All posts by Natalya Manuilova

Why Methodology?

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Methodology section of any research paper is arguably the most important part of it. Mainly because the ways of data collection determine whether the research question will be answered or not. Besides, research methods influence the interpretation of the findings. The qualitative study focuses on understanding thoughts, reasons, and opinions of participants; whereas the quantitative study deals with numerical data, statistics, and facts.

Choosing the right methodology is a challenging process which should be viewed through the lens of the practical application of the research findings. In the local context, statistical data is of particular interest among the administrators and policy-makers due to giving a clear overview on any topic. Qualitative studies are often seen as subjective, their findings are difficult to generalize, and therefore cannot be used as widely.

Personally, I prefer qualitative methods because they allow deeper and more meaningful investigations. This is exactly what I what from my research experience: engaging with participants, collecting data in direct interactions to fully capture and share their stories. Therefore, planning to study the aspirations for higher education across vulnerable student groups in Kazakhstan, from the beginning I decided to follow the qualitative methodology, namely, the critical ethnographic research design.

Methodology section, if consistent with the introduction and literature review, can inform the readers about the nature of the research just as well. Critical ethnography, for instance, focuses on advocating for marginalized groups in certain cultural or social scenarios often constructed by the society in limiting ways. Thus, by following the critical ethnographic design, it is clear that my purpose is to potentially empower vulnerable students to receive higher education reflecting on the first-hand experience of others in the context of Kazakhstan.

I believe there is no right answer about the most effective or productive type of research. Afterall, the intention of researching is to draw attention and start a discussion on problematic topics.  Any research design if applied properly manages to do that. Right choice of methods just makes the process easier by providing necessary tools.

Writing Literature Review

Research writing occupies most of our time lately as we are approaching the deadline for submitting the first three chapters of the thesis. One of them is the literature review and in this post, I would like to share my experience with it.

Most students would agree that writing literature review is not at all easy, but why is that? Sure there are many reasons: some might say because it is difficult to find good sources, others claim that it is not always clear what information should be included in the review or struggle with a proper organization of ideas. I am among the latter and reflecting on my experience in writing the review of the literature I find that using a general-to-specific pattern is the most effective strategy. Mainly because it suits any topic and allows conveying my ideas in a logical way. Besides, it facilitates the reading process for the audience due to its structured outlook.

To develop my thesis topic that focuses on aspirations for higher education of youth in Kazakhstan based on I use the following structure of main themes:

  1. I start with addressing the current state of inclusive higher education including here works written in this field so far.
  2.  Further, I discuss what shapes the aspirations for higher education among young people in general, and move to covering the specifics of the context of inclusive education.
  3.  I then proceed with introducing the features that influence the aspirations of young people by giving detailed overview of socioeconomic factors and difficulties caused by attitudes,
  4. Next section provides information about the state of female and male students in higher education.
  5. The last one is the closing paragraph which summarizes the whole chapter and makes the transition to the next section of my thesis.

Currently, I am the process of revising and refining my literature review section and this appears to be another challenging part of this writing journey. As I read more and find new sources on my topic there is also so much more I want to add to my review. Deciding what to include and connecting it to what has already been written is my main agenda so far.

To conclude, I would like to share a couple of works which played an important part in establishing and developing my topic but also create an overview of inclusive higher education. First is the research work by Trevor Gale and Stephen Parker that gives a deep insight into what makes students either want or not want to pursue higher education and provokes many thoughts on what can be improved in this field. Another work by Thomas Grant continues the same topic, but shares a good discussion on what motivates students to receive higher education. I particularly like how they define the role of society in this process.

I hope my experience will be helpful to other students struggling with the organization of ideas in the literature review. Good luck with thesis writing!


Gale, T. & Parker,S.(2015). To aspire: a systematic reflection on understanding aspiratios in higher education. The Australian Educational Resarcher, 42(2), 139-153.

Grant, T. (2017). The complexity of aspiration: the role of hope and habitus in shaping working-class young people’s apirations to higher education. Children’s Geographies, 15 (3), 289-303.


Topic of My Thesis

In the context of Kazakhstan medical model of inclusive education takes the dominant role and significantly affects the legislation, social attitudes and actions of educational institutions. Currently, the focus is on making education at different levels fully accessible for vulnerable students, especially for young people with disabilities. However, most attention is given to the secondary education and inclusion at the post-secondary level tends to be overlooked. Higher education plays a major role in the personal and professional development as well as social positioning of young people. This is especially important for people with disabilities who usually face more challenges in these aspects. But so far the enrollment rates of students with special needs to universities are quite low. According to the statistical social outlook, there are 5584 young people with disabilities in Kazakhstan aged 18-29 (3233 males, 2351 females) only 495 individuals of the total number received vocational education, 101 of them have unfinished higher education and 209 individuals have a higher education degree.

This inspired my research interest as I instantly wanted to find out why these numbers are so low. Post secondary education is a noncompulsory stage in Kazakhstan and is mainly a personal choice shaped by different factors, such as social-economic background, previous academic achievements, quality of the university education, expectations for better employment options, social pressure. In the case of young people with disabilities additional factors like health conditions, accessibility of the educational institution, possibility for curriculum adaptations, social attitudes, peer acceptance and support have a significant influence on this decision.

With this research, I want to develop the understanding of what makes young people with special needs in the context of Kazakhstan want or not want to pursue higher education. Namely, what are their aspirations for this experience and how does the intersection of such important parts of person’s identity as gender, ethnicity, and disability affects those aspirations. Also, from the experience of the former students, I want to know the outcomes of this experience, their overall satisfaction, and engagement in the student community.

The findings of my research will provide a better understanding of what students expect from the university education and this can further be used for improving the quality, standards, and accessibility of post-secondary education in Kazakhstan. Besides, it will form an understanding of how aspirations for higher education vary across student groups based on the intersection of gender, disability, and ethnicity. This research will also look at the impact of recent inclusive policy developments to inform the policy makers about its effectiveness and areas that need improvement.