So my fourth year panel review went fine. My panel consisted of my supervisor, Deborah Sawyer, and two colleagues from the Department, Shuruq Naguib and Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad. I've not had them on my panel before so was keen to hear what they made of my project documents (including a one page summary of my thesis [here] and an annotated plan [see here for current thesis structure]).
Ram was eager to help me avoid over-engineering my thesis, basically helping me see that I've got internal reasons (i.e. in the interviews) for the theorists that I need to use, so that I don't have to use everyone!!! It's always helpful to hear you can do less than you've been thinking you need to. So it was good to hear the message of less is more!
As I didn't hand in a sample of writing that showed how I would integrate theory and empirical data, Ram was concerned that I not give the impression of over-interpreting what participants are saying, but just to let them speak for themselves. This won't be a problem, as my work inter-weaves theory and data well, I think. It's just I couldn't show Ram that, and he wanted to just make sure. He talked about how it was okay to both a) let the data say it plainly and b) say I am usefully interpreting the data as saying it. Shuruq also asked some interesting questions about the relationship between the data from my participants and my argument, in terms of how I am using my data, and what my relationship is to my participants.
Shuruq was worried that my initial contextualization of the empirical data in the UK gets lost throughout the rest of the structure. I'm not sure what to think about this yet. I need a "what is the emerging church?" section as it is not a widely known phenomenon within academia, but this question is not my research question; just the context in which I ask my questions. But I don't think I am losing that context throughout the rest of the thesis because I am continually coming back to the fact that participants are engaging the postmodern turn culturally and philosophically.
I think she was more concerned about the gender imbalance in both my use of (largley male) theorists and (largley male) participants; but this isn't something that I haven't noticed or plan to ignore! As she didn't know that my MA work had been in Women and Religion, I think she just wanted to make sure that I would mention the implications of this imbalance as and when they arose (which I have and will continue to). But, as Ram pointed out, my thesis isn't on gender.
All good food for thought. I'm sure I'll be posting again shortly with an altered thesis structure and abstract to reflect my thinking after this review.