Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Now Collecting Data

Since my last posting, I started a full-time job, which is conveniently within a comfortable and reasonable driving distance of my home and my university.  The job is thankfully not too similar to my research interest, so I can view my research as a welcoming break from my job and vice-versa.  At this early point in my research and job, I can say that I enjoy them equally.

My new job has/had a large learning curve, so I decided to take a one-month hiatus from my research and focus solely on the new job.  However, one week after my first month I went to Canada for a 5-day business trip and so I couldn't dive back into my dissertation until returning and recovering from the Canadian trip.

Although I officially wasn't collecting data, I was reading a book written by a potential participant in my study.  I decided to read it during the 5-week hiatus to keep my brain interested in my research topic.  I did not want to lose complete interest in my dissertation because that would have terrible consequences.  For the most part, the pressure to continue my strong work ethic from my co-chairs and my committee is off.  Actually, the book really got me excited about participant selection and data collection, so I was ready to start when I got the chance.

When I selected my first participant, I realized that I forgot to contact IRB to make a change to my invitation email.  One sentence had to be removed because it no longer applied to my study and it would confuse my participants.  Fortunately for me, it took an hour to make the change and two days for IRB to approve the modification.  By then, I was six weeks into my job without collecting any data.

This past week is when I started collecting document data from my first participant.  I still need to collect interview data, but I already have about 800 pages of document data from the first of up to fifteen participants.  That appears daunting, but I would say about 1/3 of those pages do not directly answer my primary research question.  I cannot describe anymore than that without violating confidentiality.  It's also somewhat less daunting because I have a framework set up to start initial coding.  The deeper digging will begin once a pattern emerges from the initial coding process.

Although I have just started collecting data, reading the documents from my first participant and the book by the potential participant (who I may not select at all for reasons I cannot disclose) has been personally rewarding.  Doing this research is rewarding professionally and emotionally because my participants have had similar life experiences as me.  If I do not complete this research project, I will have gained enough to be personally satisfied.  However, I do not intend to give up because I would also like to be professionally satisfied with a PhD, evidence that I can conduct research at a research-intensive university.

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