E-flections of an Educator

Keeping It All Together: A Cautionary Tale

Posted on: July 17, 2010

My dissertation study is mixed-method in design. The quantitative tools are the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES),Photo by Sharedown Studios and the Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ). Each participant also completed a  pre- and post-study questionnaire, as well as the requisite demographic survey. The bulk of my data are 10 weekly reflections from each of the participants. Participants submitted their reflections via a blog I set up. They also had the option of submitting via email. I set up folders in my email to organize the messages as the weekly reflections were submitted.

The content of the emails/posts has to be formatted for importing and coding in NVivo. I decided I would organize them by weeks as a means of keeping track of whether or not participants submitted their reflections.  At first I was doing a really good job of staying on top of it, and I had the first four weeks organized into discrete Word documents.

I had to set my data aside for a bit to finish the drafts of chapters one and two. They are done (or as done as they can be right now) and chapter 3, save for the data analysis procedures, is in really good shape.  So now it’s time to dig in to my data. I check the documents for weeks one through four to be sure nothing is missing, and proceed to create weeks five through ten by filtering through my email folders. Along the way, I’m also pulling out the informational/communication emails I sent to participants, as they are data too.  I easily spent 12 hours on this, muttering to myself all the while, “Why did I put this off? Why didn’t I do this along the way?”

As I compiled each week I noticed my reflection was missing. Hmmm. I know I did them, but I did not email them to myself, nor did I submit them on the blog. So I look in the obvious folders on my hard drive. Then the not-so-obvious. Now I’m starting to panic. I do a variety of searches on both of the hard drives (750mb total). No luck. “It must be on a flash drive somewhere,” I reassure myself. (NOTE: I NEVER use flash drives as primary storage–strictly for backup and transport.)

I post a tweet to express some frustration and, before I take a break to relax in the pool (maybe an idea will come to me), I decide to check my laptop. Not only did I find my “missing” reflections, but I had already created the documents consisting of all the participant reflections by week! After admonishing myself again for procrastinating on this task, I take a much-needed nap in the pool.

The morals of the story:

  1. Stay on top of your data!
  2. Keep your files in one place.
  3. Stay on top of your data!
  4. Back up. (Reminder never hurts.)
  5. If you work on more than one computer, make sure you get everything in one place at some point.
  6. Stay on top of your data!

It is my sincere hope that my story may spare another the same anguish.


1 Response to "Keeping It All Together: A Cautionary Tale"

[…] Keeping It All Together: A Cautionary Tale by Linda704 […]

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