Monday, November 15, 2010

Data Analysis (least exciting blog title EVER!)

I've had a few "oh shit" moments over the past few weeks where I'll feel pretty overwhelmed with the task at hand.  Anybody who's ever done one of these things (or maybe just any huge, colossal project) can probably relate.  It's that feeling when you're just starting something that you know is massive, and you're finally deciding how to grapple it.  For me, that's data analysis.

I have 41 participant interviews.  Those are students who use drugs or medications for academic purposes.  Each interview is about an hour, usually a little bit less.  The good news is that I got a grant to get all those interviews neatly transcribed.  The bad news is that each transcript is about 35 pages, and I have to "groom" them by listening to and coding each one as I go along.  I thought it'd take about two hours to do each one thoroughly.  So far, it's taken considerably longer.

Part of the problem is just deciding how you're going to go about taking such a large quantity of abstract, raw data and organize it into something cohesive.  There are books on this.  I wanted to be half-done by now, and finished by the end of November.  So far I've done 4/41 thoroughly.  That's where the "oh shit" comes in.  The bottom line is that I have to start saying "no" to people, friends, and be the hermit that Joan Bolker wants me to be (see 1st blog entry).  The good news is that my method is iron-clad, as I get better at my own process I think I'll get faster to the 2-hour-per mark, and most importantly, the data I'm going through is pretty good.