Things That Go Wrong
"I'm afraid I'm sunk. It's not working out at all the way I'd planned. So what's to be done?"
Troubles can crop up at any point in the process of doing theses and dissertations. However, the data collection stage seems particularly vulnerable to problems, so we've chosen this place in the book to identify a series of familiar difficulties and to propose ways of managing them. Throughout the chapter the presentation is cast as conversations between a succession of distressed graduate students and their academic advisors, with the students describing their troubles and the advisors suggesting potential solutions. It should be apparent that the suggestions offered by the advisors in these anecdotes are not ones that all advi sors would give. In effect, these examples illustrate no more than a few of the potential solutions that can be attempted to cope with things that go wrong.
The issues inspected in the five cases concern projects that (a) failed to achieve the authors' desired outcomes, (b) included uncooperative participants, (c) yielded statistically insignificant results, (d) failed to meet a professor's concept of an adequate number of subjects, and (e) the author feared would be less than perfect.
Student. "As I've collected more and more interviews, I realize my project's turning out all wrong. A lot of the kids aren't answering the way they should."
Advisor: "What do you mean by should?"
Student. "I asked them what consequence they would recommend for the main character in each of eight cases of wrongdoing. So I expected kids at the juvenile detention facility to give different answers than the ones in the church school. But while there's lots of variety among the consequences suggested within each of the groups, there doesn't seem to be any significant difference between the pattern of answers of the two groups as a whole. Something's wrong."