Monday, January 24, 2011

Why didn't I start this sooner.

I’m not much of a journal writer, but I don’t know why I didn’t think to start this sooner.

A little bit about me, I am retired military and got my bachelor’s and master’s degrees while on active duty utilizing tuition assistance.  When I retired on 1 Apr 2006 I still had access to the GI Bill, so after thinking about it for awhile and looking into the different schools I decided to pursue a PhD vice another master’s.

My life in dissertation hell started almost a year ago on 1 February, 2010.  I go to an accredited online school, Northcentral University out of Arizona.  I can hear you cringe now; a PhD from an online school means nothing.  Well, I can tell you that several of my online colleagues work at universities and their online degrees do count.  I guess it just depends on the university. 

I chose Northcentral because it was online, accredited, and did not require “in-residence” attendance each year like other online schools do.  PhDs are expensive enough without having to go out of state for a week or two each year.

That being said, I started at NCU (they call themselves NU now) on 1 January, 2008, and completed the required “academic” courses by the end of July, 2009.  Eleven courses.

The way NCU works its dissertation process is that after you finish the “academic” courses you take 4 research (RSH) courses, the comprehensive exam, and then a minimum of 3 dissertation (DIS) courses.

The 4 RSH courses are designed to help us pick our topic, decide which methodology we want to use and develop our concept paper.  I finished the first 3 RSH courses between 1 August, 2009, and 31 January, 2010.  I picked my committee during RSH #3 and was so happy to start class #4 on 1 February, 2010.  Things went really well.  My chair wanted me to breeze through the first 7 assignments in 2 weeks in order to concentrate on my CP.  Loved my chair, BTW.  I had chosen mixed methods as my research design back in RSH #2.  I wasn’t always sure that was the route I wanted to go.  I asked my mentor (that is what NCU calls them) in RSH #2 if that was best for me.  He never answered back.  So I took mixed methods for RSH #3. 

So, with RSH #4, you are to work on your concept paper.  At the start I thought we were supposed to have the CP finished by the end.  I will discuss more on that later.

My original title was:  Extremist America: A mixed methods study of extremism versus survivalism.

Seeing that there were a lot of survivalist blogs out there, I thought it would be easy to get participants. 

With assignment 5 my chair that I should change from mixed methods.  He wrote the following.

My opinion: A mixed methods approach is quite ambitious for a dissertation. Out in the real world (like doing research for a journal article) a mixed method isn’t all that much extra work. But for a dissertation at NCU, a mixed method can be almost twice as much work.

So I picked quantitative. 
When I completed the CP, I thought, OK, one or two drafts and it will go onto committee.  WRONG!!!!

The initial CP went back and forth.  “Good title, can we do better” “Not a scholarly tone” “Don’t use quotes or italics” Is this fact or opinion” “Too broad of a statement” and on and on.

Six times my “draft” CP went back and forth.  Changed the title:

Extremism in America: A Quantitative Study of the Characteristics of Extremism versus Survivalism

Throughout the back and forth we worked on methodology, changed the intent of the survey.  Instead of one survey for one group, now I needed two groups.  We were going to have prisoners convicted of hate or violent crimes be group one and participants from blogs be group two.  Research questions, hypotheses, survey, etc.  On and on and on.

I was getting so sick of it, that at one point I didn’t even look at it for two weeks.  I hated it.  I despised it.

Finally, with draft 7, my CP went to committee on 9 April, 2010.  At that time they were supposed  to give it back to you within 14 days, due back 23 April, 2010.  Course ends 26 April, 2010.  Then the dreaded news came.

More tomorrow.  Elle

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