1/28/2009

So Frustrated

If you've been taking notes, you'll remember that I've been working on my dissertation for a year now. I have exactly 1 approved idea paper to show for it. I have an almost-finished proposal on a topic that I thought I was going to abandon but now...I'm not so sure.

See...the idea I want to do requires participation from folks in the public school system. This isn't outside the realm of possibility...it's just a big hurdle. I have approval now from two different school systems and I have a few teachers who have expressed interest. The problem is that this still boils down to a very small number of students. Plus it's an even smaller number of female students, which is really the demographic I need. I mean, I think I can do some interesting things with statistics for either gender - but really what I want to study is the girls.

Ideally, I need 100 girls to participate. This would be 50 in the experimental and 50 in the control. I don't think I have even the remotest chance of that -- one school system has an average of 75 females enroll in the class I need each year. And there are big problems using both school systems...mostly because the curriculum isn't the same so that introduces another variable, which of course potentially invalidates any conclusions I might be able to make. So, if we stick with just the one school system, realistically I might be able to get 50 of those female students to participate (ok, so maybe that's realistically optimistic, I don't know)...but that would be 25 control and 25 experimental. And that's assuming that I can split them evenly, which isn't a guarantee by any stretch, since it's not like I can have some students in one class in the experimental group and others in the same class in the control.

And all this is why I threw up my hands in early December and decided to switch topics. My advisor has/had an idea that he wanted researched. So I said fine, I'll do something I don't care about because I really just want to be done. Ultimately, at this point, I just want my diploma (and, oh yeah, to quit hemorraging tuition every semester). And so that was fine...except that he keeps saying he'll "get back to me". He has "some things to check out" and so forth. And now it's nearly February and I've made no progress on the new idea and it's time to enroll for the next semester and honestly, until I know what I'm doing, I'm not enrolling.

I shot an email off to the one teacher who has been most excited/responsive about the study and asked if she had contact with other teachers of the same course and would be willing to start trying to drum up participation (or if she'd mind if I used her name when I contacted them) - because at this point, I'm about ready to see what I can do about making a case for a smaller sample (and I think I can do this -- most of the references in my review of literature are on sample sizes in the 20-30 range so really...if it's good enough for those, some of which are dissertation studies, then it ought to be ok for me, right?) and just moving on with my original idea.

But at the end of the day, I'm so frustrated right now I don't really know what the right answer is. I just need to feel like I'm doing something other than throwing money down a rat hole.

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