Wednesday, March 07, 2012

analysis paralysis or lost on the dark side of the moon

Its not totally incapacitating, i can analyze my results, my problem is what to spend time analyzing, what to put in, what to take out.
The data i collected reminds me of a prism that defracts white light into pretty much infinite layers of colour. One path in into this but many multitude of paths out...which i attend to? Which are pretty, shortest route, best journey, best companions... distracting, lead nowhere, are already well travelled?

I wasnt expecting this.
The research process says formulate the question, do the data capture, immerse in the data and the answers fall out.
Yeah, right.

And then i went a bit postmodern, whose answers matter? Whose answers matter most?
I tell myself in my sternest voice: Take a punt, its certification you want, and not in the sense of a being certified.
But I'm still stuck, I've written several concluding segments, and there could be many more, but a word count doesn't allow for all of these, so just choose!

But which one! i am behaving like a recalcitrant child, too many lollies in th elolly shop...but thats not it either. If i choose a 'wrong' lolly it doesnt matter, theres not several years hanging on it.

And i tell myself, just answer the question ...but i'm back on a mobius strip, the question turns.

So im lost in space, somewhere on the dark side of the moon, best i can come up with is make the choices, justify them, and leave the other data to my post doc life...

Taking further advice from astrobites

I now know how i got here.
I started a phd with what felt like unlimited words and close to unlimited potential.
I had a question, i folded it in half and in half and in half again, each time i narrowed it down, and i wrote to each aspect narrowing it further, coming closer to a point of completion, but this method is never ending, and apparently it has a name:

“Zeno’s Paper,” that twist on the well-known Greek paradox that states that first you write half of the paper, then you write half of what’s left, then half of that, and so on. You are spoiled for choice as to where to end your paper, and without a clear place to stop or an external pressure such as an obvious threat of being scooped, your brain can’t pick where to put it down and call it done.
Analysis paralysis is a serious threat, and one that can ensnare anyone. Any situation that presents a large number of options with no clearly superior choice can cause it, and it can lead to getting scooped, not publishing anything, or, in the worst case, inability to complete a thesis.

So what to do:
write the possibilities,
make a list,
delete at least half the list,
remind oneself that one only has to overwhelm the small space, a phd is not about everything on a topic
Then slash the list:
Write your question, possibly write a smaller question, or even a new question and justify the shift,
Colour code the options for importance, for relevance,
Allocate the ones on the list that are important but not to be addressed here,
allocate the proportion of words allowed
allocate the mumber of days left
work to the plan

And here's where i got another insight, i never work to the plan, i work to the contingent relationships...
whats topical, whats addressing the question (the new question) those involved...and inside of a time frame and a word limit...

It will never address everything, nor everything perfectly, it is but one enactment out of many possibilities.

So i understand my predicament a bit better, i'm not spinning anymore, but i notice im still here, not there...
Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who.
Up and down.
But in the end it's only round and round.

"There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark."
Not a pessimist really: just over being postmodern.

And so i tell myself yet again, the question doesnt get answered, i write this in my thesis, might as well give the ammunition to the other side...or enter the dark side of thesis writing...
I write the question wasnt bad.
I writie this research surprises me. I set out to investigate how technology was shaping counselling, and shaping us. I end with how we should treat our young better.

This is not because I have a bad question. It is not because I am unable to maintain a focus. Instead, in staying close to how we relate with our technologies I have learned more of how people relate not only with their technologies, but with each other.

In investigating the relationship between what people think about change and what they do to enact it, I have studied how practice changes by talking with, working with, and followed actors involved in their working lives at Youthline. A short answer to this question would be that the relationship is complex. Individuals both do and don’t effect change, and they do this both deliberately and incidentally, and that change happens whether or not there is awareness of what is occurring.

Such an answer is not useful as practical guidance for implementing change in any organization. No advice is given as to how others might implement text counselling in another situation. No list of recommendations forthcoming. The question was ambitious, but it was not too big. There is no answer because the question does not end. Instead a challenge evolves. For there is an answer of sorts: change is shown as being constituted in relationships. What we think and do are deeply embedded in relationships, constituted as well as constitutive.

Accepting that change is constituted in relating, how we might then care to relate is the ongoing matter of concern.


  1. Hello,
    I just wanted to take a minute to tell you that you have a great site! Keep up the good work.

  2. It's a myth that you have to answer questions or make any recommendations or even have any repeatable findings. If you're doing qualitative work, you report what happened and what it meant to your participants. The last two sentences in your second-to-last paragraph (along with your third-to-last paragraph in its entirety) sum it up beautifully. That's what you found, that's what you now think and that's your original contribution to knowledge int he field. Well done. :)

  3. Thankyou so much for your comments. I am not used to the vulnerablities i currently have. Being a student despite years of working in academia still unsettles me. i know i am close to a finishing point but need confidence to actually say this is enough. ailsa.

  4. Have you talked to your supervisor? They will guide you, I would hope (although one can never be sure...)

  5. The prob is def with me, confidence in this being enough....several years immersed with the data and the outcomes look blindingly obvious, to me now. Is this all there is? Not something harder? Nothing world booker writing
    I do remember feeling a little like this when i completed my Masters thesis. It didnt change the world...nor will this one. sigh.
    My problem is i have meglomaniacal desires.