The 1 years and 11 months PhD update: Sex, Drugs and SPSS*
Posted on: 03/11/2016, by : Laurence Borel

I am officially 1 years and 11 months into my part-time PhD! Time to reflect on the past 11 months of the achievements and set backs of my journey.

February – April 2016: Determination and the art of coding 2,000 pieces of UGC without losing your sanity

At the beginning of the year, I set out to complete a significant content analysis of brand UGC… I manually identified and coded 2,000 pieces of brand UGC, whilst working 3-4 days a week. The whole process took 3 months and I ended up completely exhausted (try working 9 hours a day, and code the brand UGC after work in the evenings and at the weekend).

May – July 2016: And there were tears…  and Andy Field’s SPSS Statistics, Sex, drugs and Rock n’ Roll became my saviour (kind of…)

All my data was finally coded, which led to a moment happiness and relief. All I had to do was to analyse my data in SPPS, produce a good draft of my research and I would be flying onto my second study. Or so I thought…

SPSS is not exactly my best my friend, and as much as I like the idea of quantifying data, my dyscalculic demons were unleashed. The challenge was not so much learning how to use SPSS; the challenge was to understand how to perform a chi-square. The struggle was real, and the months were flying by, so I took the decision to enlist the help of a private stats tutor. All was well, until said tutor started shouting at me for not having clear hypotheses to analyse my data. I kid you not! Clearly upset by the ordeal, I burst in tears… but he was right. I had to up my game, and develop clear hypotheses.

On a more positive note, one of my mini successes was passing the dreaded annual examination back in June. Whilst the annual examination can be worrisome for some, I was confident that my proposal was strong, largely down to the fact that I was exempted from all exams in my first year, and thus had more time to focus on writing a strong literature review and methodology.

September 2016 – October 2016: Finally published, and a minor set-back

September was a month of wins. First, the book chapter I had co-authored with my supervisor towards the end of my MRes was finally published. It’s quite an amazing feeling to see your name printed in a book. Even more excitingly, the research paper we wrote of the back of my MRes thesis was finally accepted (Hurray!). The paper will be downloadable from any good database in the near future 😉

As for the minor setback, despite my best attempts at writing a succinct and academically engaging paper, my content analysis draft looked like much more of a dysfunctional series of analyses, than the highly cited academic masterpiece I had hoped it would be, dashing my hopes of an academic holiday conference in Tokyo

Note to self: You should reject the null hypothesis when p<.05. Damn you brain!

September 2016 onwards: Here we go again!

Given the struggles in developing a succinct, non-dysfunctional paper based on my first study, my supervisor advised me to start working on my second study, with a view of developing an academic masterpiece (or something along those lines) supported by primary research at a later stage. The idea here is to use primary data (qualitative interview), to inform the direction of my initial content analysis.

As I type, I am currently in the recruitment phase of my research and would be keen to talk to people who share user-generated content such as selfies online. Intrigued? Fancy helping a poor PhD candidate? Find out more about my research here.

Until next time, keep writing!

*The title of this post is inspired by a book witten by Andy Field… just in case you were wondering!

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