January 2, 2017

Progress Report

It is Monday, January 2, and well, this means that it is deja-vu or New Year's Day all over again. I guess you just cannot have a New Year’s Day on a Sunday! I woke up this morning to the sounds of the Rose Bowl Parade, and I thought, “What the heck is going on?” But then I remembered that the parade didn’t take place yesterday, and well, it was like a twilight zone experience. Sigh. Of course, my Mom is the parade watcher, and I don’t recall any year when she didn’t watch the parade on New Year’s Day. I guess this is why I felt like someone had hit “repeat,” because we already celebrated New Year’s with our annual pork roast and sauerkraut for dinner. Normally, we watch the parade in the morning and the game in the afternoon. We did most of that yesterday, so today, it just seems like overkill to have the parade AND the game later. I woke up feeling a little like Rip Van Winkle, know what I mean?

Just to soothe my furrowed brow, I googled the parade and January 2, you know, just to find out why the parade was today and not yesterday. Well, lo and behold, apparently I should say, there is a reason why the parade was scheduled for today and not Sunday. Yes, the Rose Parade has been held on a Monday only 15 times in the past 128 years. What is more is the fact that there is a “rule” that says that the parade cannot be held on a Sunday. Yes, this rule has been in place since 1893, and the rule specifically states that the parade cannot run on a Sunday for fear that horses and buggies stationed outside churches might get spooked and that parishioners and Sunday services might be disrupted. LOL! I had a good laugh when I read that news because no one thinks of disrupting church services today for any reason. Think for a moment about the Super Bowl or other big games or events and how many churches celebrate these secular events and build services around them. My little heart was cheered to know that the good folks in Pasadena had at one time, God-fearing sensibilities, and as such, they created a standing rule to host the parade on a Monday whenever January 1 falls on a Sunday. I say, good for them! Yes, good for them.

So the parade is on TV, and in my view, the world seems to be oddly out of sync right now. I am sitting here at my computer “thinking” it is January 1 when in reality it is January 2. I am thinking to myself, “Does this mean I get the day off?” Well, I have the day off, technically, I mean. I don’t start classes again until January 9, so I have this entire week off as my last respite before my jam-packed semester begins. Happy New Year’s Day, second-time around!

Making Small Changes

I titled this blog post, “Progress Report,” because I do have some progress to report (praise the Lord!) Yes, I did well yesterday, and I made some good progress with my research. I am still behind, as in my schedule, but I am making some big strides forward, and I think with serious effort this week, I will be back on track to finish in time. That is, if I don’t get bogged down in the data. You see, my research has generated massive amounts of data, so much so, that there are aspects of my research that I simply will not be able to factor in. I mean, every single website has video embedded, sometimes on every single page. I cannot do a visual/audio analysis of every video on all 15 websites AND hope to finish in time for graduation. I am not sure what to do about the “extra” data that will not be analyzed, but tomorrow I will have some conference call time with my chair, and hopefully, he will help me decide what to keep and what to save for a second analysis, perhaps at some point down the road.

The good news, as I alluded to it, is that I did make progress over the weekend. My schedule had called for me to have all my visual inventory completed by 12/27. I didn’t make that day by a long shot, so my second schedule said that I should have it completed by 1/1. Yes, that day came and went as well. I was left thinking I was in dire straits yesterday when I got the idea (well the Lord put the idea into my head) that perhaps a way to speed up the process was to finish the counting of elements by hand and simply tally them using Excel. Once completed, I could import them back into MaxQDA for analysis. I made the decision to try it yesterday, and I think it was the right choice. I spent the majority of the day working on coding, and also making sure I had visual snapshots of every website. By late last evening, I was completed all but 3 websites (initial inspection/count). I was pleased, of course, and though I am not 100% finished, I am a lot closer to where I need to be. I have to go through and recount individual items still, but the fact is that without the hand counting I did outside the program, honestly, I don’t think I would have finished this second phase, the inventory stage, for weeks and weeks and weeks.

I should note that MaxQDA is an amazing program. I am just beginning to see how powerful it is when it comes to analysis of quantitative and qualitative research data. However, it is a massive program, bloated, and a real “chow hound” when it comes to memory and disk space. In short, it creeps along on my iMac, and as a result, it takes an incredible amount of time to categorize elements through the “drag and drop” feature. I realized about an hour or two into my coding that my project, 15 websites (each site has between 20-100 pages) would be time-consuming and laborious if I had to drag and drop codes into each web page. I did that for several weeks, and by Christmas, I had only 5 websites finished. Honestly, I thought I would never finish. I mean, I panicked BIG TIME. I OFTEN cried out loud, “Lord, I will never finish!” Thank goodness, I don’t give up (well, praise be to God, He doesn’t give up on me)! So, rather than sitting down in a pool of my own tears, I made the decision yesterday to complete the rest of the coding in Excel.

MaxQDA is powerful, and as such, it has been designed to be used in different ways, depending on researcher need and research project design. As such, of the many ways you can use it, the visual way (my first choice) was the slowest option (as in time to complete). My second choice, exporting and importing data from Excel, is definitely faster. I decided to try Excel, and with very little effort, I was able to export what I had already completed using the visual tool, and then add in the remainder of websites left to count by hand. In effect, I was able to complete 7 of the remaining 10 websites in about 4-5 hours (as compared to a week for 5 websites using the visual analysis tool).

My progress yesterday was a huge relief to me because I was seriously considering throwing in the towel — giving up and in — simply out of fear that I would never graduate in May. More so, with school beginning next week, I was panicked to think about trying to do this work and write my remaining chapters AND make it to graduation in one piece. For the past two weeks, I really felt that I was up against a nasty wall, a sheer rock wall, with no way up, around or out. But, in true God-like fashion, the Lord stepped in when I was ready to begin thinking more rationally, and He helped me see another way through of my problem. He provided a solution that was doable, one that would take me less time, and one that would be easier to for me to complete in total.

Today, thus, I am celebrating my small victory over the weekend. I still have to finish the final 3 websites, and I still have to count individual items like banners, social media icons, etc., on the full set (of 10); but at the least, I am confident today that I will have my data ready to run statistics by Wednesday, and I will be ready for Phase III by mid-week. Praise God, I will be ready!

As I reflect on this process so far, I do feel a little disappointed that I will not be able to finish my research using this program the way I had hoped to from the start. I really wanted to do the visual analysis, use the visual tool, and study each site as I counted items. I loved the visual aspect of this program, and since this is the tool that attracted me to the program initially, I hate to think that I am not using the program to its full advantage. But, when thinking logically and rationally, I realize now that with large data sets like mine (500-1000 pages), the program is simply too complex and unwieldy to use in visual mode — unless you have a lot of time on your hands or you are working in team so that the work can be more easily managed. I mean, MaxQDA was designed as a team solution, so really, the program is working for me as it was designed to work.  I guess it is hard to accept the fact that since I am only one person handling massive amounts of data, I have to accept my own limitations with my research design. Sigh!

Therefore, my plan for today is to complete the coding process I started back in early December. I estimate that when all is said and done, I will have coded somewhere between 500 and 1000 website pages and spent about 100 hours to collect the data, process the data, and code the data. I am ready to finish this phase and move on to the next, the interpretive part. My chapter 4 and 5 cannot be written until I get through this last push, so I am going to really push myself this week to finish my work. I need to get this work done. I need to begin to write my chapters in January. I need to do this work, and praise be to God, I will do it. I will do this work.

In Closing

Today is a beautiful and blessed day. I see a glimmer of hope at the end of my long and dark tunnel. I am ready to complete the work the Lord has for me, and I am ready to push on through and finish strong. I need to focus today, and I will need to devote significant time to my project (at least 5-6 hours per day) between now and Friday. I also have to prep for next week, but I am saving all that work for the weekend. Lord willing, I will be ready to begin teaching on Monday, and I will begin my semester with the end goal in mind. I will begin my semester knowing that I am in the final stretch, the home stretch, and that I will soon graduate. I have to keep my head in the game, stay smart and on point, and let the Lord complete this project in His way. It is, after all, for His praise, His honor, and His glory, so I must let Him have His way in all things. He alone is worthy to be praised. He alone is worthy to be honored, and He alone will receive the glory. I take no credit, no authority, no power — but I do everything in and through and with — the power of Christ who works in my life to bring praise, honor, and glory to God, my Father.

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