Today I finished data collection on my dissertation, and the accomplishment feels so good and so terrifying at the same time! Let me explain.
My students wrapped up their school year by giving end-of-the-year speeches that are meant to reflect on their year school year–the good, the bad, maybe even the ugly of their experiences both in and out of school. They’re short and to the point, but that is also what makes them powerful. I’ve done this various years as an English teacher, especially in the era of end-of-course tests taking place in early May and still needing to fill the exam time requirement. (This needs to change, but I digress). What is different about this year is these speeches are the capstone of nearly ten weeks of collecting video, audio, and artifacts from my students. These speeches are taking place after exploring themselves and their peers through zine making. While I have yet to analyze anything substantial, what these speeches capture is a year of growth and change for many of these students. Some of the speeches spoke to themes of personal hurt, personal growth, and personal reflection, while many also touched on themes, of forgiveness, respect, and care of their classmates. I’m excited to dive in and see what their words may lead me to discover. This is the feel good part of finishing data collection.
The daunting task of analyzing all of this data (hours and hours worth of transcription) is the terrifying part. I’m not terrified in the sense of I’m shaking and racked with fear; rather, there is some sense of paralysis of, “Where do I begin?” I have formulated a plan, but we all know the best laid plans may not pan out and while I have this entire next year to unpack my data and report on it, there is still a sense of being potentially overwhelmed. I know I am not alone. There are plenty of qualitative researchers and doc students who are where I am. I take some solace in that, and I know have cohort mates that will be experiencing what I am experiencing. Trust me–I will be reaching out to them for mental relief.
Overall, I’m thrilled. I feel accomplished. I feel ready. Still, I would be a liar if I said I know exactly what I am doing and how I’m doing it. I’m learning still as I go. Thankfully, I like that process of learning. I know ultimately I’ll be successful, but I know I still have a long road ahead of me.
However, this is a hurdle I’m excited to have cleared.