First of all, some progress. Since I last wrote, I have:
- Met with my advisor again.
- Completed and turned in my forms for the IRB.
- Completed a short topic proposal and a second draft of a longer topic proposal.
- Met with my advisor about the two former things.
So now I'm doing a little waiting and feeling two main things about this process:
- Frustrated that the paperwork is taking so long (I want to do some actual work!) and
- Honored by the trust my advisor has in me.
So first I'll tell you about the topic proposal. There are actually two.
The Short Version. This is a one page deal that gives an overview of what, why, and how, I'll do my study and what I expect to get for results. The target audience for this is secondarily my committee, but primarily the graduate department on campus. They will look it over and say "sounds good" and stamp it with an "OK!" I hope. I said it was secondarily for my committee because they also need to look it over and sign it, basically letting the grad school know that they looked at it and think it'll be appropriate for me. But they will have more information in the form of...
The Long Version. This is currently 10 pages long, with 3 of those pages being bibliographical. My advisor suggested to keep it under 20. Basically, I need to provide my committee members with enough information to *really* be informed about my study. In other words, this one is the actual topic proposal: the other one is just a summary of it intended to appease the folks in the graduate department. (Yeah, I did the summary before writing the actual paper. It was shorter! I wanted to feel accomplished.)
So what happens next is--once my advisor says it's good enough--the distribution of the long and short topic proposals. I will send them both to my committee members and ask them to read them. Then I will set up a meeting with each of them to talk about their concerns, suggestions, and approval. They might suggest I do things differently, and then I'd need to revise the proposal to reflect this (and possibly the IRB too, if it's really different. Don't even want to think about that.). Eventually though, they'll approve it. They'll sign the form that's paired with The Short Version. Hopefully I'll also have IRB approval by then too. If I don't, I'll need to wait until I get it. And I'll send The Short Version and its form--and the form stating that the IRB approves my project--to the graduate department. After their approval (it's rare that one doesn't get approved after receiving the 'yes' from the committee and IRB), I'll have the 'go ahead' to start writing my first three chapters.
Yes, more writing (yay writing!). There are also a couple more forms (yay paperwork!) and stuff to deal with (yay stuff! to deal with!), and eventually a preliminary hearing. I've heard that these are not so fun. I'll write about all this in detail when I know more. Because this post--several paragraphs later and just getting to my point--is about my instrument.
My advisor--upon looking over my papers last week--suggested a particular observation instrument that he thought I should use. I couldn't find the instrument myself, so he said he'd contact the people who developed it because he had worked with them in the past. I was a little wary of this new instrument though, mainly because of the time involved in getting it. I thought I had my instrument ready to go, and now I was going to have to wait for someone from another institution to get back to my advisor, and for him to receive said instrument and give it to me, and for me to research the use and implications of it before finally using it myself? Tick tock, tick tock.
But he said it was a good idea, so I went along with it because he's pretty smart and he's also my committee chair. Meanwhile, I continued to work on my Long Version and I also did a little research about this instrument. It seemed really applicable and relevant, but looked like it was going to take me more time. (Oh well, I'm getting used to the idea of everything taking me more time than I'd expected. It happens.) Honestly, the use of this instrument would really solidify my research topic. It'd make it more publishable and people would take it more seriously. So that's nice.
A few days later, I received a voicemail from my advisor. He said he spoke with the person in charge of the intended instrument, and they weren't keen on releasing it for me to use it. Basically, they used to let other researchers (not just students, but also professional researchers in the field) use it and these people weren't using it properly. They weren't taking the training seriously and their results were not making the instrument look good, so they stopped letting people use it. Crap.
You following me so far?
- Advisor suggests perfect instrument.
- Nearly a week of valuable time passes while we wait.
- Creator tells advisor they don't distribute instrument anymore.
But wait, there's a 5th part to this (and this is the reason for the "honored" comment at the top of this post). Remember how I said my advisor is awesome? Well, he used to work with the people who created this instrument and apparently, he made a pretty good impression at the time. After telling him they don't distribute it anymore, his contact told him that since he had used the instrument himself and had been trained on it, they'd allow him--just this one time--to obtain it, give it to me, and train me on its proper use. I'm not allowed to distribute it to others or even show it to anyone else (except the IRB folks and my committee, and the copy I recently received to give to them had a big "FOR PREVIEW ONLY" stamped across it).
So now I get to use this exclusive instrument that most people can't get their mitts on, and it's because my advisor believes in me enough that he's willing to put his reputation on the line to vouch for my access to it. So I guess I better not eff it up.
Not that I had planned on doing a bad job anyway, but now I feel like I have a higher standard to reach. I'm not just doing my own work, I'm doing work on which my advisor will be judged by his colleagues. It's his credibility as well as my own, so I'd pay the respect to him best by not producing mediocre work.
So that's my instrument story. Coming up soon:
- I will get trained on the use of the instrument.
- I will hear back about my IRB's acceptance.
- I will receive the go-ahead to send my Long & Short Versions of the proposal to my committee, and will set up meetings with them to discuss it.
It won't be long before I start writing actual chapters in my actual dissertation! Crazy thought, right?