Monday, March 23, 2009

Reality bites...

...but I'm grateful a) to have a job and b) to have a job I like a lot.

Note that I do not love the job. I like it alot. There is a difference.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 13 Report


I Twittered about this briefly (see sidebar to the right): I actually wrote three pages of new text today, and I think that's pretty darn cool. I also completed Table 1: Participant Demographics. None of this was rocket science, but as I always say: starting the writing process is always the toughest part for me. So glad the start of all of this is over! All in all, that was a good way to end The Two Weeks.

I've determined that I'm going to write two results chapters and then a final implications/discussion chapter. That will be six total, instead of five. It's not going to involve any additional writing beyond what I had originally thought, but this is simply a way to just break it all down into more manageable chunks.

I rewarded myself by setting up both the screened porch (back of the house) and the un-screened porch (front of the house). That involved sweeping off the floors, washing down the furniture (I don't think I did that last spring, so it was sorta gross), hanging up the bamboo sun shades (screen porch only), putting down the outdoor rug (screen porch only), and finally moving the furniture into Their Proper Places. I'm looking forward to our second spring and third summer here at Chesterley. Best of all, I expect I'll spend many a day cranking out pages and pages on that screened porch.

I think I'm going to take tomorrow off. I think I deserve it, and mentally I need a day to just veg out before returning to Work again on Monday.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Day 12 Report

I'm writing the report du jour halfway through the 'jour' because it's going very well. Had my first meeting with one of my peer reviewing friends (Peer Reviewer #1, or PR1) just now. I'm glad to finally be able to talk about the theory I'm building without talking out of my ass! This was sort of the culmination of The Two Weeks, and I think I'm now in a very good spot.

PR1 was helpful in that she listened well and attempted to follow how I was building up the theory. As she was learning more about the theory, she asked a few questions and took a guess as to how some of the points were falling together. Hearing her logic and reasoning of these points made me think about building up part of the background of the theory a bit more. All good thoughts. I think I'm off to a decent start.

The other thing PR1 helped with was logistics of writing up all of this stuff. She validated a few things I had already considered (a good thing), and also gave me some helpful tips I had not yet considered. Pretty exciting if you ask me. Bottom line: I think I can officially start writing now.

I'm now at Snooty Local Coffee Shop trying to make sense of these discussions and savor the last few hours of The Two Weeks prior to the weekend. Living in Theory World has been nice these past couple of weeks. Not sure I'm really ready to come back into Reality World come Monday, but we'll see.

OK, am off to finish organizing and start writing. Finally.

Day 11 Report

I didn't have any huge breakthroughs yesterday, but progress was made. I got through much of my to-do list, including a very rough outline of the results chapter (yay) and even a start on the theory part. I have some logistical decisions to make about how I'll present everything, but I think I'm on track. I have lunch with my peer reviewing friend in a few hours, and I don't think I'll have my head entirely up my ass. Only partially.

Certainly far better than it would have been two weeks ago, that's for certain.

More later.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Brain-to-Ass Connection

A thought occurred to me today, as I was re-reading a part of my dissertation proposal. The thought was something like this:
All good writing comes out of your brain by way of your ass.
Being honest: I was surprised at how good my dissertation proposal seemed to flow when re-reading it. But I realize now I don't really remember writing large parts of it. Ergo, I must have just pulled it out of my ass at some point.

Day 10 Report

Wednesday was yet another good day. I was back at the library, this time by myself, and was able to make good headway on shoving things into NVivo. I decided to take a BIG shortcut with all this, however, and not bother with recoding every single interview. I've already written summaries for each interview that will comprise part of the results chapter, so instead of recoding at the interview level itself, I'm coding the summaries. I mean, DUH! So I'm flying through those and expect to finish them up today, during Day 11. I also did something basic: I re-read my initial dissertation proposal. It had been a while, and it's bringing me back to the reasons for why I'm doing this study in the first place. Yet another helpful tool for finishing up the data analysis.

Another thing I realized: I don't want to go back to work next week. I wish I could just take an extended leave and keep plugging away. So that made me start thinking about the job a bit more. I used to think I love my job. At this point, I've reduced that down to Liking It A Lot. And you know, that's probably healthier. I don't need to LOVE it. It's stable, the pay is decent, and I do enjoy the work environment. So, liking it a lot is very helpful, in that it keeps me going back the next day...

I enjoy the dissertation study a great deal, and there are times I can see myself doing just this for a living (i.e. become a professor), but the thought of having to go through the tenure review process and do all this work and then still not know if I'll get there...I don't think it's really worth it for me at this point. Too many question marks. What I've realized from these couple of weeks away, however, is that I will need to find a lower-stress way to replace the sort of braining I'm doing now when (if?) I finish the dissertation. An intellectual outlet will be important, but that does not equate a big change in my career. Bottom line, in addition to making great progress on the study itself, I think I'm also making big progress on defining my relationship with my job and career.

Moving on: I wrote out a to-do list for myself between now and tomorrow. I meet with my first peer reviewer in under 25 hours. Time to kick some more ass and pull this shit together.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Day 9 Report

About halfway through Day 10, I remembered to write up the Day 9 report.

Day 9 was fine. I'm a poet. Should I write this post in verse? Well, it could be worse.

Aw, horseshit.

I was grateful for Lemming's comment in my last post, warning me not to lose my stride. Almost did in the morning, but I got things back together. I had a conference call I had to do for an hour at 11AM, and it distracted my focus more so than it should have, I suspect.

However, I actually ended up having a pretty major breakthrough on how I think I can connect all the theories I've read about into the one I'm creating. Yahoo! It just sort of came out all at once: there was a key code on my screen, practically staring at me, laughing at me. I thought about moving it from its current home under my newer construct with hardly any supporting literature to a different home under a construct with a ton of literature. And then it hit me: this code could fit under EITHER construct. Ah ha! A connection! And it was right in front of my face the entire time (ergo, the reason for why it appeared to be laughing at me, like "Hello? I'm right here you idiot!" And suddenly about four other connections started appearing in the data that all lead toward this one connecting code. It was a cool moment. I was in the middle of Starbucks, too, so I tried to keep from jumping all over the place making a complete ass of myself. I found restraint. I didn't appear as strange as the man at the next table using an adding machine (see my Twitter posts). That was pretty darn funny.

Refocusing: It's really remarkable how these things just leap out at me, as if they have a mind of their own. The only thing I can relate it to is when looking at those designs that your mind can sort of flip over and they suddenly become three-dimensional. Remember those? That's exactly how this process has been for me these past few days. I stare at these codes, and suddenly part of my brain just flips over and this great connection emerges.

That connection emerged when I was organizing quotes from one of the interviews where the participant was highly engaging, highly complex, and highly directed on his future career path. The next interview I will work with today has been my mode of comparison to him throughout this data analysis process, as she is pretty much the polar opposite. She's not very connected, not very engaging, etc., and yet she is VERY important to this study because she brings up an opposing point of view. Should be interesting, the comparisons I can made and where she may end up in the study.

Am back at the library, this time by myself. I would rather be outside on our screened-in porch with today's gorgeous weather, but I've not yet set it up for the spring. It still has all the furniture stacked, the outdoor rug is rolled up, and the sun shades are still in the basement, not to mention the furniture is filthy. That's probably a project for this weekend? Or perhaps I should just keep working on the diss.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 8 Report

A BIG thank-you for a good work day goes out to J, K & M who joined me from SCT today at the downtown library. All four of us made terrific progress on the academic endeavors we have before us. Learning is a social process, after all, and we all kept each other on task for just about the entire day. We then enjoyed dinner out together along with Wife & Moose, which was great! I miss living closer to these friends, but I'm glad they're not so far away that we can't get together like this on occasion.

Today went well. And, since it's officially spring break at LMU, I hardly received any work-related e-mail with which to contend. This is good.

Today's goal was to do axial coding for the last half of the interviews. And, at this point, since I had created a decent list of codes, I attempted to code using only my list and NOT generate any new ones. It worked, and in fact, after coding just bits and pieces of two of the seven remaining interviews, I decided to stop this process entirely, believing that my list was comprehensive and representative enough. Analyzing to redundancy is a good way to go.

So now it's time to get organized to write. In order to do this, I will need to remember where quotes lie among 14 different interviews, lasting somewhere between 60 and 100 minutes each. So, I've decided to use qualitative data-analysis software called NVivo. I wasn't sure if I was going to spend time on this or not, so I allowed myself to try it for two hours. I made a pact with myself that I was struggling with it, or if it felt like a plumb waste of time, then I'd just stop and go with what I have in Excel.

The neat thing, though, is that I'm able to make further realizations about the themes in the data by way of yet another chance to revisit the details of each interview. This is very helpful. I am not concerned about coding every single line of every single interview at this point. Rather, I simply go to the spots in each interview that I know are salient to the theory I'm creating, and I code necessary bits using the extensive code grid (the bit in Excel) I created last weekend. The process went alright today, and I hope to pick up speed with it to be finished with this part no later than Wednesday. Then, that'll give me about a day-and-a-half to get things together for my peer reviewers by Noon Friday. The end result of using this software is that I will be able to type a query, like "self-efficacy," for example, and then the system will spit out a report with every quote across all 14 participants where they said something related to the topic. Very powerful. Very slick.

I have been wanting to get to this very point in the process for MONTHS. It's fantastic to finally be here now. I'm just about at the top of the hill at this point, so I can't wait for the downward slope known as the writing process.

I meant what I said about writing being a downward, easier slope. I've never had a problem with the actual writing process. I write pretty quickly. For me the difficulty comes beforehand. I struggle with the anticipation of doing the task itself, and the preparation work beforehand. Anxiety has ruled this process for me for some time, and I'm pleased to say I believe I've overcome most of it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Day 7 Report

A good Sunday was had. Went to church in the morning, where an incredible college choir sang on their spring break tour. My college choir took a spring break tour, too, during my freshman year. Gulp, that was 20 years ago. Moving on, then.

Came home, did a little bit of organizing and lunching. Then we spent a few hours in the back yard with Wife, Moose & Chester, cleaning up the winter tree crap (sweet gum tree and its damn gumballs...hate those little fuckers). Got caught up with one of our neighbors, too...was good to actually SEE neighbors again instead of us all being trapped in our cold houses for months at a time during the winter. Nice to see spring is about to spring all around.

Then I came into the office/prison and backed up my entire dissertation, again, on my external hard drive. Didn't want to lose all that good work from the last week.

Ate dinner with the fam. Played piano a bit. And now I'm putting Moose to bed. So, sort of a day of rest, of sorts. And that's alright.

Tomorrow, two colleagues from SCT will come up to LSC, and the three of us will work together in the downtown library. All of us are on spring break, working on dissertation and related coursework. Should be a good day. And maybe I'll write in complete sentences tomorrow. No more phrases. Haha.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 6 Report

Today rocked. In order to discuss why, I must mention a few details from the work I've been doing lately.

I moved the open codes into one spreadsheet per participant (14 of them). Yesterday I finished the axial coding process for half of them.

An aside: I think I've mentioned before that axial coding is essentially coding the codes. It involves creating a broader code name under which each open code can be grouped. The broader code names relate more closely to the literature that applies to the study. It's a technique used a) to reduce the number of open codes into a shorter, more digestible list, and b) to bring all of the codes themselves closer to the concepts driving the purpose of the study.

Back on topic: I finished axial coding 7 of the 14 interviews, and then I cut/pasted all of those into one very long column in a spreadsheet. After using the 'remove duplicates' command (which deserves great amounts of love and adoration), I found myself starting with a list of 332 codes. Oy.

So I started reducing things. For example, internship and apprenticeship are essentially the same thing, so I chose one over the other (internship). Then I needed to decide if internship could stand alone as a broader code, or if it needed to be part of something bigger. Well, the reason why internships are important to this study is the connection between the student and the mentor that forms as a result of the activity. So, I placed my internship code on the same row as the code for mentoring. Get it? Reduce and group. Reduce and group. That's been my mantra of the day.

Slowly, the code list became shorter and wider. I removed synonyms or other things that just were extraneous to the process. I grouped concepts underneath broader concepts and kept referring to my literature map to make sure these things connected to the literature.

But then something really cool happened: it all snapped together at one moment. I couldn't move things fast enough into groupings. It was like a deck of cards was shuffling itself. A series of dominoes were falling into perfect alignment instead of being spread all over the floor. It was a really weird experience, and I kept saying out loud, "Oh my god, it's coming together by itself!" Wife must think I'm insane, but that's alright.

A task I thought would take two to three days took me a total of about four hours this afternoon. The code list that started at 332 collapsed to 158, then 112, then 68, and now finally it's at 42. 42. OK, I can work with 42. Far easier to handle than 332. That's an 87% reduction in codes. And it all just seemed to click together today.

In the next couple of days, I will use said list of 42 to quickly recode the other 7 interviews. I think I have a shot at getting through those fairly quickly.

In other news: my three peer reviewers have all responded with a resounding 'yes.' The one who is local to LSC is having lunch with me next Friday. I must give her and the other two reviewers the dissertation proposal, data framework, and anything else I can to see if they agree with me on the direction the study is taking. It's a hard deadline, and if this doesn't motivate me to get it done, then nothing will.

At this point, I'm confident it's all going to come together. It's not going to be perfect, but I don't care. Wow. Who the hell knew?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 5 Report

Thanks for your comments on yesterday's post. They were helpful. Feel free to keep adding as you'd like.

Gibsyn, when we spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned something like, "I really could just start writing now and stop all this coding." Well honestly, after a couple of very productive work days, I realize that's not quite the case. The coding I'm doing now is actually very helpful for wrapping up the analysis process, so I am going to stick with it for now. And it's going quite well, and actually quite quickly. I have a good system in place. I'm using some technical tools to help me out and reduce redundancy among the various lists. Go go Gadget "Remove Duplicates" function in MS Excel!

I've used your 10-minutes technique, which operates under the philosophy, "You can do anything for just 10 minutes." Like Root Canal? Torture? Anyhow, I brought a kitchen timer up to my office. I set it for 10 minutes and I start coding. I do not allow myself to do anything else during that time. Low and behold, progress is made during said 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, I reset it again. At the end of the second 10 minutes, I'm so into the coding process that the alarm is ANNOYING and I just turn it off and keep going. An hour or more later, it's time for a break. And that's pretty much how my day went today. Each time after recovering from a break, I use the timer to get back into things till I don't need it anymore. Brilliant.

Finally, to further demonstrate my focus this week: my office/prison is sorta messy, and even dusty, and I don't give a rat's ass. Those of you who have read this blog for a while realize what a monumental step that is.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 4 Report

As promised, my Day 4 Report. And this time it's actually on Day 4.

I've been taking a day off from work each week to work on the dissertation since I started this job. I would say about 58% of the time I end up doing work-work from home instead of dissertation-work. And other times I've had to forgo the entire dissertation day and come to the office for Important Meetings. None of this surprises me, seeing the slow rate of progress I've made on the dissertation thus far this academic year.

In recent months, I've been taking Wednesdays as this work-from-home-on-the-dissertation day. So, since today was the first day where I've been able to work on the dissertation this week, it has felt like Wednesday. Oh yeah, it's really Thursday. Hoo boy. I must remember my dentist appointment tomorrow at 9:00 AM. I keep thinking that's in two days.

Anyway, the rest of the day was very productive. First, I did a bit more axial coding and made some realizations about one of my participants that was, well...let's just say I have a completely different, and deeper, understanding of this person's identity development. Bottom line, the exercise in axial coding continues to be extremely helpful.

Next, I attempted to reach out to my peer reviewers, whom I recruited last fall. I need to see if they are able to help me this semester, instead of last fall when I had initially asked for their help. I've not yet heard back, but that's no surprise given my e-mails to them were sent toward the end of the afternoon. Would be great to hear from them tomorrow or Saturday.

Finally, I decided upon the materials I will provide to said peer reviewers, assuming they still have the time for me this semester. This final step of deciding on what the hell I'm actually providing to my peer reviewers has allowed me to visualize the schedule for the rest of The Two Weeks. This is a good thing. My plan is to get each of them the set of materials by the end of next week. Deep breath. I can do this.

So Chad, per your comment on my prior post, I daresay I have indeed started kicking ass on this project. Finally.

I have two colleagues from SCT who are taking next week off (Spring Break) to work on dissertation tasks themselves, so we've decided to get together and work as a group in the library at least once or twice during that time. This should help keep the focus, accountability, and general dissertation ass-kicking in line. And then we can all get together for dinner afterward. Food and drink after long library days are good things.

To those of you who comment here: THANK YOU. While I write this blog entirely for myself as a diary, without any particular audience in mind other than me, it is good to know there are people out there who are actually reading. Comments are most welcome.

Off to do a bit more axial coding before bed. Bye.

Day 3 Report

Day 3 involved more catch-up time from worky. I know, not the point of the Two Weeks. So, sue me.

At long last, as of about 10:30 AM today, I finally feel caught up from feeling behind in my work the past couple of months. It's as if a huge weight has been lifted and I can just focus on the dissertation without feeling any of the lovely Italian/Jewish guilt that surges through my blood at all times. Well, at least for the time being, the guilt feelings are numbed by the accomplishments of the day. They will re-appear, rest assured.

Fortunately, this last work-related project involved delving into some of the literature I'm using in my dissertation, so in many ways I have been dissertating since the middle of the afternoon yesterday. And while I was reading this brainy literature on epistemological reflection and inter/intrapersonal development, I kept thinking: Hey, I get this. I can do this. I am finishing this.

I finished said project earlier this morning, and then I had a good work-out. Needed that. Came home and had lunch, waved to Wife who came home from work early, and now I am here at Large Ubiquitous Chain Coffee shop near Chesterley for the rest of the afternoon.

So, now what do I do? I asked Wife this very question. She gave me the old, "How do you eat an elephant?" question. One bite at a time. Yeah, I know. Gee thanks. :-)

Gotta get some structure around my tasks for the next several days. My plan is to update the blog later this evening sharing whether or not I have developed a decent structure for the next week-and-a-half of work ahead of me. And away we go.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Day 2 Report

Hi. Day 2 went really well. It was all work-work, but I got on a roll with getting a lot of this shit done. Maybe I should call this Get the Shit Done week. I have really one more task to do for work-work, and then I can put work-work to bed for a while. Not easy for me to do...I'm pretty committed to work-work. But they'll live. I'll live. It'll be fine.

Allergies are getting a little better, but about two hours prior to the end of my 12-hour decongestant, I need it again. So I have a lousy four hours per day (sparing the cyber world the details), but then I take the damn drugs and it's fine. I am sick of this, though. This never happened to me before moving to SCT, and I'm not pleased they have followed me here to LSC. Need to get back to the doctor. But, it can wait till after the Two Weeks.

Tomorrow I shall finish the one last task. I shall go to the gym. I WILL start on the dissertation work, hopefully by the end of the day tomorrow. Can't. Wait.

Day 1 Report

I finished Day 1 of my two weeks. It went OK yesterday. I got out of the house and worked at a cafe I don't like very much, but at least my buddy Dave was commiserating with me. I was finishing up stuff for work, so I haven't delved into the dissertation yet. I have one more day of work-work to do before I feel my plate has cleared enough to focus on the diss.

In other news, I was feeling like CRAP over the weekend and much of yesterday. I pulled a tendon or somethingorother in my upper back, and my allergies were attacking my head so that my head felt stuffed up and my glands felt a little swollen. I was grumpy. I also had not hit the gym in about a week, for various reasons. That was my first time since the beginning of November not going to the gym at least twice per week (except for a small hiatus during Christmastime). So, I went to the gym last night. And today, I feel better. Yep. Head is draining. Pain in back is gone. Sigh. I guess this exercise stuff really works.

Day 2 involves heading to the library to get through grading papers for the class I was teaching (note that's in the past tense now) and finishing up a report. Perhaps I'll get into analysis work by the end of the day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

It's getting easier, maybe?

I started this post last weekend, meant to come back and finish up, and then completely forgot.

I will share below [putting my comments from today in the post]:
The coding of the codings is getting far easier. I daresay I may even be able to get back into the actual writing of the results at the end of next week [yeah, didn't happen just yet!]. This will hopefully be a good position to be in at the start of the two-week writing spree [that would have been nice, indeed]. Here's to hoping I can stave off the [and this is where the post ended, abruptly]
That just begs for an ending like, "Here's to hoping I can stave off the urge to procrastinate."


Ugh. This is gonna be interesting

And here we go

I embark upon the two weeks I have mentioned in the past. I'm a bit scared. I'm not scared of what I can do, or anything like that. It's just that my track record for planning expansive chunks of unstructured time for my dissertation is not that great. Just my opinion.

I've enlisted three friends as peer reviewers. These are friends whose work I respect a great deal, and fortunately these are people I do not see on a regular basis. Not sure why I find that fortunate just yet, but that's my initial thought. Anyhow, one lives here in town, and the other two are in different states. There's a fourth who is also here in town that I may enlist as well, in case one of the others is too extended in her work to be able to participate. All are women. Not that it makes a stitch of difference in this case, but it's just a noteworthy trend. I didn't realize that till after I had asked them for help.

Anyhow, I hope that these three or four will be my accountability measure for the two weeks. I just need to speak with them and decide upon what I must (MUST) deliver to them no later than Friday, March 20.

Oy. For now, Wife and I have dinner plans, so, bye.