It’s frustrating. I feel like an idiot. I used to be so good at the statistics stuff. Now I have realised for the second time that the way I have inputted my data into SPSS is wrong. At least this time it’s more copying and pasting than re-writing… Even so, I feel stupid. All the course materials (which are online courses, I might add, nothing in the compulsory modules) go into the tests and chart building and all that stuff, they don’t tell you how to input the data because I imagine it should be obvious. Caught between anger at myself for taking so long to get it right and anger at my uni for not teaching me anything useful.
There are some things you realise as you go along, that then seem blindingly obvious. For example, it dawned on me that participants sometimes took a while to get into the swing of the task and I was thinking to myself, “well, maybe we’ll have to disregard some of the data, the first block or something”. Then, I realised, it would have made bloody good sense to have had a practice block right at the beginning, which I obviously couldn’t introduce half way through the data collection. Duh. You live and you learn.
I’ve also been thinking that once I hit the 20 mark for participants (which should be tomorrow), I’ll then need to crack on with data analysis. I still know nothing. I don’t think I even know how to input the data, in a way that makes sense, into SPSS. The funny thing is that we were emailed today, asking for volunteers to do a promo video for the course and I was like, “I can’t do that, I am too negative!” because I haven’t learnt the one thing I wanted to learn: data analysis. I mean, the course is called research methods for crying out loud and the first research method I learnt was doing my research project at the end of the year… Okay, let’s tone the rant down a notch.
It is exciting that I have almost finished data collection with enough time to get everything else finished. At least I have another 5 weeks to go!
I have just finished testing my first participant of the day which is participant number seven overall, thus far. I actually haven’t set on a total number that I need, yet and will use today to do that. It’s crazy how fast the time is going now. Getting up to a month away from the deadline already! I am so eager to get a distinction, I just need to not mess this up. However, the last research project I did was a qualitative one at undergraduate so I think the marking may be much more stringent for the study I am doing… Anyway, I am enjoying it a lot. This is the part of my course I have enjoyed the most by far. I do need to keep on top of the writing though and brushing up on my data analysis skills.
The last few days have been a whirlwind and gone by very quickly. Means I finally feel busy and that progress is being made – a lot of it! But also gives me much less time to reflect and write. There have been so many little niggly things: getting the temperature of the water right, deciding on how many blocks of trials, introducing pain ratings, fixing the foot pedals, remembering that participants need to remove their jewellery and so on… When my supervisor came back from his break, it all just went up a gear! I am now ready to test people though and so the next challenge is recruitment. I have put out a lot of messages via others on Facebook, Instragram and I need to just try and get as many people as possible booked in for next week. Ideally I would love to have back to back participants next week and get like 40 participants but that is unrealistic! So it will probably continue into the week after. Meanwhile, I can write up my introduction and procedure properly, get my analysis skills up to scratch and start working on the other elements needed for submission. Every minute counts!
Anyway, this isn’t really much of reflection post but I thought I better write something whilst there is a lull in activitiy!
If you’re reading this and live in or near Nottingham, please check out www.callforparticipants.com/study/73DKK2 !
Slightly worried I am going to have to sacrifice going to UKYC (UK Christadelphian Conference) even though I have already paid for it as that’s right when I’ll need to be doing data collection. Needs must and all. I can live with it so I don’t need to let that stress me out.
What I need to be a bit more stressed about, however, is incorporating statistics revision into my daily routine and ensuring I back up my work regularly. I should also think about getting my supervisor to sign a supervision sheet but I keep forgetting about it.
As I had such a good, productive day on Monday, I can’t expect today to be exactly the same but I can trust in its ability to be a good day. Yesterday was a complete write off. I ended up watching a film (‘Before I Fall’, thank you, Netflix) in the middle of the day (!?). Late nights really do screw up everything! Get back on the waggon, missy.
I have learnt going to uni forces me to work, but I avoid it as I don’t like driving/spending money on petrol. Remembering to use my Pacifica app to keep me motivated should help, as well.
I’ve also learnt that attempting the full ethics application, as opposed to just the Chair Approval, has forced me to get on with making decisions and formulating a procedure. And today, we got the ethics application submitted! Wahoo! 🙂 Thought it would never happen :’)
So the Ethics application is much more lengthy and complicated than I had originally envisioned. Also, one of the neighbours is getting their front drive, no, front garden and front drive entirely redone which is involving a lot of drilling and is giving me a flipping headache.
I have completed a reasonable amount today. Would be good to stop expecting too much of myself.
The ethics application needs to be my main priority this week.
As an overall reflection of my work on this project so far, I have managed to focus on getting literature searches done without dragging it out or trying to open too many tabs whilst I’m doing it which has been a previous difficulty for me. As the literature snowballs quite naturally and I get recommendations from my supervisor as well, there was no point spending ages finding papers – especially as there’s no point finding loads if I don’t have time to read them!
Setting deadlines for things, such as meeting with RN, helps motivate me. It doesn’t matter too much if I miss these deadlines as it’s the pressure I need to keep the ball rolling.
I want to crack on with my literature review, especially with building a design for my project. That is straightforward as I know which papers I’m looking at to get started with it.
What’s less straightforward is the Ethics application. I didn’t realise how lengthy it is and how many steps are involved. Plus RN used some abbreviation in his email about it that I definitely do not understand – academics!
I still have my list of researcher skills I want to start on. Unlikely to get onto that today but maybe later this week. Or in lulls in my energy.
1. Set yourself DEADLINES
2. It will be difficult to get the Ethics done without a solid design based on the literature.
3. Start on researcher skills to break up other work, i.e. in mid-afternoon time.
And so now begins my summer research project. All other assessments are done and out of the way*. PhD funding application is submitted. I am now suffering from a sneezing fit but honestly the research project is now my main focus (once this sneezing has gone away, I promise. I do NOT have hay fever!). I have gone through all the emotions over the past month: relief, despair, panic paralysis, excitement, boredom, frustration, invigoration and genuine joy. I have decided to give up this masters on several occasions. I have been persuaded to continue on several occasions. And now, here I am (the sneezing has passed!) with only one goal and less than three months to go. A real slog.
Before beginning a review on the project thus far (which is minimal) and an account of my first proper supervision meeting, I will provide some extra context to explain my frame of mind. *As mentioned above, I said all my other assessments were “out of the way” but in a sense that isn’t true until the end of next week. I had a meeting yesterday for academic misconduct and I am waiting for the outcome of that. For the record, I never imagined being in this situation ever. I think of myself as too smart and too moral. But here I am. And I am starting to second guess myself – was I clear enough about it not being intentional? Do they think it wasn’t intentional? I have already submitted my student statement but I should have slept on it and now reading it back it looks like I am admitting to purposeful plagiarism. AH crap. So anyway, two of my essays for that module were flagged as plagiarised. Not the entire thing or massive chunks. But bits and pieces and I am now wondering if they will just give me a mark of 0 for the whole thing. Mark reduction (to a certain extent), I can deal with. ANYWAY, I can’t spend the whole day dwelling on it. If it does get to being a mark of 0 then I will contend it. There. My point is, I am now acutely aware of how important it is to stay on the ball and to not let stress and poor time management get the better of me again. I am also starting this with quite a bruised ego, but a little humility every now and again is good for character, I believe.
So, onto the research project itself. I have RN as a supervisor and I was previously a bit wary of this as he seemed forgetful and too laid back. I thought I had bitten off more than I can chew with a very scientific topic surrounding Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, pain and temperature mechanisms. I also remember feeling much more of a connection with another supervisor, ET, who had a topic that I would find easier. Thankfully, after our last meeting, these fears have dissipated. We got on, we laughed, his informality set me at ease, and he just felt like such a contrast to my previous research internship supervisor, MB, that I can already feel much more of a lightness when I think of academia (all doom and gloom before!).
In the meeting itself, we discussed quite a lot in a short space of time. We started with discussion of how to induce and measure pain perception without causing actual pain. In his previous studies, he has tended to use skin conductance to measure threat perception as an indication of pain reaction, which is what I thought we would be using. However, he stated that skin conductance has a lot of flaws to getting the data, matching the data to time points and to actually always having “normal” results. Skin conductance doesn’t always necessarily predict pain sensation, either. What he suggested was reaction time, which gives an indication of embodiment issues. Chronic pain, for example, gives slower reaction times in mental rotation tasks. Recent pain, on the other hand, creates faster reaction times. This is obviously something I will need to do more research into myself for the literature review/design justification.
Therefore, his initial idea for a study, which is much more straightforward that what I had envisioned, was using an ice bucket to change the temperature of one hand, and then see if this causes slower or faster reaction times (either due to cold which will detract attention or pain which will focus attention).
This gave us a 2×2 factorial design: before and after immersion, immersed and non-immersed hand.
I then suggested at this point that dominant hand may have an effect so we decided it would be easiest to counter-balance this in the study. I also wondered if gender would play a part as women tend to suffer from chronic pain and CRPS much more than men. This is something to look into, and may need controlling for.
This study still has a relevance for CRPS as it is looking at a lateralised, thermal effect, but remains straightforward to analyse as it does not introduce too many factors. We did, however, introduce one other factor (but left it at that!) which was different hand positions. This is because that while imagined movement is used often for rehabilitation, it is often fine motor tasks that CRPS patients find most difficult. Therefore, we are going to examine if fine motor hand postures are harder to mentally rotate.
We discussed the need for an immersion thermometer for standardisation or if we could use ice blocks instead of or as well as an ice bucket. This is something to establish in a pilot study, along with using an insulator to keep the opposite hand from becoming cold, as well. We can also use the pilot study to work out how long the study will take and how long the hand will stay cold for.
I also queried if looking at a different hand to your own would modulate the effects of a cold hand, maybe making it easier if you do not embody the hand you are seeing. This is because me and my supervisor would use pictures of our own hands in the study, as using the participants’ would take too long. Therefore, this introduced a second, separate study to compare the use of an individual’s hands with the hand of another on reaction times.
All in all, a very productive, positive experience.
Researching reaction times as an indication of pain and embodiment problems. (DONE 22/06)
– Researching mental rotation/imagery
– Different effects of cold/heat/temperature asymmetries on embodiment and mental imagery
– Is gender an important factor for pain? How to control for this? (DONE 26/06)
– Fine motor movement for CRPS
– Different ways to induce coldness in studies
– Begin working on Ethics Approval (Started 21/06)