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I’ve had a few people lately ask me what my PhD is all about. Since my 4th year progression viva is days away, this seemed like a good time to write one or two paragraphs explaining what I’ve done, why, and what I have discovered so far. Let’s see if I can boil the essence of 4 years down into a couple of hundred words. These are the slides that I’ll be presenting in our departmental conference on Thursday:¬†Jan2012

Briefly, what I’ve been investigating is how and why church websites get published. There are some truly great sites, but there are also some fairly dire examples. I discovered this when looking for a church myself. As an information professional, I have an interest in how decisions are made about the information content of sites. It’s also studying how the internet is now part of everyday life, and how churches are adapting or ignoring the new media.

First off I took a nationwide poll of how many churches had a findable website – picking 400 at random, then seeing if I could find a site by Googling. I did this five times over 3 years. Currently, around 2/3 of the churches had a site I could find, and this was an increase from the first census taken in 2009.

Secondly, looking in more detail at fewer sites, I did a content analysis of 137 websites. What information are they publishing? How current is it? Do they make provision for newcomers? Are there lots of photographs? Is there any interactivity?

Finally, in 2011 I interviewed church leaders, webmasters and interested parties: 18 interviews in total. Whilst it’s easy to see what is published, without talking to some of the people behind the churches I would not find out who was looking after the sites, what skills they had, where their information was taken from or how often the website was considered by the church as a whole. I’ve just started drafting the findings from these interviews.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. That’s 4 years thinking, reading, writing, interminably dull website counting or content coding, very interesting interviews, printer problems, computer meltdowns, trains to Lboro, reading on the train and looking out of the window. One more progression viva to go and I am officially a 5th year; aiming to write this all up by the end of the year.