Data tagging is a pain in the butt.
It is super time-consuming and super boring. And unless you’re analysing things like parts of speech (POS tagging for all the linguists out there) or semantic tagging… then you pretty much have to do it by hand. I’m tagging for recurring themes, so things like requesting meetings, paying compliments or negotiating money. Because these are done differently by different people you can’t (yet) write an algorithm to find them. You just have to tag them yourself.
You can do this super old-school in Excel, or you can use specific software. The software installed on the uni network is NVivo. I don’t use it because it’s not free – and I want my work to be portable. So I use QDA Miner Lite – the ‘lite’ version is the freeware reduced-features version, and you can upgrade to the full package if you want to access to all the advanced fancy-schmancy features.
My QDA tagging looks a bit like this:
The tags are all on the right-hand side. Frankly, it’s starting to look like a bit of a shit-storm. Luckily QDA Miner pulls the tags out in lovely easy to read tables when you want to search for something.
There is basically only one big problem with QDA.
It has a massive Excel phobia.
It runs scared (crashes) whenever you change or save something in Excel, and QDA has no auto-save, so you can easily lose an hour’s work with an inconvenient crash.
Sadly I use Excel all the time – to clock my hours, as a calendar, to organise PhD data…
I might be at the point of needing to stick a post-it to my laptop saying
Save your tagging!!
No-one doing a PhD has it easy. That’s just a fact, but some definitely have it easier than others.
I was talking to Sz the other day. Sometimes I feel like we’re all on a raft holding each other on – on a good day with good feedback and fire in your belly about your research you’re fully on the raft. On a bad day when you can’t get started or you’ve got so much paid work to do your PhD takes a back seat or your kid gets sick you start to slip… And sometimes someone falls off. Though I haven’t seen this happen in my department yet. The thing sucking me into the ocean is definitely my two jobs – right now things are good, I’m turning down business in my self-employed work to give myself room to breathe, and my regular job is only 15 hours a week.
But I’ve got it easy compared to some. Sz is Kurdish, her close family are here but she’s studying against the background of the IS affecting her wider family.
She doesn’t want to go back.
I can’t imagine what it is to focus when militants may harm your sister, your mother. It’s beyond belief.
Kurdish Female Fighters
My discipline at PhD level has an international student majority. Sz told me I’m the only Brit they talk to – I pointed out I’m the only Brit on the programme! We share the office with others, but they’re all History or Literature. Our international students come currently exclusively from the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Most of them speak Arabic. I love and envy that people from countries as far apart as Libya and Iraq (1,600 miles) can talk in a common tongue.
That’s like the distance between UK and Greece.
I’m glad for them. With the background they’re trying to study against the stronger we can hold on to this raft and to each other, the better.
A brief background might be in order I guess before I start really getting in to the nitty-gritty.
I started my PhD in October 2014.I stayed at the same university where I did my BA and MA. They have a very well reputed department, offered me fee-exemption and my bf also studies here – what’s not to like?
I’m not doing this because I have an all-consuming passion for my subject (it is definitely a cardinal sin to admit this!) I love linguistics, don’t get me wrong, but there are bigger issues afoot here; I want to be a lecturer and this is now the only way to do it. (Unless you want to lecture in a vocational subject like Business, or Architecture and then it’s totally legit and encouraged to make your way in through industry).
Why lecturing? I like to teach people stuff – it’s really fun, and my bf suggested that I didn’t have the ’emotional strength’ to do this at secondary school level – he’s probably right, but sometimes I wonder if I wouldn’t rather make that kind of impact. I credit where I am now to my teachers, not my lecturers. But que sera, maybe in the future I’ll do a PGCE and see where it takes me.
Eventual job security, fulfilment, and a decent income. This is the primary reason. I want the right future for my family, I want to live closer to my parents, I want to spend quality time with my future children on school holidays, and I want an environment where having a family isn’t seen as a set-back. Academia has certainly shown me so far that it’s a supportive, friendly and non-gender-biased career path and I want a part of that.
Conferences! Who doesn’t want to travel about and talk to clever people about interesting stuff?
I’m not sure if writing this is clever, but I feel it needs to be out there. I hope it doesn’t damage my future career, I invariably fail at interview for being some variation of “too honest”, but I’m not sure I want to be employed by someone who doesn’t want to employ the ‘real me’. And I can always delete this when I start job hunting…