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I am happy to say that yesterday I FINALLY completed the transcription review and editing step in my doctoral thesis research by sending the transcripts to my interviewees for member checking. The entire transcription and checking / editing the final transcript by relistening to the interviews again and making corrections has been the single longest part of my research to date, and I was only able to accomplish it through using the Pomodoro technique.
Previous experience has shown me, upon reflection, that the transcription-related step has always been my biggest hurdle, after which I tend to make consistent and steady progress (knock wood). I am glad that my interviewees (I have the best interviewees anybody could ever ask for!) have already started to reply that they received it (with even a few corrections, edits, additions, and clarifications). I am thus hoping to begin my formal analysis in about a month.
I am very thankful for the support of my interviewees and my research network; while I cannot mention many of you by name, I do thank you for your support.
I have found the most difficult challenge in my doctoral thesis (dissertation) thus far to be transcription.
As a matter of fact, there are few things I have struggled with more than transcription. While I love hearing the interviews again – I make connections, I feel even more connected to the experience – but for some reason(s) my mind goes numb when I think about transcription. I either type slowly or my mind wanders or I nod off or whatever, so much to the extent that I finally had to hire somebody associated with my university to help with my transcription. Either I was going to go broke and get it done or I simply was not going to finish.
Thus, even with transcription behind me, I still have to re-listen to the interviews and review / correct / edit them. Even the best transcriber in the world was just not there at the interview, and thus cannot know the context as much as I do. Thus, I need to re-listen and check and verify and tweak before I return to the interviewees for their checking, and while this is close enough to the transcription process that my mind borders on numbness and revolt, I have discovered a technique (once again from my wonderful #phdchat network!) to help me chunk this process into small portions that are not overwhelming.
Enter the pomodoro.
The Pomodoro Technique is a simple time management process where you do a single task for 25 minutes, without any distraction, followed by a 5 minute break. Track the success. Repeat. Get the idea? Large tasks can be overwhelming, though if we break them down to doable chunks, called pomodoros, we are able to make progress and track it along the way.
The process can get a little more organized, or course, though this is the extent that I have started to use to help me to get through my transcription, and thus my thesis, at this point. Working through a 90 minute interview, stopping to rewind and make corrections and edits along the way takes hours, but chopping it into short 25-minute pieces – hey, I can do that!
While this can be done with a simple timer (I bought one for this when I started, one of those wind-up kitchen timers), there are also a number of applications and apps to help with the process. I finally tried and found one I like, called Pomodoro, and the few dollars I spent on it has been well-spent. After all, a few optional dollars to help overcome a major challenge by helping to break it up into shorter bits of doable effort is OK in my book.
While pomodoros can be used for all sorts of tasks, it is simply another process tool to help increase efficiency (and simply finish). I am using it with success at this point, though can imagine its application being almost limitless (especially when surrounded by everything so interesting in social media and the internet!). After all, in the spirit of the #changee MOOC, doing something new and counter to how the mainstream does, can be useful indeed. Learning opportunities indeed do surround us!
BTW, I wrote this post in a pomodoro as a colleague asked me what it was!
After taking perhaps a bit too much time off from working on my doctoral thesis upon my return from BERA in London in September, I realized time has been moving along as it does, though I have not been making active progress in my research. I have been thinking about it (and I really do mean this–I have been reading and considering methodological issues around it, not just thinking about thinking about it!), and while some transcription assistance has been happening, I have not been as active as I want to be. All that changed yesterday when I started to actively organize my transcription and review process and finally begin working on it.
I thus waited until now to post; I have just checked and revised the first of the transcripts by listening to the recording while correcting any mistyping done during the initial round. Finishing the first one and getting it ready to send back to the interviewee, I feel I am finally on my way again. Thinking about it is valuable, but moving forward on it will help me finish.
Lesson learned? After working on nothing else in August except my interviews, and then spending the next month and a half catching up with life, conference abstracts, working with colleagues at #phdchat, attending the #change11 MOOC (among other things), I realize I need balance. I need to continually plug away on my thesis while not neglecting the other things in my life that are so connecting and rewarding. Doing one without the other is ultimately not rewarding or healthy. Onward and upward.
I am re-reading all of the transcripts of the 8 interviews I conducted for my research project, and am so overwhelmed with the stories that were shared. They are so personal, so strong, and seemingly so full of every element of human experience. In some ways, I feel I am peering into a slice of the lives of a group fascinating people who shared their stories with me for the sake of my research.
I hope I do their works justice in my findings. Perhaps the best justice would be giving somebody else an insight or idea that leads to some other action in service of research, self-knowledge, and advancing the benefits of a networked community?
I have completed the transcriptions for my research (a bit later than I hoped, but it is moving forward), and am beginning to analyze it. Some of the transcripts for the 8 interviews I conducted still need to be sent to the research participants for member checking, but all that is underway.
My initial review of the interviews is wonderful; I believe I have a lot of rich stories that may reveal some very interesting things about the experience of Public Transformations.
However, I have to fight against the anxiety of feeling I am very behind where I hoped to be (my paper is due in another week). In some ways, I wish I had the luxury of being able to research without any other work, but it is a fact of my life that there are a lot of things happening. Regardless, I still expect to have the draft of this paper submitted by February 8, when it is due. Hey, what else is there to focus on at this time of the winter?!