Thursday, December 17, 2009

Conference in Resort City in the Americas

Remember how I struggled to get my dissertation abstract to be sent in to a conference since December 4th?

Well, I heard back right away from the evaluation committee, and surprise, surprise, they were not taken aback by my orthodox grounded theory methodology.

And so, I received the doctoral scholarship, and I will be flying to Resort City in the Americas (RCA) to present my emerging work in April 2010.

Hopefully, I will be able to have my dissertation fully completed by then.

Question: to bring wife or not to bring wife along to RCA? :-D


Edit (Dec 19): It turns out that I didn't receive a scholarship yet, my dissertation was only accepted. Twenty over doctoral dissertations were accepted, and only five scholarships will be given out, to be announced later. A proposal using classic GT methodology winning a competitive scholarship? I have my doubts. :-/

So tired...

Was able to both get some movement happening in my dissertation (thanks to a wonderful GT consultant) as well as send in my dissertation abstract for a doctoral scholarship for a conference in April (thanks to the conference organizer for emailing me and offering me a one-day extension, unprompted).

But boy, am I tired. And tomorrow is a full day's work.

It's already 2:30am.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Memoing is Another Word for Journaling!

I have been journaling since the tender age of eleven. So I understand the discovery-through-writing process very well. In fact, it has become an integral part of my continual journey of personal growth. This blog is just one good example of my journaling.

When GT Consultant whom I recently engaged told me to memo just the way I blog (*courtesy wave to GT Consultant if s/he is reading this*), I thought s/he was just trying to be a good teacher, connecting memoing to something with which I am familiar. As it turns out, s/he wasn't kidding at all. Memoing is very simply, discovery-through-writing. Although there are things one ought to do to keep the process at a theoretical level (I refer you to Glaser's 1978 text, Theoretical Sensitivity), the "feel" of memoing is not at all different from what I have been doing for years: the iterative process of recording and discovering my thoughts on paper/computer.

So... why haven't I been memoing all this time? I think it's because I thought memoing was something more fancy and difficult. After all, research is not supposed to be so natural and fun... or is it? [insert grin]

I feel like I'm on cloud 9!

Watch out world, a dissertation is coming your way!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

About Learning

I wish I could have a better attitude about learning, but when you've been doing something for more than a year and a half, and you find that you still haven't learned what you were supposed to learn, it's time to hold down the shift key on your keyboard and randomly hit some keys along the number row. For example:


Anyway, today, I realized that I did not read Barney's section on "memoing" very well. In a way, it's not my fault. His writing is dense and hard for a novice to follow. Nevertheless, it was a smack-myself-on-the-forehead realization (from the help of a couple of classic GT experts) that I am supposed to memo right from the start.

Memo. Right. From. The. Start.

"Memos lead, naturally to abstraction or ideation. Memoing is a constant process that begins when first coding data [emphasis added], and continues through reading memos or literature, sorting and writing papers or monograph to the very end" (Glaser, 1978, p.83).

I've read this. I swear, I've read this. Several times, in fact. But for the life of me, I didn't memo from the beginning of coding. And I don't know why.

Maybe its because I thought Corbin & Strauss (2008) did it in a non-classic way when she (Corbin) explained how to do it? Maybe I thought her memoing method was preconceiving?


(Yes, my attitude sucks right now. But I feel like I have a right. After all, this realization makes me think that I may very well not be ready to submit my dissertation for a conference scholarship next week.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Data Coding Stuckness (An Email)

Excerpt from an email I sent to a classic GT methodology expert:

"I decided to code the fieldnotes from [some participants]. I did line-by-line (or idea-by-idea) coding. I've generated 200 codes and then started to categorize them. As I am categorizing, I am finding myself not knowing where I am headed. To solve the problem, I went back to your article on __________, which was helpful to re-read. Then realized I needed to re-read theoretical codes, and did that using Glaser 1978, 1998, 2005. Last night, I printed out all of my codes over 6 pieces of paper, and looked over them. I feel completely inundated! And I realized that I've only coded less than half of my fieldnotes from interviews! But once again, I find myself not knowing where I am headed! So, I was stuck, and I went to the literature, but now that I am back to my data again, I am stuck again.

I have to keep working today (while it is night-time for you in _______ ). While I await possible input from you, I will be asking myself Barney's (2004) questions for theoretical sensitivity ("what is the main concern" etc.) and just going back into the woodwork and relook at my data, code by code. It's exhausting to do this with so much time in-between. Each time I come back to the data with a week or so of lapse, it feels like I'm starting all over again."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stuff The Loneliness!

I sent Big Name Editor my dissertation proposal last week.

This week he wrote back. His first three words were "very good proposal."

[insert smile]

And then he proceeded to warn me about how I've given myself "more work than needed" for a dissertation.

[insert frown]

As I sit here, having done only 30 minutes worth of actual work in 2 hours, I ask myself what is the value of having a "very good proposal" if it continues to remain a proposal.

- - -

Turning on my glass-half-full self...

I am starting to make some tiny progress dissertating again.

I went through the codes that I had generated, what... oh... 6 months ago?... and realized that they were rather dull. "Without grab" as Barney Glaser might put it.

After thinking through it a bit and rummaging through various Glaser books, I realized that the codes are a little on the no-grab side because I was coding without a whole bunch of theoretical codes in mind. I guess one might say that I am lacking in theoretical sensitivity?

So, I am re-reading about theoretical coding in Glaser (1978, 1998, 2005) to sensitize myself to theoretical codes. I plan to finish the reading these this week -- not study them but just read them and have them float around my head -- and then embark on my data next week.

I've identified two conferences to which I want to send my dissertation. One will be in the Americas and the other in Europe. I hope to bag the dissertation scholarships. But the deadlines are on December 14 and 15.

Time to stuff the loneliness and just work!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How To Be A Little Less Lonely

Big Name Researcher turned out to be doing research that is not quite like mine. And so I'm not sure partnering up the research would work.

At Important Regional Gathering last week, I met and talked to Big Name Editor who was the guest plenary speaker for the Gathering. I shared with hir my loneliness at doing research back in Home Country.

BNE: "Just send me anything you're writing on. I'll read it and give you feedback. Send it anytime."

Me: "You don't need to have some kind of an official role? Like... be on my committee or something?"

BNE: "Nope." And then s/he added, "you're the only one who is asking intelligent questions in this Gathering."

Me: Mouth-wide open... "thanks."

For the rest of the gathering, I went around introducing hirm as my new research mentor.

Lonely dissertator is starting to feel a little less lonely.

:big smile:

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I finally contacted Big Name Researcher in Home Country.*

S/he is giving me an opportunity to be involved in a regional and a global research proposal that s/he is putting out for our field.


* I am adopting Scholar Wannabe's Anonymous-Naming convention.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Two and a Half Months of Haitus

I started getting back into my dissertation yesterday. According to my dissertating notes, the last entry was dated July 30th.

July 30th was the last time I looked at my dissertation!?

I searched document folder after document folder to see if perhaps there was another little note or log somewhere to prove that I had not really ignored my dissertation for almost two and a half months. Alas, I found nothing.

Then I looked into my iCal to get a glimpse of what I had done.

August: Studied and passed a licensing exam
September: Packed up all possessions and a house
September: Moved half-way across the world
October: Set up a new home, hunted down schools for kids, and started a new job

So that's why I had not been working on my dissertation. I guess I had good reasons after all.

But I am ready now to re-tackle my dissertation. And I am excited.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I remember the first few years of grad school. The coursework deadlines were absolute. Every depended on your doing well in these classes: reputation amongst faculty, funding, assistantships. I was focused. Very focused. Nothing else mattered when I had a deadline. The paper or project was always the only thing in my line of sight.

I haven't had that feeling in a long time, which has been a good thing. That feeling led me to become quite compulsive about doing well. Or was it my compulsive drive to achieve that gave me the focus? In any case, it often led to stress, because I am a married man with kids, and they needed my attention more than I could offer. The tug-o-war between work and family led to great tension within me.

Life has been more balanced of late, especially after I became a doctoral candidate. No deadlines except my own. And so, I have been able to give more time to family. Problem is, as I am more relaxed, I also become lackadaisical about my work. I spend less time working, and when I do work, it is not as focused.

Tonight, it hit me that I needed to recapture that focus.

And I did. With a simple visioning exercise.

I thought back to my first three years in this program, and immediately, the focus came back like a sharp arrow drawn in an instant reflex.


Two more weeks. If I can keep my focus like this, I should have no trouble answering 20 questions in 20 minutes in front of my licensing board.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Fear of Being All that We Can Be

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." - Adapted from Marianne Williamson.

"When I was ten years old, I saw "Rocky" for the first time and anybody from my era would tell you that this type of movie triggered everything for them. I didn't know anything about boxing when I was that age. But I knew what this guy was going through and I had his back. There's a lot of that in this story. The idea of not being afraid of that thing you do the best, not permitting circumstance to confine you but to find your voice and your talent. Own it and to be proud of it and do it. It's not a story about learning how to spell but about a kid who learns what she's good at, becomes proud of that and doesn't want to hide it anymore. It's overcoming the fear of being great, before you can be great." - Doug Atchison, writer/director of Akeelah and the Bee.

"He began to have a dim feeling that, to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another." - W.E.B. Dubois

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hand-Coding Hardware

I was advised that sorting and memo-ing would be more easily done by hand. But I was not told as to the mechanics of that process.

After two days of trying out different things, I came to this:
  • Export codes from MaxQDA into Excel
  • Edit Excel file so that the relevant information fits onto a regular sized paper (make sure there are lines drawn between codes)
  • Print on card-stock paper (I used regular paper the first time, and found them too flimsy to handle)
  • Cut out each code into a separate strip (that's where the lines come in)

Then do the sorting/consolidating thing by asking these classic GT questions:
- What is the data a study of?
- What category does this incident indicate?
- What is actually happening in the data?
- What is the main concern being faced by the participants?
- What accounts for the continual resolving of this concern?

It was relatively easy to re-categorize them into higher level categories. (Except I'm not sure if that is what I am doing exactly.)

Then, I needed more hand-coding hardware. I took large envelopes and made little envelope strips out of them into which I inserted the various categories of codes.

I took a picture of a handful for "show and tell":

Ta dah! Clever, ne?

Well, now, I'm stuck. How do I go from my hand-coding back into software-coding? Because I still have a lot more data to code.

As they say in France, "zut alors!"

Monday, July 27, 2009

Celebrate or Sleep?

Dissertated 2 full hours (i.e. two 60-minutes) yesterday. Dissertated 3 hours (i.e. three 50-minutes) today, including 2 hours between 10pm to midnight after a full day of activities.

My student mind says, "go celebrate your progress!"

My adult mind says, "go to sleep, or I'll crash you myself."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hello Blogger

It feels like it's been forever since I last blogged.

Well, things have been busy. We've decided to move back home (Asia) earlier than expected so as to help the kids adjust to the culture and schooling there. School there begins in January. Having a few extra months would help them tremendously to adjust to the style of teaching and language.

In the meantime, it's really chaotic here trying to manage all the details of moving, especially with a wife who is still in a cast on her leg and children that require attention. Hard to even get some dissertation time in. But I will endeavor to do so.

I've decided that if I do 2 hours of coding a day, I'm making progress. That's two 50-timer timed minutes.

To keep myself accountable, I will force myself to post my progress here regularly.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Classic Grounded Theory Community and The Drugless Trip

1. Classic Grounded Theory Community

I was surprised when I attended the Grounded Theory Seminar at how cordial and supportive the folks were there.

I have been feeling mired in coding over the last while and finally decided to reach out for help. I was able to connect with a newly-minted Ph.D. who had just finished his dissertation under Barney Glaser, and another scholar who is trying to fit mentors with classic GT learners like myself.

This afternoon, Newly-Minted Ph.D. called me from half-way across the country and spent 15 minutes on the phone with me, essentially assuring me that I am going about the process in the right way: messily!

I am so thankful for this classic GT community. I have a strong feeling I will enter into this community in fuller measure in time to come.


2. The Drugless Trip

Judith Holton (2007) in her chapter entitled The Coding Process and Its Challenges, in the Sage Handbook of Grounded Theory, explained the difference between non-classic GT and classic GT:

"Various scholars within the qualitative paradigm [read: non-classic GT] have put forth strategies and guidelines for the coding process (citations). By comparison, the procedures espoused by classic grounded theorists may initially appear loose and perhaps even messy or confusing. These procedures as originally developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and extensively elaborated in Glaser's subsequent work (1978, 1992, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2005; Glaser & Holton, 2004) do require the researcher to grapple with both chaos and control. The chaos is in tolerating the uncertainty and subsequent regression of not knowing in advance and of remaining open to what emerges through the diligent, controlled, often tedious application of the method's synchronous and iterative processes of line-by-line coding, constant comparison for interchangeability of indicators, and theoretical sampling for core emergence and theoretical saturation. This discipline is simultaneously complemented by requiring the theorist to remain open to the innate creativity in preconscious processing of conceptual ideation and theoretical integration; a creativity characterized by the exhilaration of eureka sparks of discovery; what Glaser (1978, 1998) calls the drugless trip [emphasis added]" (p. 273).

So, I need to let go and embrace the chaos. Only then will I discover the eureka of the drugless trip.

Now stare long and deep into the picture below...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Scholarly Identity

Scholar Wannabe was in town. We had lunch. It was nice to see SW again after such a long time. I'm glad we have blogs to keep us updated on each other's lives.

Aside from the catch-up chit chat, the conversation turned to the topic of scholarly identity. SW said that she's always considered herself a teacher. She went towards Scholar-Wannabe'ing so that she could become a teacher. 

(If you know anything about academia in the Western world, you will know that unless you are a prolific researcher and writer, you will be "B-listed" in the eyes of "A-listers.")

"So long as I can make a living teaching, I am comfortable with that," she said.

This past weekend, the stress of having to balance PhD and family led me to seriously re-evaluate my future scholarly identity. 

I remembered why I came to do this PhD: I wanted to be a good therapist, I wanted to teach therapy, and I wanted to learn research.

However, somewhere along the journey, research got pushed to the top of the agenda in my mind. Well, I guess if funding and prestige follows research, and your department is always celebrating who got what funding, you can't help but begin to believe that only research counts.

Never mind that I'm a good therapist. Never mind that I help many people heal. If I don't do research, I am not worthy. I am nothing but a B-lister.

I began to fight that message last weekend.

It matters that I am a therapist. That is my identity. I love doing therapy. I love teaching therapy. And the only reason I do research is so that I can better people's lives! Therapy is important: It changes people's lives for the better!

SW admitted that even though she has the potential to be an A-lister and do research, her passion is really to teach. I completely dig that. I too, want to be led by my passions despite the pressures of institutional expectations.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I am having a mini-eureka experience!

:silly grin:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Losing Focus: A Visionary-Researcher's Dilemma

When coding and making notes of recordings, I find my mind wandering. This happens often.

Is it because of the nature of my topic studied? Is this a normal thing for qualitative research? Or is it just me?

Come to think of it, my mind wanders a lot when I am studying. I need the discipline of a timer, note-taking, being really diligent about articulating and tracking the process of my work in order for me to be successful in getting "tangible work" completed.

My mind is too big, too broad, too visionary. An idea will come after an idea has been coded and pull me away from more coding. Unless I have my timer on, a whole hour will pass by and I find that I've been day-dreaming.

A researcher is detailed and task-oriented. That kind of processing is something I have to develop and work at -- it's not natural. I can dream, envision, generate ideas without an effort. I need to learn that this is okay, work within my limitations, and celebrate my strengths.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I'm tired.

Lots of interviews. Didn't audiotape a single one, but typed like crazy when I sat there with them having them talk away.

There is definitely emergence happening. But I need a break to go and analyze more in terms of actual written memos. So much is just in my brain, swimming, bumping into each other... concepts coming together like elements forming chunks within the primordial soup that is my brain.

"Bleugh." <-- Let that be my core category.

> . <

(I need sleep.)

p.s.1. I am enjoying listening to Jason Mraz while handling data admin. Note: I hate data admin.

p.s.2. If you're interested, check out the comments in my previous post. Pak Ngah left some neat comments. Check out his blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Transcribing & Coding Interviews - Classical GT Process

Quite a few of the advanced classic GT scholars advocate against recording and transcribing interviews.  They prefer to take field notes and to memo.  This is to avoid from becoming overwhelmed by the data.

One thing Barney said to me was that I can go back to my recorded interviews, and instead of transcribing them, just listen to them and making field notes.

But I am having trouble doing that.  I am so afraid of missing out on the data and precious quotes that I end up taking too many notes and transcribing too much.  One 1-hour interview can take me up 6 hours to note.  What is worse is that after about 1 hour of such work, I get tired and don't want to continue.  It is starting to feel tedious (the way that I am doing it).

And so, I decided that if I can "out" the block of mine on my blog and make it public--let the world know of my secret research shame--it might help me to better stick to the process.  The last thing I want is to become so bogged down by the data that I become ineffective in data analysis.

Keep it broad.  If it is an important aspect of the people's lived experience, it will show up again.  I need to trust the classical GT process!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Update to Motivate!

I've been back from the GT Seminar for a little more than a week now. I have met with my adviser, and she likes what is happening. I have spent time with family and got everyone's emotions somewhat settled after my time away. I have also spent time catching up on friends whose marriages and lives are falling apart, and plugging all my clients into sessions again. And on a personal level, I have been doing a lot of soul-searching, reflecting, and writing about a major change that God is taking me through. All is good. So what's missing?

Data analysis.

Over the next two and a half weeks, I need to sit down and do some major coding and memoing. Find those concepts that I want to move into given what emerges from the data (because, as the GT seminar advisors advised, I have too much in the data, and I need to choose).

I'll also need to do a bit of change in my consent forms so that I can follow-through procedurally for the purposes of theoretical sampling.

I have no fears about the next steps in my research. I just need to start.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grounded Theory Seminar

Thoroughly enjoying the seminar! I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn grounded theory. And do it with Barney, because he's truly a genius at this! (p.s. he is also a wonderful person, once you can get past his old-style sense of humor.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

One More Reason Why Transcribing Has Been Slow

With reference to my earlier post this morning (Friday morning here in C-o-R), I remember now why it has taken me so long to transcribe: Technology.

I use a MacBook.  MaxQDA runs on Windows.  I purchased Parallels which allows me to run Windows on Mac OS.  All that is fine... on the surface.

For the past hour, I have been trying to figure out where to store my MaxQDA files.  I have to figure out if I need to store them in an encrypted folder (through the Mac OS); I need to figure out if the folder can be backed-up onto my external hard drive (check! yay.); and I need to figure out if the files in the Mac OS encrypted folder can be accessed by MaxQDA running on windows (checking and still having problems...).

It's no wonder transcribing has felt like administrative work.  I remember now: I *had* been doing software administrative work, and when interrupted, had been glad to acquiesce.

Grumble, grumble.

End of Data Collection, Round 1

Tonight I leave Country-of-Research.  I have managed to do 9 interviews over the past two weeks, one more this afternoon.  I came hoping to do between 10-15 interviews, so I am happy.

During my first week, I stressed out about not getting enough participants to interview.  And so I did a couple of pilots with people I knew.  As I did the pilots, I started to get a sense of the ideas being uncovered.  

Then the "real" interviews started last weekend.  One after another they came.  Some days, I did two interviews as I tried to accommodate my participants' schedules.  

After each interview, I said to myself: "go transcribe and code."  Until this morning, I have not managed to transcribe a single interview.  Why?  I can think of 3 reasons:

1. I don't like to transcribe.  It's detailed, tedious, and unrewarding work.  I am not good with administrative details.  It has been such a bother to just make sure that my files are ordered and de-identified with a coding scheme, keep my recordings encrypted, and ensure that my paperwork and records are in order.  Transcribing feels like a similar process.

2. I am too busy with other things like meeting up with people, doing clinical work (on the side), attending to family dinners (C-o-R is family's home).  I need uninterrupted sit-down time to transcribe. Yes, I'm allowing that to be an excuse even though I am fully capable of working in spurts if I need to.  ;-)

3. I am not familiar with MaxQDA--the CAQDAS I ended up purchasing.  I purchased it because it was the easiest and cheapest, but even then, I wish I had a little tutorial to take me through the basics.  Each time I started to learn it, I got interrupted by a phone call, or an email, or a knock on the door.

In any case, now that I've done some interviews, I have a sense of what theoretical sampling will be like.  In my mind, I can already begin to see the emerging theory (even without coding!), and have a sense of the kinds of participants I would want to interview in the second round.  But really, I need to be careful of "preconceived ideas" and ensure that my emerging concepts are well grounded.

I need to get out of bed, shower, eat something, and start to figure out MaxQDA.  Give myself a good two hours of uninterrupted time to do so.  Then I can begin transcribing... I think.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pinch me!

Yep! This means that my committee has approved my proposal (with no changes), and I'm sailing the skies off to Country-of-Research to begin data collection!

I've also booked to attend Glaser's workshop in March.

Is this really happening?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good News

I heard today--only 4 days later--that the IRB has approved my application. No stipulations even!


BIG sigh!

I've always known that there is a divine purpose for me to be in this program. When I get such confirmations (e.g. a 21-day process taking only 4 days and without any hitch... well, except for my own panicking), I look Up and an impression seizes my heart with these clear words:

"Yes, keep going."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

IRB Mad Rush

The lady at IRB said that if I could get the application in today she would review it for me tomorrow so that I can still meet my deadlines and travel to gather data I thought it would take about 3 hours to complete the IRC applications and left it until yesterday Boy was that a mistake I stayed up all night and went to bed at 6:30 in the morning only to have my son wake me up an hour later But I was able to go back to bed again for another hour or so and then got up to see a client at 10:00 That went OK but then I had to rush over to see my adviser and department head to get their signatures Only when I got there my adviser had not filled up the form she had to fill up because it was a busy day at the department Luckily I had canceled my other noon appointment and so I stayed in her office and worked with her on it until it was done She signed it then the department head signed it and it was about 1:15 But I was not sure if all the 20-or-so pages of appendices were all properly labeled and so I went and doubled checked on them and sure enough found some mistakes which I corrected After that I pushed my haircut appointment 15 minutes later but when I got there I had to crap so badly and so I went into the bathroom for almost 10 minutes Yes yes Too much information Anyway it ended up that my haircut took extra long but I had just enough time to drive over to a coffee shop to down another cup of caffeine while I went through all the checklists to make sure that I had included everything Sure enough I discovered that I had forgotten to write my cover letter to explain my rushed time line That's when I also saw the bold print warning that there was to be no handwriting on the application but my adviser had written a couple of things by hand on the application Oh well I hope the lady at IRB will still accept it Then I went over to the copy store and made a couple of copies and had 20 minutes left to make a 15 minute drive over to the IRB office to hand in my application before it closed at 4:30 Why do people drive so slowly when you are in a rush Fark I revved until my tires started to wobble and then decided that it would be better for me to get there than to die trying and so I slowed down Finally I got near the office building Parking parking I needed parking Incredible what will motivate a person to pray And so I prayed and found a spot dropped in some quarters with trembling fingers and started running with just a vague direction in mind WTF The building was so huge Where the hurl was F3124 (made up room so you can't search me out online hah) This way that way I had no idea where I was The hallways looked like a maze I finally opened my mouth to ask This way then that way they said I followed Up stairs, then this corridor No backtrack Next corridor Up more stairs And finally with two minutes left I discovered there was construction blocking access to the office Fark A lady saw my anxiety and told me that way then that way I ran down the stairs then across the hall then pressed the elevator button and waited for hell to freeze over But it didn’t and the elevator binged and I got on got off and ran down the hallway The door to the office was just about to close I charged in and scared the staff closing the door and then pretended to walk casually towards the reception Oh oh No one was there I stood looking around Then a plump pleasant lady in the next cubicle smiled and I said I wanted to submit my IRB application She said "you can do it here" I gave it to her and she stamped it 02/16/09 I made it Whew

And so the IRB is submitted and I am anticipating that the lady at IRB will look at it and say "nah, you can't do this research because you don't have this or that form or you don't have this or that permission" But before all that let me keel over and die for a couple of hours from my non-stop adrenaline filled all-day mad rush with no sleep the previous night

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Institutional Review Board (IRB) - The Next Hurdle

Also known as the Ethics Board, the IRBs of research institutions in America seek to ensure that good ethical principles are upheld by researchers so that risks to human subjects are minimized or controlled.

I had this notion that my IRB application would only take 7 days. In anticipation of contingencies, I called the IRB today. Here is what I found out.
  • It takes 21 days for an expedited review (the faster version for minimal risk studies) to be conducted.
  • If there are changes or stipulations to be made, that can take another 7-10 days.
  • The review board tends to be even more picky when the research is international.
  • You are NOT allowed to begin data collection until you have received IRB approval.
Here is what I had planned on doing.
  • Defend my proposal on Feb 24th. Then submit my IRB immediately after.
  • Fly to Country-of-Research (C-o-R) a few days later while waiting for IRB approval.
  • Get IRB approval when I am in C-o-R, and collect data for two weeks.
  • Fly to U.S. West coast to attend Glaser's Grounded Theory seminar.
Everything I had planned on doing above was so that I could collect some data so that I could attend Glaser's grounded theory workshop (attendance requires data to have already been collected). I was a little shocked to find out the actual amount of time that would be required for IRB approval process.

Thankfully, I was able to be prepared enough with my IRB training that someone in IRB will help to push through my application so that I might be able to do as I had originally planned.

Moral of today's post: If your study requires IRB approval, plan your timing accordingly!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Committee Meeting for Proposal Defense

I can't believe it.

It's only taken me a total of three days from sending my draft into Adviser to getting my defense date set.

  • Monday around 5am at night, I sent my draft to my Adviser.
  • Tuesday in the afternoon, Adviser wrote back saying she'd read it soon and that it looks good.
  • Tuesday in the afternoon, Adviser follows up with email telling me that it is good, and to get the committee together for a defense date, and to edit her phone number on the consent forms.
  • Tuesday in the afternoon, I wrote to Adviser to clarify if she wanted to meet with me before that. I had psyched myself up to spend another few days to edit the proposal. You see, Adviser has high standards (one of the reasons I picked her to be my adviser).
  • Wednesday in the afternoon, Friend wrote to say that she met Adviser, and that Adviser "waxed eloquent about the superior quality of yours [proposal]." I took that as meaning Adviser does not require edits on my draft aside from her phone number. And so...
  • Wednesday in the afternoon, I emailed committee members a draft of my proposal and requested meeting dates and times.
  • Thursday in the afternoon (that is, right now), I am blogging about my proposal defense date. It has been set for 2 1/2 weeks from now.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Proposal Progress

So, I've been up all night for 8 nights in a row, sleeping around 5-6am. When I awake (around 1pm), I work. And then, I eat. And then, I work some more. And I eat some more. And so on.

There was not a day night that I did not think I would be done with my proposal by the next night. But with each night that passes, something new arose and I had to spend hours editing and editing.

Did you know that adding up hours can turn into days?

Imagine that.

Tonight was IRB (Institutional Review Board, or Ethics Board). It took me 4 hours to go through the online training. Completely unexpected and frustrating to no end. Yet, it was good to learn, and it led me to further refine my methodology and write a more solid informed consent. Much better than the one I was trying to plagiarize from another dissertation. o . O


I didn't quit after the IRB. I pushed and I pushed and... ladies and gentlemen, "it is finished."

Okay, okay, I lied. I still have two appendices to edit and the references need to be filled in and APA'ed. But really, can you blame a guy who has been proposaling for six months for wanting to celebrate a little early?

I think not.

Here's how exhausted I am: I discovered a nice little reference to support my methodology, and then found myself laughing my head off when I noticed the author's last name was Dick.

Dick dick, dick dick dick dick dick.

I need to go to sleep.

Nite all. I mean, good morning.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


I had lunch today with one of the leading scholars in family qualitative methods in the U.S. and likely in the world.

After talking with her about my dissertation and about Grounded Theory, she encouraged me that I am very much ready to embark on my project, and that it is a very good one.

Then, she introduced me to one of her students: "This is Lonely Dissertator (me). He understands grounded theory more than any student I have ever met."

After all that hard work (and torture), receiving such validation is simply... sweet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The New Electric Company

My kids LOVED it.

When asked what they thought, 7 year-old daughter said, "fantastic!" Even 5-year old son was riveted for the entire 30 minutes. Heck, I was impressed and I did not expect to be.

The new version has some great changes that really work for today's kids.

The Electric Company is a "club" of kids (played by 13-20 year olds) with special SKILLS to do cool things with words. Here they are.

There is an enemy group, Pranksters (I think) and the interaction between the Electric Company and the Pranksters forms a storyline.

The story is fast-paced and woven through a network with nodes that represent cool teaching snippets (not part of the storyline) emphasizing certain aspects of English words e.g. hard versus soft "c".

Those of you teaching English as an alternative language can show clips to your students. Although TEC is targeted towards children 6-9 years old, the ideas and special effects are engaging for kids of all ages. Check out the "Matrix.

My favourite is Music Man. He is the grooviest. Here's Music Man with his love of that silent "e."

The website is great too. It has games, video clips, and you can watch entire episodes on it.

So much creativity and resources put towards teaching and empowering kids. I love it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Research Software -- Helpful Links

Just compiling a list of useful links and notes on qualitative research software and reference management software. This post will be updated from time to time.

Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS)
- Software to help with qualitative research.


Notes: NVivo

  • Handles more than text, can handle simplified Chinese.

Notes: MaxQDA
  • Easy to use.
  • Not as many features as NVivo.
  • Not available through the U, but has direct cheap student price
  • Student software cannot be upgraded.
Reference Management Software (RMS)
- Software that helps to organize bibliography and other references, including the ability to churn out a reference page automatically.


Notes: Refworks

  • Available for free through the U.

Further Questions

  1. Is there a software that handles both qualitative data analysis as well as reference management?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Deadline on Chinese New Year

I have read enough, understood enough, it is now possible to set myself a HARD deadline that can be met.

My hard deadline will be Monday January 26th, 2009. It is also the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year -- the year of the ox.

Thu 22: Complete studying all of the grounded theory works that need to be studied.
Fri 23: Edit first half of proposal already written.
Sat 24: Write second half of proposal.
Sun 25: Complete dissertation proposal.
Mon 26: Send it into adviser and celebrate the New Year!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Grounded Theory Is For Theorizing, Dummy!

How do I begin?

An analogy.

I was walking around surveying the dimensions of a large castle. I stepped inside the main entrance, looked around the large entryway, the inner garden, walked through the hallways and decided to go into one of the rooms. I opened the door, stuck my head to look inside, and suddenly, I found myself in the entrance to yet another giant mansion.

This was what happened to me.

Two weeks ago, I started to read Barney Glaser (1992), and realized that I could not ignore his ranting against Strauss & Corbin (1990, 1st ed.). As much as I enjoyed Corbin & Strauss (2008, 3rd ed.), if I were to be a true scholar, I had to take Glaser's words more seriously. After all, he was the first author of the first book on Grounded Theory, "The Discovery of Grounded Theory" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)--a book which I had not read because when I tried to do so, I could not understand it, and I thought that a latter edition (i.e. Corbin & Strauss, 2008) would be more "up to date."

How wrong I was.

Almost everyone I have talked to (and some dissertations I have read) that have used grounded theory has treated it as a one possible methodology in qualitative research. In fact, some qualitative textbooks also seem to treat it that way. Yet, given everything that I have read so far in Grounded Theory (works using GT, as well as method books on GT), I am coming to realize that GT is not just a method for doing qualitative research, it is a methodology for generating theory using qualitative or quantitative data.

I repeat: Grounded Theory is not just one of several qualitative methods, it is a methodology for a very specific purpose: to generate theory! Thus, it is called Grounded Theory.


Those Creswell texts that put GT as one method amongst others are not correct, especially if we are to properly understand the purpose for which GT was originally conceived (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). GT is for generating theory, therefore, it should not be placed alongside phenomenology or case study methods. Doing so is misleading.

No wonder Barney Glaser sounded like a raving madman in "Emergence vs. Forcing" (1992): he was yelling "wrong, wrong, wrong!" (to Strauss & Corbin who were turning the method into conceptual description, and thus, one of the many variants of qualitative methods).

I get it, Barney. Thanks for hollering.

I've read Corbin & Strauss (2008), "Awareness of Dying" (Glaser & Strauss, 1964) and I've ordered Glaser's "Theoretical Sensitivity" (1978) through interlibrary loan. Yes, interlibrary loan! This is a very important book in the corpus of GT texts, and my university doesn't own a copy of it. Go figure!

I digressed.

Right now, I'm reading the original first edition of GT, "Discovery" (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Mind you, the entire title of that book is "The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research." No wonder people are misled. But now that I've read enough on GT to be able to understanding "Discovery" (1967), I see that Glaser's (1992) ranting was justified. He and Strauss had already made all those claims in 1967, and Strauss (with co-author Corbin) went and discarded some very important basic premises in 1990.

I'm still social constructivist. That has not changed. However, given that Kathy Charmaz (the "originator" of Constructivist GT) was trained by both Strauss and Glaser, I should read her version before I finally finish off my proposal.

Glaser is still alive. He holds seminars for dissertators. I am considering going. All the way to Mill Valley, CA. Did I mention that I am kind of intense that way?

Here's the good news: I still LOVE grounded theory! In fact, I love it even more now. I dig theorizing. I really do.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Difference Between Sociology and Psychology (Theory & Practice)

Ask Metafilter has this great page of answers on the question of the difference between sociology and psychology [link]. I might have read it before, but when I read it this time, all the lights went on like a big Christmas Parade:


[Side note. Read the link above, and then entertain this question: Is Marriage and Family Therapy a sociologically-derived field of therapy?]

In working through Grounded Theory à la Barney Glaser (whose writings tend to be more resolute about "what is" and "what isn't" [read: positivist]), I am beginning to appreciate what Classic Grounded Theory means when it insists on a difference between Theory and Full Conceptual Description. There IS a difference.

Having done my undergrad in one of the top schools of psychology, I understand psychological theory well. A real snob-school will tell you what is and what isn't about psychology--it guards its turf well. Studying the family is about the intersection of sociology and psychology (with sprinklings of anthropology, communication studies, economics, etc). So none of our coursework "taught" us what sociology--specifically--is about. None of that turf-guarding stuff in family studies, and so we end up a little loosey goosey [read: postmodern?].

Anyway, I am having some fun embracing a more boundaried approach to defining what is and what isn't in terms of sociological theory, and even who can do sociological theorizing:

"This book [The Discovery of Grounded Theory] is intended to underscore the basic sociological activity that only sociologists can do: generating sociological theory. Description, ethnography, fact-finding, verfication (call them what you will) are all done well by professionals in other fields and by laymen in various investigatory agencies. But these people cannot generate sociological theory from their work. Only sociologists are trained to want it, to look for it, and to generate it." (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, pp.6-7)

Snobbish, isn't it?

That's okay. I'll play their bluff and pretend to be a sociologist for this dissertation. After all, if MFT is a sociologically-aligned field of therapy (see side note above), then I can very well claim sociology as my field!