Crystal Hurd on Conducting Theory-based Document Analysis

Hello!  I am Crystal Hurd, a K-12 educator and an adjunct professor at East Tennessee State University and Northeast State Community College.  Last year, I embarked on an unorthodox dissertation topic: Transformational Leadership in the Life and Works of C.S. Lewis.  No one had ever applied leadership theory to Lewis.  In response, many replied, the guy who wrote Narnia is a leader?

My research aims were two-fold:

  1. to study Lewis as a leader
  2. to illustrate how he fostered transformational traits in his characters

Using transformational leadership theory as my theoretical framework, I completed 15 months of intense document review, interviews with Lewis scholars, and observational data obtained from Belfast and Oxford.  The theory states that leaders should raise morality and motivation and ultimately create leaders.  My goal was to study Lewis’ influence to transform others.

Hot Tips:

  • Use research questions to guide the analysis. Always have a conceptual or theoretical structure when commencing research.  Bernard Bass’ four transformational traits, guided the trajectory of my reading. Several questions determined if the work would be included :
    • Did the fictional or nonfiction work:
      • mention themes of leadership, authority, or power?
      • contain Lewis’s perspective on leadership?
      • contain expectations of leadership in his time?
  • Let the interviewee lead the response. Emailed asynchronous text-based interviews allowed multinational participation. Contributors answered at their leisure and produced personally satisfying responses that differed in length and depth. This allowed for fuller analysis of relevant themes.
  • Triangulate with observation data. By documenting surroundings, annotating conversations, and taking pictures and video I was able to capture the climate and context.  My observational data illustrated how Lewis’s legacy is still influencing culture today, nearly 50 years after his death.
  • Take copious and concise notes. Annotating the massive Lewis bibliography was no small feat.  I captured my notes in one notebook with titles in the margin and pertinent information following.  I used highlighters to categorize important quotes and concepts.  Today, I continue to add to the notebook.
  • Do not dismiss topics thought to be irrelevant.  Exhaustive searches reap the greatest rewards.  Great gems appeared to address issues unrelated to my research topic, however, a deeper examination revealed interesting parallels.
  • Print out transcripts and highlight theory-based themes.  Interviewees were given four questions via email concerning Lewis’s impact on their lives and how his leadership is still effective.  I conducted content analysis to find support that Lewis was an effective leader. I then analyzed Lewis’ leadership traits inspiration in others.
  • Be patient and confident. In the beginning, I endured many a strange look when describing my research to others. I refused to be discouraged when people suggested I do a “more conventional” topic.  Follow your instinct.

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