Monday, 7 May 2012

The First Big Blow

In the last week, I've had the first big blow to my PhD confidence.  My first study, which has been my focus up until now, was finally at the analysis stage.  The pilot had been run, the follow up concluded and hours upon hours upon hours of coding finally finished.  It was time for analysis.

It turns out, I have nothing.  No results.  Nothing I can use.  It's not just an absence of what we thought would happen.  Every single participant did a different thing, which means I can't even say "Well they didn't do x, but they did y!"  I can do nothing with it.  I'm not going to lie.  This was one of the toughest things I've ever had to overcome.  With real-world vision research, you can't just run another few participants.  Coding takes so long per person that it's unfeasable if the pilot shows no pattern.

Obviously, this is hard because it is my first study and it has gone wrong.  But it's also hard because it is a reinforcement of fears like 'I'm too far behind everyone else', 'I'm never going to complete on time' and 'Am I really good enough to be doing a PhD?'  I'm sure these are fears everyone faces and I know failure is not individual to me or my research.  I knew this was something I needed to anticipate, I just didn't expect it so soon.

It's also difficult because in my School, we have to complete a piece of work in our first year that is our assessment to be allowed to continue.  My work had been going to be a write up of this study, so I'd been working on it for a while already.  However, now I will need to do a literature review instead.  This is scary, because I would've been preparing a long time ago if I knew that, and I am not confident about my writing.

However, I'm trying to see the bright side in all this.  After several days of allowing myself to mope that is.  At least this has happened now, rather than my second or third year when I'd be even more stressed.  And at least it was not a huge study.  It's going to give me practice at writing. 

I'm not quite believing these positives yet, but I'm working on it.  It's all still a bit raw.  But hey - if I can get through this, I guess I can get through anything.

1 comment:

  1. Are you really sure you have no results. Obviously I don't know what the study was and what form it took, but surely the fact that you have found that every participant did something different is important in itself, especially if that was unanticipated. Maybe now is the time to think about how to make the most of that finding.
    You have got a piece of work to write up - presumably the study was based on literature, methodology, etc. The findings mean that to explore whatever you are wanting to explore may mean further pilots with different designs, but you can't say you have found nothing!
    Time for a cup of tea or something stronger, a chat with supervisor, and a different report from the one envisaged and some rethinking of how to approach or reframe research question.
    I've heard it said that it is important to publish null findings, if for no better reason than saving others from wandering down the same avenue.