Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Post 1: The Good Stuff

I just concluded one of the final committee meetings of CONFORWest 2014. As the Logistics Coordinator responsible for everything from special event insurance to venue and transportation booking, I feel like for the first time in weeks I can almost relax. My to-do list is shorter than three fingers put together, and the mental weight of organizing is lifting. I feel a guilty sense of pleasure at looking forward to the conference and feeling like there's not a whole lot left for me to do; I know it's not quite the same for some of my compatriots.

So, now it's time to dive back into Interview Transcribing!

Interview transcription is part of the process that sets me up to analyze the data I collected (the answers to the questions I asked for my research). These are my three research questions:

1. How have the mountain pine beetle and the rapid ecological and environmental changes seen in BC’s most recent MPB outbreak shaped scientific practice?
2. In what ways do scientists understand the relationship between their scientific practices and the formation of policy and action, and do they see this role changing (in light of the MPB outbreak)?
3. If scientists are aware of concepts or terms related to novel ecosystems or ecological novelty, what do these terms or concepts offer them? (Conceptually? Practically?)

As copied and pasted from my thesis proposal... way back in September. 

Over the summer I was travelling to Edmonton, Prince George, and around in Victoria, and setting up Skype telephone calls with researchers in Vancouver to complete my interviews. I had 18 questions I asked interviewees, and the qualitative, empirical (read, exploratory) data I got from those interviews is what I'm finishing writing up from the audio recordings. I will theme and code the data, so that I can strive for validity -- this means that I will be able to say with (at least some) certainty: These are the themes/ideas/observations from my data.

                       Me with my visitor's pass at the Pacific Forestry Centre, where Natural Resources
                       Canada displays a huge model of Dendroctonus ponderosae. 

This is to help me avoid making loosey-goosey interpretations that have no foundation. The structure is there for an important reason. Validity is extremely important for qualitative data. It's what helps you from lapsing into pseudo-science, as well as simply shoddy research whose findings aren't supported by the data they're based on. Now, of course there's still the possibility that you will over- or mis-state some of your findings; at your master's, that's what you're learning to do, still, and that's why there's a whole lot of revision and feedback from your supervisor and committee. And the first time of diving into a big project in depth like this will be the hardest, G— reminded me, during a post-meeting discussion started with two colleagues after the conclusion of the meeting. Doing a master's is meant to feel difficult, and there's supposed to be a lot of room for making mistakes and learning; otherwise, you'd already be a professional, an expert, a published author, right? Those mistakes and errors get edited out as you complete your thesis, though. That revision process is also a big part of the learning.

My colleagues and I talked a little bit more about working on thesis, too. M— and I agreed that we came to places where we felt like we had no idea what we were doing. How easy it is to forget, or to get lost, or to just feel like you don't have a carpet to stand on. My partner has been really good at reminding me that every grad student goes through this process, of feeling the uncertainty and insecurity, and it just is damn tough! M— recommended two books for me to read, one being Joan Bolker's "Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes A Day". Some parts of it are supposedly a bit outdated (there's a section on deciding whether or not to use a computer), but otherwise, it's supposed to be really helpful for working through some of the difficulties with tackling your thesis, and understanding/contextualizing that other part: your supervisor and where they're coming from, and how to understand their comments/feedback/advice on your work. I look forward to borrowing the book from the library. M—'s also recommended another book that she owns, and will lend it to me soon.

So, to transcribing, the whole happy go of it!
My next post will be about ergonomics and the latest research on that that I'm still trying to incorporate into my healthy work lifestyle.

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