Task 6a (Part One): Review of Reader 6

After going through the Reader several times I ended up with twelve pages of notes, so it's certainly given me some interesting food for thought and reflection!

"The lines of inquiry or topic area that you will investigate should extend your understanding about professional activities (paid or unpaid) now or for the future... There might also be implications to consider for your employer, community of practice, and your professional networks..." (READER 6, P.4, 2013-14)

The implications of research into audience reaction may lead to affect future programming decisions, and aid the ability of the theatres to better understand audience tastes and predictors of future behaviour. I believe it will also be of use to playwrights and directors in enabling them to understand the outcome of their work and decisions.

"Practitioner enquiry involves capturing evidence from the workplace using social science research tools, or methods, that allow you to use real-life experiences and phenomena in a systematic and ethical manner." (READER 6, P.4, 2013-14)

 - Self Discovery
 - Obtain Practice Based Knowledge
 - Understanding related to other professionals in your field
 - Should act to inform your professional practice
 - Make choices and decisions

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The Reader advises that we think about the complete process of the inquiry early on, so that we are able to plan the most efficient ways of collecting information and the presentation of our findings.

How is professional enquiry similar to other professional activity in which you are involved? Do you search and review sources from literature, gathering information for decision making? Do you collect points of view in order to have a balanced viewpoint from which to make decisions?
How is it different?
Professional enquiry is the process of learning in the workplace, so in this respect I feel as though I am always learning at work; however the artefact will be solid evidence of this process rather then the empirical evidence of being able to do my job better!
I feel as though I tend to use a combination of both literature sources and points of view to make decisions: I love using books, documents and online resources to gather information on subjects, which I then discuss within my professional and personal network, to learn other theories and discuss thoughts. 
I tend to base decisions on conclusions reached through these two methods.

The newest addition to my library!
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Depending on the subject of the inquiry, being an insider-researcher could possibly raise ethical issues and conflicts of interest. This is something I intend to raise with the Artistic Director of the theatre I am working at, and with any professionals involved in the productions I will be using as part of the study.

At the moment I can't see why anyone associated with the inquiry would block the research process as I believe it will carry some value to playwrights, directors and programmers as I intend my investigation to aid understanding about the reactions of their target audiences to the plays being written, produced and presented.

Know the context: being an insider-researcher raises issues of objectivity and subjectivity. Identifying and describing the culture of the workplace culture can be an important part of the inquiry:
I believe that because the theatre I am working at is dedicated to producing new works, challenging works, and revivals of forgotten or contentious plays, the theatre will be open to obtaining audience feedback to these productions. However I may encounter the belief that all works will affect an audience; that people are more likely to state they have been affected or 'changed' by a work because it has been 'shocking' or provocative, due to the nature of the theatre and their repertoire.

  • Who in your inquiry environment can you elicit support from? Who will receive a report? What purpose do you intend it to serve? What are the expectations/constraints of the audience?
    The General Manager of the venue has agreed to let me conduct my research through the theatre, and will provide a signature on my Employer Support Form. I will also need to seek support and permission from the Artistic Director of the theatre.
    I will also seek support from the playwrights, actors and producer of the plays that will be taking place while I conduct my research. If there are objections from a particular group (i.e. the writer of a particular play may not wish to have their work implicated.) I will seek support from the alternative production as there are always at least two productions running concurrently at the venue.
    The report will be made available to all those involved in the research: participants will have my contact details and can request access to their information at any time.
  • What is your own position as an insider researcher?I am currently working as an intern at the theatre. The program for all interns covers a month of assisting in all aspects of the day-to-day running of the theatre, including box office, cleaning, show set-up and breakdown, etc. After a month there is the opportunity to specialise in an area, for example, with the administration, the literary team etc. I have only been at the theatre for a couple of weeks so I haven't specialised yet, however I am intending to work my way around a couple of different departments, especially the production elements and literary department. I believe these departments will offer me the best insights into the career areas I want to pursue.
  • What are the important considerations about the people and the culture of the organisation that you work in that the audience for your inquiry need to know about?The Finborough Theatre is dedicated to producing new works and revivals of classic or 'lost' plays and musicals. It is important that this is emphasised in order to prepare the inquiry audience that the productions investigated are not pitched at being commercial or necessarily accessible to everyone's tastes.
    The audiences for the plays will know this and be aware of the content of the work through the booking procedure, however those who may read the report afterwards will need to be made aware of the content of the productions referred to in order to make the reactions and responses make sense.
  • Have you discussed this with your SIG and your professional network?I intend to discuss this further with those who also work and volunteer at The Finborough in order to further determine the culture of the organisation and help me to formulate my thought processes regarding the transparency of the presentation of this.

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Given the nature of my inquiry, and the environment it will be taking place in, I have decided to make use of two of the tools discussed in the Reader: Interviews and Questionnaires.


The reader points out the following benefits of interviews:
  • Qualitative
  • Can follow up on ideas
  • Probe responses
  • Investigate motives and feelings
  • Can ask 'why' questions directly to people who have knowledge, experience and perceptions about your topic (playwrights, directors, producers, etc)
  • Questioning or discussing ideas with people
  • What data do you need to collect to answer your research questions that may only be provided by other people?
    No 'data' as such – but recording audience responses is central to my inquiry subject, therefore the questions of response can only be answered by other people.
  • Who do you need to interview and why?
    I aim to interview a cross-section of audience members regarding their reactions to a selection of plays.
    I also intend to interview the director and producers, and, if possible, the playwright of particular productions to gauge their expectations or intended audience response to see whether the supposition and the actuality correspond.
  • Where would be most appropriate to hold the interview – neutral ground or home ground?
    I will be holding interviews in the bar of the theatre post-performance. As I am looking for, in the first instance, immediate reaction and response I would prefer to be on hand as the audiences are relaxing after the show, at a time when they are most likely to want to discuss the subject matter and the production is still fresh in their minds.
  • At what point in the research process would it be best to interview?
    I will need to interview early on in the research process, beginning with playwrights, directors and producers. This will then be collated with audience responses and will be dictated by the particular productions that are either in-residence or are forthcoming to the theatre.
  • What questions need to be asked?
    I am working on a series of questions based on my inquiry subject to determine the most appropriate wording and order of questioning to gain the most response. These will be discussed and trialled with my professional network during the pilot interview stage.
  • The degree of structure in the interview – structured, semi-structured or unstructured?
    At this point I feel that I will be following a semi-structured pattern for the interviews: I am aiming to develop a couple of 'opening' questions and base the following conversations on the initial responses of the participants and their willingness to elaborate on the original questioning process.
  • Whether all the interviews will include the same questions and follow the same structure. If not, why not?
    All interviews will follow the same semi-structured pattern, however the follow-up questions may differ depending on the initial reactions of the person being interviewed and the path the interview takes.
  • How are you going to record the interview – whether to make notes during the interview or use a tape recorder and transcribe notes afterwards?
    I intend to record the interview on video-camera: as I will be working in a possibly very noisy environment when speaking with audience members, I believe I will find it most useful to have both audio and visual records of the interviews.
  • How are you going to access the data from the interview – transcribe tape recordings, order and/or reflect on your written notes?
    I will watch the interviews back and transcribe what I believe to be important elements of the interview. These elements may include responses that I feel correspond with other elements of the enquiry, or contradict previous findings as both sets of response will be equally valid.
  • How will you ensure that you comply with ethical and confidentiality issues and relevant legislation such as the Data Protection Act? What is the status of what is said, i.e. is everything on the record?
    Everything said will be 'on the record' through the audio-visual medium I will be using. However I will only transcribe those elements relevant to the enquiry. In order to comply with ethical and legal considerations I have created a consent form that covers the use of the data and information, for each participant to sign. This will carry information on the use of image and information, and will also carry my personal contact information in order for the participants to be able to contact me at any point to view their interview or read the results of the inquiry.
* * *
  • What preparation do you need to do for your 'pilot' interview?
    In order to prepare for the pilot interviews that I am planning to conduct amongst my professional network, I will need to compile and trial a list of questions to determine which line of questioning yields the best results. I will also need to familiarise myself with interview techniques and methods of eliciting information in an ethical and appropriate manner.
  • What is your rationale for choosing a particular type of interview?
    I am intending my interview to be semi-structured, with a couple of opening questions designed to lead the participant to conversation regarding their reactions. I am choosing this method as each response will be different and naturally lead to alternative following questions.
  • Have you done a 'covering information sheet' explaining the enquiry and will you require consent forms?
    I have created consent forms that will be finalised in content prior to beginning my enquiry. These will be trialled and formalised after the pilot interviews and discussions with my SIG and with Paula.

The Reader suggests grouping or coding the data, using thematic categories, as grouping data helps identify common themes: "Organised in this way so that comparisons, contrasts and insights can be made that interpret the meaning of the evidence." (READER 6, P.4, 2013-14

After considering this section of the Reader, I will be transcribing the interview data, focusing on sections that are relevant and appropriate to the inquiry, and I shall keep the data stored on a memory stick that will remain in a safe place throughout the inquiry process.

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  • gather data from a wide range of representative respondents
  • able to research large numbers of people
  • can be limited in terms of depth but make up for it in breadth or range
  • ease of use
The Reader advises us to devise precise written questions, and to expect "...approximately a 20% response rate from a postal questionnaire and 50% from face-to-face delivery, [although] in work-based research the insider-researcher may be well placed to ensure a good response rate." (READER 6, P.4, 2013-14)
  • Questions need to be composed carefully and their positioning and layout in the printed questionnaire should be designed with the audience in mind.
The Reader suggests the the combination of using Questionnaires that are then followed up with interviews. However I am intending to do this the opposite way! My initial data gathering will be taken in the form of recorded interviews. Once I have transcribed the interviews, I may decide to follow up interesting responses in the form of a questionnaire. If this becomes the case, the transcript and the questionnaire will be stored together with a data-capture number, in order to enable cross-checking later in the inquiry process.


When analysing documents for the Literature Review, the Reader recommends considering many elements:

The analysis of documents can include reports, reviews, government documents, correspondence, policy reviews, etc... I will make use of this during the inquiry process, both to determine other points of view or studies that have been conducted (and I have begun this already), but I also intend to cross-reference audience response with critical response:
  • What documents will help you understand your topic better?
    At this stage I am not sure of any specific documents I might need, however I have used Summon to locate articles regarding audience surveys and I will post a literature review on these shortly. I will also make use of critical reviews of the plays I am investigating as it will be useful to see whether a theatre critics assessment of a production is the same as the 'layman' audience members – one of the major criticisms of 'criticism' (as mentioned in one of the books I read for my literature review, and elaborated on through conversations with my SIG) is that a theatre critic necessarily brings a bias to a production that may not be that of the average viewer.

  • What permission will you need to examine the document?
    At this stage I think that any documents I may need to examine will be in the public domain, either online or in print, so no permissions would be needed.
  • Can you plan this stage into your enquiry plan?
    I intend to complete my literature review and assessment prior to beginning the enquiry, and access any production reviews on an ongoing basis, based on the productions used for the enquiry and availability of publicly published reviews.
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"The analysis of your data will normally be against the original aims, objectives and research questions set within the terms of reference of your inquiry and reflect the current state of knowledge about your enquiry topic emerging from your literature review." (READER 6, P.4, 2013-14)

The interpretation of documents involves looking at the results to identify and trends, patterns or differences and offering an explanation for them.

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  • What have you accomplished and where do you need to go from here?
    I have begun to formulate a more solid process to determine how best to carry out the professional inquiry, looking at a combination of research methods and tools to decide which may yield the most accurate results.
    I need to now begin to trial the intended interview process among my professional network, to determine the validity of the process, and work on formulating my inquiry plan for submission.
  • Have you developed a plan that sets out what you will be doing for Module 3 to explore your topic and to link this thinking back to your professional role?
    I have started to reflect on the procedures that I might use, and the best combination of tools discussed during the reader. The inquiry plan is still in the early development stages but using my journal and through conversations with my SIG and professional network I have started to formulate more concrete ideas and plans.

BAPP Arts: 'Principles of Professional Inquiry' WBS 3630 (Module 2) READER 6, 2013-14


  1. This is great Dani! Sounds like you are well on your way with the inquiry! Im glad you feel like you are beginning to formulate a solid process to determine how you will carry out your inquiry, because I personally feel that has been one of the hardest parts so far! (Not to mention actually finding a more specific route for my inquiry - which I hope I have!)

    Initially, and probably still now, the whole planning of the inquiry and carrying out the inquiry itself seems quite overwhelming, and i've struggled to get my head round it. It seems like you have had a real systematic approach which looks to be working out well for you, as your ideas seem to have naturally developed along with your blogging.

    As I am beginning to get my head round the steps I need to take for the planning of my inquiry and the actual inquiry itself, I am feelng more confident and less stressed! It feels like there is masses amount of work to do, but hopefully we are all beginning to make sense of the madness!


    1. Aah, thank you lovely!
      I'm fairly certain on what I want to do, and I think the time-planning is going to be the hardest thing for me! Not knowing what the theatre will have on for the duration of the research is scary (the next two shows they have are re-stagings of classic plays, which isn't relevant at all to the inquiry subject so hopefully there'll be some thought-provoking new works coming up!)
      I think the more we plan and know what we want to achieve, the less overwhelming it's going to be when we come to carrying out the actual research. Writing about the process on here has certainly helped me make more sense of things than at the start of the module when I felt a little unsure about the direction to take and I had so many ideas but nothing concrete.


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