Going backward is sometimes the only way to go forward

28 Jan


Eight months ago, in June 2012 I told how things had started to go wrong, then in August I really did try to be positive. That didn’t quite work out and things continued to go not-very-well. In my last blog post (November), I started to see a way out of what I referred to as the murky methodological jungle, although I recognised that I still had some way to go.

Fast forward to now: I believe I am out of that part of the jungle! Having turned around and trudged my way backwards again, I found an alternative, smoother route out. This route was quite different – it was not (as) difficult, it was not forced and I was able to walk down it quite comfortably. My complete re draft of my theoretical, philosophical and methodological chapter reflected this. While this is not a final draft by any means, it does allow me to park it and move forward.

I say move forward as a positive step – and it is. However, the point of this post is that as painful as it was (and it was really very painful at times), despite having spent the last 8 months going backwards (on more than one occasion), I realise that while going backwards I was actually moving forward. As Churchill once said: “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see

Had my supervisors not made me go through all this, then I dread to think where I would have been now. What I do know is that I would certainly have not been able to justify and defend the decisions I have taken to get to this stage. If I couldn’t have done that even at this stage, then goodness knows what would have happened during the rest of my PhD and indeed my viva.

So where to now? I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to getting back to my data. However, following in-depth discussion with my supervisors, I know I still need to do some important work before I can go back to my data. Something else that I never did before jumping into my data last year – develop a clear robust analytic plan. I have 4 large data sets and I need to be crystal clear as to what I am going to do with them, how and why I am going to do it. Without having this clear plan, it is likely that I could find myself back in another part of that awful jungle.

There is a wealth of literature highlighting the importance of having a robust analytic plan. However, unfortunately, there is virtually nothing about how to develop one or even what one looks like. So, this is my next step. My supervisors have started me off, but this will take a little bit of time to get right. That’s ok though – I need this to be right so my data analysis goes smoothly. I will share with you the development of my analytic plan in due course.

Thank you for reading. Please do comment or share your experiences – I, (and others I’m sure) value them very much.


5 Responses to “Going backward is sometimes the only way to go forward”

  1. cool thinkerz January 29, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    hey, great post!

    maybe u could employ “begin with the end in mind” to concoct the analytic plan. means end analysis can do wonders too. 🙂

    just wondering, what kinda r u working on?

    • Emma Burnett January 30, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      That’s a very interesting comment – thank you. I would be keen to hear if you or others have done this and if it was helpful in informing your analytic plan. I am undertaking a (lightly) deductive (based on a specific theoretical model) and inductive analytic approach to explore risk perceptions and responses of different groups of individuals, but I don’t want to impose prior theory or my own ideas to my data too ridigly. I wonder if means end analysis perhaps actually encourages you to do this, thus potentially stagnating inductive analysis?

      • cool thinkerz January 30, 2013 at 10:13 am #

        i find that MEA (means end analysis) can actually promote both deduction and induction. deduction (top down reasoning) progresses logically from the interaction of premises and instances into the conclusion while induction (bottom up reasoning) generates new premises and conclusions from a set of instances.

        there are certain situations where the act of linking the two, can reach a rather frustrating cul de sac. iA with MEA, u can gain better control over both approaches of reasoning to ensure progress. let’s look at a simple example to concretize the notion.

        assume that both premise 1 and 2 are true theoretically ie without the loss of generality, applying them does not propagate inconsistency.
        premise 1 : risk perception depends on framing
        premise 2 : X is a neutral situation
        conclusion : it is difficult to ascertain the risk perception in X, given its neutrality. C(D)

        assume that premise 1 is derived by inducing the behaviour of certain people with regard to risk perception.
        premise 1 : Some people perceived X as a risky situation.
        premise 2 : X is a neutral situation
        conclusion : risk perception can occur in X with a neutral setting. C(I)

        now, we have a contradiction. the conclusion from the deduction C(D) does not tally with the one from induction C(I). MEA however, does not regard this as problematic. instead, it treats both contradicting conclusions as valid.

        MEA moves forward by breaking up the startling inconsistency into a series of separating points that demand consensus. each point will serve as an anchor for an argumentation bridge. thus, by building a bridge for a small part of the inconsistency, the degree of contradiction between C(D) and C(I) can be minimized and eventually, eradicated completely.

        i kinda like MEA because it allows the analytic plan to be formed quickly whenever there is an impending sense of impasse nearby. how? a simple analytic plan is initially devised, with all the imperfections. iteratively, the plan is revised and updated. within every iteration only a small imperfection/inconsistency is refined to bridge the gap. in accumulation, the analytic plan will be gradually fortified.

  2. Melania Teufel February 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the great work!

  3. pure water Systems california October 3, 2014 at 4:20 am #

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