Saturday, January 20, 2007


It's been a while since I've done a real post here. Let me start this off by saying that I'm just about done with my dissertation proposal. I have about another 4-5 pages to write in chapter 3, and I just received a good amount of feedback from DC on chapters 1 and 2. I'm working on a big revision of things right now, and I'm on track to defend the fucker in the next few weeks (that is, if I can get my committee finalized by then. I'll save that for another post).

But there's been a fairly significant re-shifting of my dissertation this past week. I am a big-picture thinker. In many situations I consider this one of my greatest strengths. However, when writing a dissertation, it goes only so far. One must focus a dissertation topic and go with it. At the same time, one must gain the approval of others in order for the topic to gain the support and "Miracle Grow" it needs to come to fruition. Finding a topic is not entirely an independent process.

I've mentioned here that I've had multiple dissertation topics throughout my time at LMU. If I weren't a big-picture thinker, I probably would have focused long ago. I may have been further (farther? I have no idea) along in the march toward completion than I am now, though I really can't say that for certain. Still, I hold true to the fact that I like my present topic a great deal, and I'm glad I felt free to switch topics along the way. I've identified a significant gap in the literature, and there is a group of researchers 'out there' that is now starting to work toward filling in the gap. This is a good time for me to be working on this particular topic.

I thought I had a solid plan for collecting data. I was going to administer a survey to a group of students, and out of the respondents I would choose a handful of them for in-person interviews to help provide data for a theory I'm developing.

After a long meeting with DC this past week (almost 3 hours...I have a good DC!), I decided to drop the survey portion and find participants in another way. Instead of running a mixed-method study, it will now have a straight qualitative methodology.

Compared to my initial idea, the overall design is more streamlined. The survey portion of the study was getting too large, and DC said it could have stood on its own as a quantitative study. My intent with even administering a survey in the first place was to find students to participate in a qualitative interview process. Clearly, my big-picture thinking was running away from me again. Streamlining and sticking with one methodology is the better way to proceed.

So why, then, do I feel like a failure for quitting the mixed-method study? Perhaps the better question is: Why did I feel a need, in the first place, to do one of the the toughest dissertation methods on the planet when this could be relatively simple? Don't get me wrong, there's nothing simple about any dissertation method, but mixed-method studies are essentially two different dissertations merged together. All the advice I received going into this doctoral program was similar: "pick a topic you like and is simple so you can finish the dissertation quickly." I didn't listen. Why isn't something relatively simple good enough? I dunno.

At least I'm not starting over, and I'm grateful that I didn't get too far into this thing before realizing I had created a monster and that I'd spend the rest of my thirties as a graduate student. I should be happy about a simpler methodology, but it's not yet sitting well with me. I'll get there eventually.


lemming said...

Focus on the "approval." The advisor (long life etc.) has spoken. Run with it.

You can do the other method later - speaking from poignant experience, focus on the "official approval" angle as far and as much as you are able and then some.

EA said...

I have friends struggling with this very internal conflict. Bravo that you are letting yourself be guided to simpler, my friends are not so inclined and I worry for them...the seven year deadline is looming.

As for why simpler doesn't sit well, if you come to a conclusion, please, let me know.