 2 and the theoretical framework developed in section 2.8 , each of which have face validity, the questions are judged to have met face validity for measuring the phenomena in question.

Measurement validity (Schutt, 2009, pp. 130–132): The survey questions were looked over by the researcher and his supervisory committee to ensure they did not suffer from idiosyncratic errors due to lack of understanding or unique feelings; from generic errors caused by outside factors; and from method factors such as unbalanced response choices or unclear questions. Attention paid to other kinds of validity helps improve measurement validity.

Content validity (Babbie, 2007, p. 147; Schutt, 2009, p. 132): Using multiple scales and multiple questions per scale helped the questions cover "the full range of [each] concept’s meaning" (p. 132) and the full range of the roles of LibraryThing and Goodreads in the social and information worlds of their users. The content analysis and interviews provided data from fewer users, but much thicker description of the phenomena of interest, as one would expect from qualitative research methods.

Criterion validity (Babbie, 2007, pp. 146–147; Schutt, 2009, pp. 132–134): This is difficult to measure here because no survey-based measures are known to have been developed for the theory of information worlds or boundary object theory prior to this study, and the social worlds perspective makes rare use of surveys. Schutt stated that "for many concepts of interest to social scientists, no other variable can reasonably be considered a criterion" (p. 134); Babbie (2007, p. 147) advocated using construct validity in these cases instead. Fowler (2002, p. 89) made a similar argument for questions "about subjective states, feelings, attitudes, and opinions," believing "there is no objective way of validating the answers … [they] can be assessed only by their correlations with other answers," through construct validity.

Construct validity (Babbie, 2007, p. 147; Schutt, 2009, pp. 134–135): Most of the measures used in the survey significantly correlated with each other, as one would expect given their relations to each other in the social worlds perspective and the theory of information worlds.

Reliability (Babbie, 2007, pp. 143–146; Schutt, 2009, pp. 135–138): While the survey was not repeated by each participant, using multiple measures of each concept and triangulation of the findings via the content analysis and interview phases of the study served a similar role to measures of test-retest or pre- and post-test reliability in an experimental design. The reliability of the scales was analyzed, while the randomization of survey questions (except the demographic questions) helped improve reliability.

3.9.3. Qualitative: Content Analysis and Interviews

A few qualitative and mixed methods researchers hold to positivistic treatments of validity and reliability, requiring use of quantitative measures such as intercoder percentage agreement, Holsti’s (1969) coefficient of reliability, Cohen’s (1960) kappa, or Krippendorf’s (2004b) alpha. Most qualitative researchers, however, argue validity and reliability should not be ported over from quantitative to qualitative research with no changes, nor ignored; instead they must be adapted and changed to fit the naturalistic and ethnographic nature of most qualitative research (Gaskell & Bauer, 2000; Golafshani, 2003; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009; Lincoln & Guba, 1985b; Ridenour & Newman, 2008). Which adaptations and changes should be put into place for qualitative research is the subject of debate (Golafshani, 2003). Golafshani found "credibility, … confirmability, … dependability … transferability," and "trustworthiness"—the last term preferred by Lincoln and Guba (1985b)—to be the most often terms used to describe the validity of qualitative research. No matter what term is chosen, validity is "inescapably grounded in the processes and intentions of particular [qualitative] research methodologies and projects" (Winter, 2000, p. 1, as cited in Golafshani, 2003, p. 602). Dependability and trustworthiness were the closest linked to reliability in qualitative research by Golafshani (p. 601) and Lincoln and Guba (1985b).

This dissertation research study, while drawing from all of the sources cited above, adapted the criteria and techniques cited by Gaskell and Bauer (2000) and Lincoln and Guba (1985b) for ensuring the validity and reliability of the qualitative phases of the study. These are discussed below, following four broader categories of trustworthiness outlined by Lincoln and Guba. Credibility

The sequential, multiphase design allowed for prolonged engagement with the environment—19 months from prospectus defense to dissertation defense—and persistent, detailed observation of the phenomena under consideration. Using an approach for coding and analysis similar to the constant comparative method of grounded theory (Charmaz, 2006; Strauss & Corbin, 1994) helped ensure breadth and depth. Methods were triangulated via the sequential, multiphase design, where each method reflexively informed and was informed by the others and the theoretical framework developed in section 2.8 . The theoretical framework provides two perspectives—the lenses of the social worlds perspective and the theory of information worlds—that were triangulated in analysis, and the researcher was and is familiar with other social theories, models, and concepts of information and information behavior, some of which apply to the findings (see the later sections of Chapter 5 ). Triangulation of multiple investigators was difficult given the individual nature of a dissertation project, but the input of the dissertation committee and the researcher’s colleagues was considered and welcomed at appropriate stages. Using member checking in the interview process and later methods in the sequential design to check earlier ones led to greater credibility for the study and produced a high level of communicative validity.

Statistical intercoder reliability testing, while used during the pilot testing of the content analysis procedures, was later and is now considered less appropriate for this study; the combination of theories incorporated in the theoretical framework was being used for the first time, and as such the coding scheme and framework should be considered at least somewhat emergent. The coding scheme and procedures are acknowledged to have been quite complex. Statistics such as Cohen’s (1960) kappa or Krippendorff’s (2004) alpha are not very compatible with this exploratory study, using an emergent framework, and following an interpretive approach to analysis (Ahuvia, 2001). The pilot testing of the content analysis procedures, incorporating intercoder reliability testing with Cohen’s kappa, showed that reaching high statistical levels of intercoder reliability would require extensive training of other coders—difficult if not impossible in dissertation research—and much fine-tuning of rules and procedures, fine-tuning that might be appropriate for a non-dissertation, post-positivistic study, but does not mesh with the interpretive and social constructionist paradigms in use here nor fit with the nature and resources of dissertation research. Intracoder reliability testing was performed, using percent agreement and Cohen’s kappa, for the content analysis and interviews; this is reported in Chapter 4 at the beginning of each section of findings. Stressing of the other measures discussed here to address credibility and qualitative trustworthiness is believed to have been enough to overcome any limitations caused by not using intercoder reliability statistics. Transferability

Every effort was made in the prospectus to be transparent in how the research would be conducted, and such transparency carried over to the research and to writing this dissertation. The data collection for the content analysis and interview phases was constructed to provide valid and complete results, from reaching saturation, leading to insightful analysis; this has occurred. As seen in Chapters 4 and 5, the data allow for thick description (Geertz, 1973) of the phenomena in context, taken from messages and interview transcripts, which can allow other researchers to assess the potential transferability of the research findings to other settings. Dependability

As discussed above, every effort has been made to be transparent in the conduct of this research. The data collection for the content analysis and interview phases provides valid and complete results, having reached saturation, leading to insightful analysis. I remained transparent with users who were surveyed and interviewed, disclosing the full and true purpose of the study and not engaging in deception. Using participants whose survey or content analysis data indicated they would provide interest and insight in an interview helped satisfy Gaskell and Bauer’s call for revealing and relevant findings, and I feel what is found in Chapters 4 and 5 also fits. By ensuring saturation was reached in the interviews, the dependability of the study is increased further. While the inquiry audit suggested by Lincoln and Guba was not implemented for this study, the process of defending the prospectus and dissertation and the guidance of the dissertation committee throughout the process has served a similar purpose. Confirmability

The data analysis process included memoing, annotating, and note taking at appropriate moments, including reflective comments on the data and the researcher’s experience. The researcher noted any and all reflective comments on the research study, theoretical framework, data collection process, and data analysis process during all phases of the project. Triangulation (as discussed above) helped ensure confirmability. While the formal confirmability audit suggested by Lincoln and Guba—examining if findings, interpretations, and recommendations are supported by the data—was not implemented for this study, the process of defending the dissertation serves a similar purpose.

3.10. Ethical Considerations

This study is not known to have violated any ethical principles or procedures. The content analysis phase used messages accessible to the public, posted in LibraryThing and Goodreads groups, as its source of data. The identities of the users who posted each message remains confidential. Usernames have been used to allow for identifying common message authors in a thread, for analysis of the flow of conversation, and for identifying potential participants for later phases of the study, but have not been and will not be part of further analysis, results, and publications. Identities have remained confidential throughout the survey and interview phases of the study, and will continue to do so after a defended dissertation. Psuedonyms have been and will continue to be used in any published or unpublished reports of the results and conclusions, and any other data or information with the potential to identify participants to people familiar with them has been altered for the purposes of this dissertation and future presentation and publication.

Informed consent was obtained from participants in the survey and interview phases, before they completed the survey instrument or participated in the main portion of the interview, and—as required by Goodreads for use of their digital library as a setting for this research (see Appendix A , section A.1 )—from the moderators of Goodreads groups. Their participation was voluntary; any participant who wished not to complete the survey or be interviewed, or wanted to request an interview be stopped or their survey data be deleted, would have been accommodated and allowed to not take part in or withdraw from the study. Moderators had the same right when it came to deciding if their group would take part in the study as a whole. No users or moderators who had previously consented expressed feeling uncomfortable and wishing to withdraw. Some moderators and potential interviewees did not respond to invitations, and one potential interviewee did not show up for her interview time and never responded to inquiries, but it is unclear why she chose to withdraw or why others were not interested in—in some cases further—participation. If any participants wish to withdraw their data from the study in the future, after already completing the survey or having been interviewed, their survey results, interview transcript, interview audio recording, and notes taken by the researcher after their interview will be removed from the data collected and analyzed as best as is possible, although their data will have already been analyzed and affected the conclusions drawn from data analysis (seen in Chapter 5 ). This is an unavoidable consequence and will be dealt with as best as possible by the researcher, should it occur.

On the opposite end of the research lifecycle, in two of the LibraryThing groups—which will not be named to maintain confidentiality and not "rock the boat" where it is unnecessary—a small number of users (five to ten) responded to the survey invitation post with comments disliking the survey instrument or facing confusion over the questions asked. I answered the questions and queries as best as possible without causing excessive bias in the survey results, but there was not much that could be done to please some users. They were, strictly speaking, not expressing any uncomfortable feelings—if anything they made me more uncomfortable than my survey had done to them—but this is worth noting as a negative reaction. It was not the norm; most participants were happy to complete the survey without incident, and no harm or risks occurred to any participants, greater than those experienced in everyday life, as a result of viewing or completing the survey or participating in the research in other ways.

The study was explained to participants in all letters they received, at the beginning of the survey in the informed consent statement, in the interview informed consent statement, and in verbal form at the beginning of the interview; see Appendix A for the letter and consent forms. As such, participants should have had complete awareness of the potential risks (or lack thereof) and benefits, that their participation was and is voluntary, and of the compensation provided, before giving their informed consent for each phase of the data collection. Participants were not deceived in any way at any point during this study. The potential benefits to the participants, as users of the LibraryThing or Goodreads digital libraries, were great enough to outweigh any small possibility of harm or any risks discussed above. The identity and affiliation of the researcher was known to all prospective participants via the invitation letters and informed consent statements, and the purpose of the interview and reasoning behind it was reiterated to each interview participant at the start of their interview. There were no issues seen with the researcher (as interviewer) maintaining appropriate boundaries with participants during the interview phase of the study.

The FSU Human Subjects Committee, an institutional review board (IRB), approved this study, including the pilot test of the content analysis phase. Documentation of this approval can be found in Appendix E , section E.3 .

3.11. Conclusion

This chapter has presented the details of the method and procedures for this dissertation research study. The use of content analysis, a survey questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews in sequence within a mixed methods research design addressed the purpose of the research: to improve understanding of the organizational, cultural, institutional, collaborative, and social contexts of digital libraries. As stated in Chapter 1 and shown in Chapter 2 , these contexts have important effects on users, communities, and information behavior. There is a clear need for theoretical and practical research into the roles digital libraries play within, between, and across communities, social worlds, and information worlds. This study helps satisfy that need.

The research design is well-grounded in epistemology and theory, previous research, and previous and existing practice; Chapter 2 provides this necessary context. The study operates under the tenets of the social paradigm, social informatics, and social constructionism, and incorporates boundary object theory, the social worlds perspective, and the theory of information worlds into its theoretical framework. This design has allowed for data to be collected and analyzed, at multiple levels and using multiple methods, on the roles that LibraryThing and Goodreads, two cases of social digital libraries, play as boundary objects in translation, coherence, and convergence between existing and of emergent social and information worlds. Chapter 4 turns to presenting the findings from this data and analysis of it, with Chapter 5 providing greater synthesis and discussion of the findings, implications, and conclusions of this research.

The FSU iSchool was known at the time as the School of Library and Information Studies; for simplicity the newer name (which took effect in early 2014) will be used to refer to this entity in this dissertation. The older name is still present on the invitation letters and consent forms as approved by FSU’s Human Subjects Committee in Appendix A . ↩︎

Want to Get your Dissertation Accepted?

Discover how we've helped doctoral students complete their dissertations and advance their academic careers!

dissertation chapter 2 summary example

Join 200+ Graduated Students


Get Your Dissertation Accepted On Your Next Submission

Get customized coaching for:.

  • Crafting your proposal,
  • Collecting and analyzing your data, or
  • Preparing your defense.

Trapped in dissertation revisions?

Writing dissertation chapter 5: the biggest mistake students make, published by steve tippins on june 4, 2020 june 4, 2020.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 04:50 am

Chapter 5 of your dissertation is different from all of the previous four chapters.

If you’re beginning to write Chapter 5 of your dissertation, you know that most of the writing you’ve done up until now was fairly formulaic. You’ve probably been following templates with strict requirements about what needs to be included in each section and subsection. Even in Chapter 5, many schools will give you a template. But don’t let that fool you.

Regardless of whether you receive a rubric for it, Chapter 5 of your dissertation is unique. 

Your dissertation’s Chapter 5 is where you get to be more individualistic than in any other chapter and really “sing your song.” Why? It’s where you tell the reader what your results mean. Not just what they are, but what they mean. You tell them what they should take away from your study. You describe how your results can help others in the world or in the field. 

The Most Common Mistake Students Make When Writing Chapter 5 of Their Dissertation

close-up shot of a woman writing notes with a cup of cofee

The biggest mistake students make when writing their dissertation’s Chapter 5 is not writing enough. In fact, students often submit an “implications” section that’s only a few paragraphs.

As a committee member , it’s hard to see someone who has spent a year on a research topic and written 100+ pages about it and then get to the implications in Chapter 5 and see two paragraphs. This begs the question, “You mean this is all you have to say?”

Don’t cheat yourself in Chapter 5. Really explain and tell the story of what your results mean.

This is where you get to bring out your intellectual curiosity and help others really understand what you did and why you did it, what it means, and why it’s important. Of course, you’ll need to do this all within the guidelines of what your university will allow you to do. 

Normally Chapter 5 of a dissertation is about 15-20 pages. If it’s under ten pages, you’re really underselling your research. When you get to around 30-40 pages, your committee is going to wonder, “did all this come from your study?” or “couldn’t this have been said more succinctly?” 

Tips for Writing Dissertation Chapter 5

woman with orange sunglasses typing on her laptop next to a big window

Reference the Literature. If you’re stumped for things to write, look at what you said in Chapter 2 and tell the reader what your results mean in relation to what the researchers you quoted in Chapter 2 were talking about.l How you have added knowledge to the field?

dissertation chapter 2 summary example

Consider Your Defense. When you do the defense of your final document, Chapter 5 is where you end up at the end of your presentation. This is the last thing you talk about before you get to questions, and it’s where you may be able to answer questions before they come up. 

Address Your Problem and Purpose. Don’t forget to remind the reader what your problem statement and research questions were at the beginning of Chapter 5. Explain how your results apply to the problem and purpose.

Back Everything Up. Also remember that even though it’s your chance to interpret and even express yourself, you still have to back everything up. Use quotes or data points from your results section and relate it to other research.

Use a Bird’s Eye View. This is where you can use graphics, charts, graphs, or other data that are much broader in scope than you might use elsewhere. In Chapter 4, for example, you’re going to use a graph that specifically relates to a statistical test you did. In Chapter 5, you might use one that’s broader in scope if it fits the flow of what you’re writing.

Tell a story. While other chapters might have been written in more of a compartmentalized style because of their formulaic nature, in Chapter 5 you’re really telling the story of your research. In line with that, the writing will need more of a flow. 

Dissertation Chapter 5 Sample Template With Explanations

woman in all black clothes typing on her laptop


In the introduction, tell the reader what they’re going to learn in Chapter 5. Reiterate the problem and purpose statements and your research questions and, if appropriate, reference the results from Chapter 4.


This is where you tell people here’s what the results of your study mean and why they are important. It also acts as a summary or “summing up” of the data. “These people said this,” or “this statistic was significant.” Make sure to support what you say with the research findings and avoid drawing conclusions that are beyond the scope of the study results.

Then discuss the real-world application of your findings. For example, “This is an approach that could be used by schools to help autistic children have better learning outcomes,” or “this is a technique that investors can use to predict valuable stock market returns.” Again, make sure to stay within the scope of your study.

Place your study in context. Describe how the results respond to the study problem, align with the purpose, demonstrate significance, and contribute to the existing literature described in Chapter 2. 


The recommendations section is where you get to say, “and if you want to take this further, here are some suggestions for ways that this could be broadened or enhanced.” Here are some examples of what these suggestions could look like:

  • Different samples and populations
  • Ways to get at any limitations you reported in your study
  • Different approaches: qualitative if your study was quantitative, or quantitative if yours was qualitative, for example. Describe approaches that would be complementary to your study.
  • Related research that you’re already working on. Sometimes researchers work on multiple complementary projects simultaneously. Occasionally, they’ll include another related study that they’re working on in their recommendations section. This establishes a clear path of knowledge.
  • Practical, real-world suggestions. “Here are some recommendations for how this research could be used in the real world.”

The conclusion of Chapter 5 is where you get to wrap up your story. “And so, boys and girls, this is what all this came down to.” Okay, you might not want to phrase it like that. But that’s essentially what you’re doing.

dissertation chapter 2 summary example

Don’t try to add new information in the conclusion. Remember, it’s like a speech: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. 

Finishing Your Dissertation

Writing Chapter 5 and defending your dissertation is a big step towards getting your degree. Many students benefit from the support of a coach who is an experienced Dissertation Committee Chair at this point. A coach can conduct a mock defense with you in order to prepare you for the types of questions your committee will ask. Having answers to these questions can determine whether or not you pass your defense.

Check out my dissertation coaching services or contact me to book a free 30-minute consultation.

Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

Related Posts

grad student studying in the library


What makes a good research question.

Creating a good research question is vital to successfully completing your dissertation. Here are some tips that will help you formulate a good research question.  What Makes a Good Research Question? These are the three Read more…

concentrated grad student taking dissertation notes

Dissertation Structure

When it comes to writing a dissertation, one of the most fraught questions asked by graduate students is about dissertation structure. A dissertation is the lengthiest writing project that many graduate students ever undertake, and Read more…

professor consulting students in his office

Choosing a Dissertation Chair

Choosing your dissertation chair is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make in graduate school. Your dissertation chair will in many ways shape your experience as you undergo the most rigorous intellectual challenge Read more…

Make This Your Last Round of Dissertation Revision.

Learn How to Get Your Dissertation Accepted .

Discover the 5-Step Process in this Free Webinar .

Almost there!

Please verify your email address by clicking the link in the email message we just sent to your address.

If you don't see the message within the next five minutes, be sure to check your spam folder :).

We value every paper writer working for us, therefore we ask our clients to put funds on their balance as proof of having payment capability. Would be a pity for our writers not to get fair pay. We also want to reassure our clients of receiving a quality paper, thus the funds are released from your balance only when you're 100% satisfied.

Looking for something more advanced and urgent? Then opt-in for an advanced essay writer who’ll bring in more depth to your research and be able to fulfill the task within a limited period of time. In college, there are always assignments that are a bit more complicated and time-taking, even when it’s a common essay. Also, in search for an above-average essay writing quality, more means better, whereas content brought by a native English speaker is always a smarter choice. So, if your budget affords, go for one of the top 30 writers on our platform. The writing quality and finesse won’t disappoint you!

Premium essay writers

Essay writing help from a premium expert is something everyone has to try! It won’t be cheap but money isn’t the reason why students in the U.S. seek the services of premium writers. The main reason is that the writing quality premium writers produce is figuratively out of this world. An admission essay, for example, from a premium writer will definitely get you into any college despite the toughness of the competition. Coursework, for example, written by premium essay writers will help you secure a positive course grade and foster your GPA.

Customer Reviews

Meeting Deadlines

Don’t drown in assignments — hire an essay writer to help.

Does a pile of essay writing prevent you from sleeping at night? We know the feeling. But we also know how to help it. Whenever you have an assignment coming your way, shoot our 24/7 support a message or fill in the quick 10-minute request form on our site. Our essay help exists to make your life stress-free, while still having a 4.0 GPA. When you pay for an essay, you pay not only for high-quality work but for a smooth experience. Our bonuses are what keep our clients coming back for more. Receive a free originality report, have direct contact with your writer, have our 24/7 support team by your side, and have the privilege to receive as many revisions as required.

We have the ultimate collection of writers in our portfolio, so once you ask us to write my essay, we can find you the most fitting one according to your topic. The perks of having highly qualified writers don't end there. We are able to help each and every client coming our way as we have specialists to take on the easiest and the hardest tasks. Whatever essay writing you need help with, let it be astronomy or geography, we got you covered! If you have a hard time selecting your writer, contact our friendly 24/7 support team and they will find you the most suitable one. Once your writer begins the work, we strongly suggest you stay in touch with them through a personal encrypted chat to make any clarifications or edits on the go. Even if miscommunications do happen and you aren't satisfied with the initial work, we can make endless revisions and present you with more drafts ASAP. Payment-free of course. Another reason why working with us will benefit your academic growth is our extensive set of bonuses. We offer a free originality report, title, and reference page, along with the previously mentioned limitless revisions.

  • Math Problem
  • Movie Review
  • Personal Statement
  • PowerPoint Presentation plain
  • PowerPoint Presentation with Speaker Notes
  • Proofreading

We use cookies to make your user experience better. By staying on our website, you fully accept it. Learn more .

Rebecca Geach


  1. FREE 5+ Sample Chapter Summary Templates in PDF

    dissertation chapter 2 summary example

  2. Dissertation Examples

    dissertation chapter 2 summary example

  3. How To Write A Dissertation For Undergraduate

    dissertation chapter 2 summary example

  4. Chapter 2 Thesis Introduction Sample

    dissertation chapter 2 summary example

  5. Calaméo

    dissertation chapter 2 summary example

  6. Chapter 2 Thesis Introduction Sample

    dissertation chapter 2 summary example


  1. IB English: Paper 2

  2. Watch This if You Want to Get your Dissertation Approved in Next 6 Months

  3. Writing a Masters Dissertation in 2 Weeks

  4. Driven to Doctorate Dissertation Chapter 2 Summary Discussion

  5. Mastering Your Introduction

  6. 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Your Dissertation Results Chapter || WritersER



    the sources retrieved, as listed in the references section of this dissertation, was identified as the most relevant sources for this study and provide the foundation of the literature review. History on Barriers for Women in STEM . Many examples of barriers for women in STEM in the literature exist, some consistently cited over time.

  2. PDF CHAPTER 2: Literature Review

    The first two parts of this review of the literature will describe two types of research: research on teaching and research on teachers' conceptions. Each section will summarize the assumptions and major findings of these types of research. The third part of this literature review is a summary of research on effective problem solving.

  3. PDF CHAPTER 2 Introduction & Literature Review A distribute

    chapter is written using universal dissertation headings to help students write their phenomenological dissertations within the most common dissertation configuration. Students are encour-aged to deviate from this heading structure as their universities allow. Typically, the problem statement is the center of the disserta-

  4. PDF A Complete Dissertation

    Chapter 1. A Complete Dissertation 7 purpose, or it does not stand alone as a document. Chapter 2: Literature Review This chapter situates the study in the con-text of previous research and scholarly mate - rial pertaining to the topic, presents a critical synthesis of empirical literature according to relevant themes or variables, justifies how

  5. Dissertation Structure & Layout 101 (+ Examples)

    Time to recap…. And there you have it - the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows: Title page. Acknowledgments page. Abstract (or executive summary) Table of contents, list of figures and tables.

  6. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    This is a short paragraph at the end of your introduction to inform readers about the organizational structure of your thesis or dissertation. This chapter outline is also known as a reading guide or summary outline. ... to the problem is presented in Chapter 1 and the relevant literature is discussed in Chapter 2. Example 2: IS-AV construction ...

  7. How to Write a Literature Review

    Examples of literature reviews. Step 1 - Search for relevant literature. Step 2 - Evaluate and select sources. Step 3 - Identify themes, debates, and gaps. Step 4 - Outline your literature review's structure. Step 5 - Write your literature review.

  8. How To Write A Dissertation Conclusion (Examples

    Some universities will prefer that you cover some of these points in the discussion chapter, or that you cover the points at different levels in different chapters. Step 1: Craft a brief introduction section. As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the conclusions chapter needs to start with a brief introduction.

  9. PDF Sample Dissertation Overview

    Sample Dissertation Overview. The problem generally is addressed in two related parts: The problem statement is contained in Chapter 1, and a review of the related research, theory, and professional literature is described in Chapter 2. The methods used for investigating the problem are usually included in Chapter 3.

  10. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    Example: Mix of different constructions Chapter 2 contains a review of the relevant literature that I used for the purposes of this paper. The methods used in the study are then described in Chapter 3, after which the results are presented and discussed in Chapter 4. Sample verbs for variation in your chapter outline

  11. How to Write a Summary

    Table of contents. When to write a summary. Step 1: Read the text. Step 2: Break the text down into sections. Step 3: Identify the key points in each section. Step 4: Write the summary. Step 5: Check the summary against the article. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about summarizing.


    These are guidelines only. You must consult with your dissertation chair and committee members to determine the elements of your dissertation as well as the order of those elements. Dissertation proposals should include the elements normally found in Chapters 1, 2, 3, and the References of a dissertation.

  13. Chapter Summary & Overview

    Example: Here is an example of a chapter summary from a research paper on climate change: Chapter 2: The Science of Climate Change. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the scientific consensus on climate change. We begin by discussing the greenhouse effect and the role of greenhouse gases in trapping heat in the atmosphere.

  14. PDF CHAPTER 2 The conceptual framework for the study

    As shown in Figure 4, this construct is important for this study for two reasons. Firstly, it can be used to understand and identify misconceptions. Secondly, as illustrated in Figure 4, it is an essential component of the teacher's knowledge needed to assist students deal with the problem of evolution misconceptions.

  15. Introductions & Conclusions

    Example 1. This chapter begins by summarising the main findings from the study, advanced in the three empirical chapters. I also discuss some of the limitations of the study and provide suggestions for further research. Following this, I outline the contribution to knowledge this thesis makes. Finally, the thesis ends with some reflexive ...

  16. How can we write a summary of a thesis?

    Generally, the summary is about 200-350 words long, but you should verify this with your supervisor. Also, it generally follows an introduction-body-conclusion structure. Related reading: The basics of converting your PhD thesis into journal articles. Answered by Editage Insights on 13 Sep, 2017.

  17. PDF Guidance for Writing Chapter 5

    2. If you had to present your findings to the authors you cited throughout the literature review, why should they pay attention to what you discovered? How do your findings add to, modify, or challenge existing research on your topic? 3. Clearly state your claims, be sure each claim is based on specific findings, and explain the

  18. PDF Writing a Dissertation's Chapter 4 and 5 1 By Dr. Kimberly Blum Rita

    Writing a Dissertation's Chapter 4 and 5 2 Definition of Chapter Four and Five Chapter four of a dissertation presents the findings from the data gathered by the researcher. The nature of the design determines the presentation of the data. For example, one student's "purpose of this quantitative correlational study was to determine the

  19. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  20. Adam Worrall

    Conclusion. This chapter presents the methods and research design for this dissertation study. It begins by presenting the research questions and settings, the LibraryThing and Goodreads digital libraries. This is followed by an overview of the mixed methods research design used, incorporating a sequence of three phases.

  21. Writing Dissertation Chapter 5: The Biggest Mistake Students Make

    Writing Chapter 5 and defending your dissertation is a big step towards getting your degree. Many students benefit from the support of a coach who is an experienced Dissertation Committee Chair at this point. A coach can conduct a mock defense with you in order to prepare you for the types of questions your committee will ask.

  22. Dissertation Chapter 2 Summary Example

    Dissertation Chapter 2 Summary Example, Cover Letter For Resume Software Testing, Essay Training Day, Causes Of Obesity Essay Conclusion, Top Annotated Bibliography Writing Services For Mba, Popular Cheap Essay Writer Services Ca, Components In Developing A Business Plan

  23. Dissertation Chapter 2 Summary Example

    We assure you to deliver the order before the deadline, without compromising on any facet of your draft. You can easily ask us for free revisions, in case you want to add up some information. The assurance that we provide you is genuine and thus get your original draft done competently. Dissertation Chapter 2 Summary Example -.