As the end of the semester draws near, it seems like a good time to give an update on all things thesis-y. Usually, my stories about graduate school involve some type of rant or negativity. However, tonight I'm here to write about some (perhaps rare) positive moments I've experienced recently.
About a week and a half ago, I may or may not have enjoyed a bottle of wine over the successful submission of Chapters 1-3 just a few days before our joyful American holiday of Thanksgiving. While it was a quiet week in the office (as most students scattered home for the holiday), I committed to working as if it were any other week. Although I did not make much progress on my actuall assistantship work, I did make good headway with organizing thesis data and putting together a major project which consisted of an educational program plan (20 pages). When that was done, I started on an essay exam. In other words, I had a productive week despite the holiday.
[It should be noted that I am grateful for a lovely friend of mine who adopted me into her family and welcomed me home for Turkey Day. In the three years I have been away for Thanksgiving, I must admit that I have been very blessed to have warm, hospitable friends who have graciously welcomed me into their family homes on this special day. Next year, however, I am committed to being at home with my own family on this holiday--no matter what.]
Back to positive moments a la graduate school...On Monday after Thanksgiving, my three chapters were returned with MINIMAL revisions! No major overhauls, reorganizations, cuts, or additions. It was a miracle! How I put together a decent lit review (despite aches and pains generally associated with such portions), I will never know. Either way, I'm not complaining. Au contraire, I am rejoicing!
On Tuesday, I sent out a third round of reminders to participants in my study. One participant returned the e-mail with an interesting request. A 4-H program leader in [unnamed] state asked permission to use my instrument (survey) as an internal self-assessment tool for their camping programs. He asked how the instrument was designed and whether it was based on "best practices." For those of you who are unfamiliar with the "research world," a request for someone else to use your instrument is kind of a big deal.
According to my professor, it's rare for doctoral students to design their own instruments, much less master's students. (Many of the Master's students in our dept. design their own instruments, so I never thought much of it.) Someone asking to use your instrument is one of the biggest honors a researcher can receive. Needless to say, I was super giddy and excited about it all. So, if any of you come across a journal article (or research presentation/printed materials) with my name as a reference for the survey instrument, be sure to let me know!
Also this week, several of us in the office reviewed posters for an upcoming professional conference. One of our profesors is in charge of the poster submissions, so she enlisted our help during the reviewal process. While I contributed to a poster proposal for last year's conference, I'd never had the experience of reviewing others' professional work in this capacity. At first, I felt unqualified to do the job, but as I worked through it, it actually turned out okay. Basically, it ended up being a review on all the research methodology and reporting techniques that I've learned over the past year and a half. In a way, it was kind of like reviewing for the final in my advanced research methods course (which is good, considering I'll probably wait 'til the last minute to actually do that, lol). In any case, reviewing posters was a fun experience. :)
As with all things studious, it can't all be roses and chocolate. To date, my response rate rests around 35%, which is not near the 70% my advisor would like, or even the 60% she insists is necessary for publication. I've made about 60 phone calls, probably speaking with a real person in about 1/3 of those calls, hoping...begging...for people to respond to the survey. We're going to reevaluate the situation on Tuesday when my advisor and I meet with our department head to give it a practice go at analayzing the data. For me, it's not a question of whether I'm going to graduate ('cuz you can bet that I will graduate, regardless), but it is a matter of putting together a quality piece that is worth all of this work. Plus, people need this research. It's important, and therefore, I need to do a good job of it. So, if you all could pray to the god of survey research, that would be great. (If you choose to stick with just one god for now, that's okay too. *wink*)
Rather than go on about other academic obligations regarding the remainder of the semester, I'm going to leave you with this:
(I am officially addicted to phdcomics, so expect more "funnies" in the near future!)
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow*!
*It's snowed here in Raleigh yesterday!