Tuesday, 23 October 2012


Now that my conversion is completed and my literature review done, my focus is shifting to collecting data.  Given that I have three years in total to complete my PhD (and one is already gone), I'm allowing approximately 18 months to collect all my data, leaving 6 to write up.

Ambitious?  Yes.  Realistic?  Possibly.

Feasibly, if everything went as expected, collecting my data in 18 months would be a doddle.  But therein lies the problem.  In research, nother ever goes as expected.  Ever.  There's an often repeated saying (in our department at least, though I'm sure it must exist everywhere people have to do research) "This would be great if only I didn't have to use participants."


Participants are often the number one problem.  I have to frequently remind myself that to everyone else, my research is completely unimportant.  For participants, it's not a big deal if they don't turn up - they can reschedule or sign up for another experiment.  For me, it means an hour of wasted time, lab space gone to waste when someone else could have used it, and a real delay in me actually being able to do anything.

You see, now that I've nothing tangible to work on and because I've not yet got any data to code or to analyse, I'm just waiting.  My job just now is to collect data, but I can't get the participants.  Until I have participants, I have no data, ergo I have no real focus for each day.

Of course, there are always things to do.  I'm trying to get a second experiment prepared and ready to go, because it's slightly easier to run.  It'll go alongside the one I'm currently trying to recruit for.  I'm polishing up ethics and getting the materials made.  But that's not a 40 hour working week, and each of them come with their own delays.  I need my supervisor to check over ethics, I need to wait till assistants are available to hel with the materials.

I must stress here, none of this is unusual with research, and I'm not trying to suggest that it is.  I expected this to happen, and was prepared for it, but it can be frustrating.  And, as ever, this blog is designed as a diary (as such) of my experiences here, and I'm sure I won't be the only PhD student out there who's experienced that sense of limbo when you're between tasks.  The very nature required to get onto a PhD programme (driven, ambitious to a certain extent, hard-working etc.) means it is uncomfortable.

However, soon (I hope!) I'll have data to use.  And as soon as I do, I'm going to be running round like a headless chicken with 101 things to do at once, but I'll love it.  That's how I function best.  Until then, I'm chained to my desk and beholden to waiting.

Patience, I'm told, is a virtue.


  1. try to get your data collection done in 6 months. so, u have another 6 months to analyze and interpret the data or redo the collection if anything goes wrong. if it can't be completed in that time, reassess your entire scope, is it too big?

    it's true that participants can be a problem. that's why it's good if you can create a strong rapport with one of the key players in the pool of participants. usually the key player would have enough *influence* to garner the support of other players that may not be that enthused to help. giving them free gifts could help too. :)

    met a phd student yesterday. she's doing research in biotechnology and her data didnt really turn out that well. took her bout 16 months to collect the data and now she doesn't have any extra time to redo some of the data collection.

  2. Yeh unfortunately in psychology you require completely new participant sets for each experiment, and they shouldn't know you or about your research. My 18 month time scale includes data analysis etc., which I'll do throughout as I collect data.

    I have an additional year afterwards if I need it, I just don't get paid for it.