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Well, OK, there are the references and the appendices after this, but to all intents and purposes this is where the interesting stuff stops. In Chapter 9 I set out my conclusions. Did I meet the aims and objectives? Do I have answers for my research questions? What did I do that contributes to wider knowledge? What would I have done differently? In other words, I tell you what I did, why it was important, and I reflect upon how it could be improved. It’s the bit where I wave a big flag for the examiners telling them exactly why I deserve a PhD.

And that’s it. I will, as promised, write a summary post but that needs a bit more time than I have now.

Chapter 10 – references, appendices


So we’re here, Chapter 8, the discussion. Make yourself a cuppa, perhaps fetch a biscuit or two, and settle down, as it’s a bit longer than the other parts. I will assume you didn’t wade through the entire methodology, which is actually the longest chapter.

In the discussion, I set out why the things I found out are interesting, or useful, or just thought-provoking. We take a little tour around moral panic, and the internet and aging, church leaders’ opinions and all sorts of other bits and pieces. The discussion goes back to the literature, and shows how the work I did extends, challenges or agrees with other people’s findings. Lots more questions are posed – but if I were going to use any part of my thesis as a platform for world domination, this would be the one.

Chapter 7 is my favourite results chapter. It’s a mix of content analysis and interviews, like the preceding chapters, but we focus on three different areas on the welcome pages that some sites have, and I record a disastrous attempt to measure interactivity on the websites. Not disastrous because my research methods failed – disastrous because I have a whole table full of zeroes, where I found nothing. So none of the analyses I had planned were done. The third area is hyperlinks. Who links where? How are the links chosen? What do they say about a site? I could have done a whole other PhD just on this aspect itself.

You will also – because you probably picked this post up via Twitter – be interested in the ideas about representation of self, and how that is managed. At least, I hope you are, as I found this bit fascinating.

In Chapter 6, I discuss the main content analysis results. I frame the local church as information provider, and assess how good a job of this it does, via the website.

We find out – perhaps not surprisingly – that churches can be great at providing information about the getting married, the buildings, graveyards and other records – but not all of them tell you when their services are, or how to get in touch, or indeed what church or faith might be about. So the websites are more about ‘organisational’ elements than ‘evangelising,’ or ‘interacting’ or ‘community’ – I draw a comparison with an American study which uses these four categories.

Interviews add colour to the tables and figures. Leaders tell us what they think the point of a website is, who their audience is, and we discuss the needs of an aging congregation.

Here’s Chapter Five. I know you have been waiting with bated breath…

This chapter does a couple of things. Firstly, it presents the longitudinal work, looking at how the numbers of websites across the whole of England have changed over the past four years. They rose, then levelled off – which suggests something about the point we’re at now. All the churches that need one, have one? Or are people starting to use other online tools?

Then, you can find out how many local churches use a professional web design service – yet still let their sites become woefully out of date. Or how many pictures there are. Or how many sites are using frames. These are some of the content analysis findings – setting the scene for the later chapters.

Finally, we talk about what leaders think the ideal website should contain, the role of the national church in supporting web development and some really interesting things about governance, evaluation and skill. Once again, I think you will be surprised – if you thought my PhD was only about websites, you may find these interviews as fascinating as I did.

So  Chapter four is next. This is the first of four sections which describe the results.

This first one may come as a surprise if you thought the thesis was only about websites, because this is all about people. In this part, I explain who the interviewees were, where they’re from, what they’re like and we look at their use of, and opinions about, the internet. That’s including the information-seeking behaviour of the leaders, and some interesting views about email.

In the interests of anonymity, I gave all the interview participants a new name, and a new name for their church (sort of witness protection for the social sciences). So these are real stories, and real quotes, but the names are not real.