The Scamp and the Writing Challenge: Week 13

…or, The Scamp is a Reluctant Statistician.

I don’t like the writing challenge for this week, so I am just going to make this one up as I go. I’ve been back in Scotland for more than a week, and I finally had to have the conversation that I have been dreading for months. I have spent almost two years collecting survey data and interviewing the staff and students at the uni as part of my thesis research. Most of the surveys were passed out in classes, and then entered into the dreaded SPSS software system. I have just been playing around with the software to see if I remembered how to use it, but I have been putting off doing anything more than finding averages and simple standard deviations within the data.

I hate statistics. Those who know me, and who were with me through the two semesters that we studied it (hey old study group, I’m looking at you and our old Google Docs) know that you often had to drag me kicking and screaming through an explanation of the relationship between the numbers, and I had to sit with a very formulaic fill-in-the-blank sentence structure so I could just plug in the numbers into the template. I only passed that class because I had people way smarter than me sitting next to me helping me understand what I was doing. I’m a qualitative researcher. I’m more concerned with the hows and the whys, with talking to people or observing phenomena. I like interviews and focus groups. I like interacting with others, and spending time going through documents to learn. I do not spend my time with large data sets.

My director of studies loves numbers. He is a scientist. He loves big numbers, he is very uncomfortable with emotions (which I can see every time I cry in his presence), and he does not think that Grounded Theory is really a thing. We’ve clashed a bit on the theory for my thesis, and in the last few months he has been pushing me to sit down with the statistics and really start to create questions and hypotheses (hypothesi? I’m not sure) to explore for the analysis chapter. He has been after me to meet with him, to create charts and spreadsheets, and to get some hypotheses written on paper.

I’ve been avoiding him and making passive aggressive comments about not wanting to work with the numbers. When that didn’t work, I straight out told him that I was worried that I have no idea what I am doing with the stats, and I am really afraid that I am going to have to do complicated bivariate correlations and ANOVA tests and then have no idea how to explain the results and the numbers that are produced from it. He kept saying that things would be fine, that he would sit down with me and we could do it together and everything would be fine.

Meanwhile, I’m stressing out over stats and the never-ending edits to the paper. I had my 6 month review this week and cried in front of my external supervisor who has met me exactly one time 6 months ago. It is my physiological response to frustration and stress (or anger or embarrassment, or sadness). My external was really nice about it, and did her took her job wonderfully and tried to mediate the situation. She helped me get a really good compromise, and I think my supervisor finally understand where I am coming from.

I also think I will be able to handle the stats I have to do for my thesis.

I know that this is all part of the process. I know that I am not going to always agree with my supervisors, and that I am going to have some bumps in the road, and that there would be some learning that I would have to do. I haven’t been able to meet with all of my supervisors at once in a long time, and sometimes I feel like I am a one woman show. I’m currently the only person working on an Education based PhD, and it is not always fun being a lonely island. It doesn’t help that my depression is up and down and I have killer anxiety. I enjoyed my time in my in California, but I have a stop start relationship with my work, and see it as a waste of time when I take a break, rather than a chance to clear my head and center myself before I continue. Thank the sweet baby Jesus I have a therapist that helps keep me on track.

I hate that cry when I am in situations like that, but I do feel better that things are out in the open. I’m hoping now that my plans to spend the summer with my data will not be as stressful.   In the meantime I will binge listen to My Favourite Murderer and try not to think it is weird that I enjoy listening to tales of murder and two super neuritic women telling me to Fuck Politeness! and Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered.

The Scamp Collects Some Data

I finally get to write about something related to my research! It has been a bit of a struggle, but I have managed to get some surveys out and today I spent the day inputting the results into SPSS.

The last time I used SPSS was for the grad program at CSUF. I worked with three other people to write notes and put together a complicated semester worth of data sets and questions. We made step by step notes on how to do everything from simple regressions to comparative factor analysis. At the time, I couldn’t tell you what I was doing. When writing up the results, I copied the wording from my handy dandy manual and just plugged in my numbers. I’m a stubborn qualitative researcher; I just don’t care about the numbers. My supervisor is a scientist, so he is quite insistent that I have some quantitative data to back up all the hippy dippy feelings (he hasn’t quite said those words, but I know that this is something that he would say).

After a quick trip to YouTube to refresh my memory on how to properly set all of my variables, I was able set up all of my questions and create a set that can now be analysed for all sorts of fun connections. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel having to use SPSS again, but all in all, I am happy that I remembered as much as I did. I will probably have to consult the internet for the proper language to use when describing the trends, and will probably have to look up the proper way to create the charts and graphs that I will need, but it seems a lot less scary than I thought it would be.


and just for fun, here is proof that I actually worked on my surveys today.

I’m excited because this means that my research is finally underway, and I am making progress with my PhD. I have a couple of months left until I advance to full on PhD status, but with this underway, I know that that meeting will be a cinch.

Update on my 30 things to do before 30: I bought tickets to the symphony, and made my way up a little higher on the list for a therapist. I can’t wait to be able to cross some more things off my list.