Exams are but a distant memory for most of us by now, especially if you’re like me and tend to block out slightly traumatic events :). OK, they weren’t all that traumatic, though I get the feeling I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped due to a combination of factors, but one module was a serious stressor! I found the exam questions rather vague and wide reaching in scope, and 2.5 hours both seemed like too much and too little. However, I’ve given this feedback when reviewing the course, so hopefully future students won’t feel the same as me.
But onward ho! As soon as exams finished I started concentrating on recruiting participants for my research project. Then two weeks into recruitment/interviewing I realised I only had about three weeks left to hand in a full draft of the the project – including results and analysis. Enter exam-like-mode v2.0…
The draft has been submitted (phew!) and I await feedback, but allow me to recap what an interesting journey it has been to this point:
In medical school we were required to do at least three research projects over three years, and that’s where I acquired my love of the investigation. However, back then it was always done in groups, so the work load was very manageable, and they were always quantitative studies. Along with a general unfamiliarity with the qualitative method, I admit to a certain disdain of it… I felt, like many other clinicians still do, that it was somehow inferior to the cold, hard statistic. It wasn’t until my social research methods module last year that I finally appreciated the merits of this methodology. Though I passed that course well enough, I got the lowest grade of four modules taken last year in it, so you can imagine my surprise, trepidation and excitement when it turned out that the direction my project ended up taking was that of qualitative interviewing!
Thus far I’ve learnt so much – how to adapt my usual interview strategy as a clinician to that of qualitative interviewing – and they’re similar but quite different, and different as well from interview skills in conducting a survey… I learnt that 20 minutes of interview on tape translates to about 4-5 hours of transcribing and coding… I learnt that I should really invest in a referencing software because manual referencing more than 100 articles is enough to make you want to pull your hair out!
Regardless of the outcome, I don’t regret choosing this project option – it will serve me well in the many research projects I hope to be doing in the near future. I would highly recommend this option for any future distance students – there are well defined deadlines that help keep you on track, so everything doesn’t overwhelm you at the last minute, and the supervisory support is excellent. The only caveat I would say is be careful how you schedule things around exam time, since that’s where I nearly got derailed – March is all about assignments, so that leaves just April to get project details worked on, since exam prep starts in May. Ideally interviews should have begun in April and concluded by June, but I had to get local Ethics approval, which took some time. You’ll probably encounter similar obstacles if you’re doing exams and the Project in the same year, so just be prepared.
In spite of the stress, it’s all been very exciting and fulfilling so far. Until I have further news on progress, enjoy your summer and Ciao!
Nastassia is studying the MSc Public Health offered by distance learning through the University of London International Programmes, with academic direction from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). She lives in Barbados.