“Collusion” vs “collaboration” and “so what?”: Reflections on course assignments completion
I’m now waving goodbye to the second semester of my first year PhD studies.
Similarly to the first one, I have learned a great deal from doing the assignments.
My friends and I were very alert to the assignments’ instructions and the deadline at the very beginning of the semester. Especially for the Quantitative Data Analysis one, we set up a small group to help each other understand the assignment better. We aimed to meet weekly to catch up with our progress and shared resources like literature and statistics textbooks. However, this “collaboration” seemed to worry many tutors; they were worried that our “collaboration” would turn to be “collusion”. It was a shame that we stopped share our thoughts but continued working pretty much on our own.
The idea of “collusion” was new to me as it had never came across to my mind and my friends too I believe. The event made me think of how we, PhD students, have to manage it well between working on our own and seeking for helps from others (our supervisors, tutors, friends, and even YouTube!) The tutor was supportive, anyway, as we could send him emails or attended his “open surgery” sessions. Like he said, statistics is another new language and to some extent, I have learned it. Although I cannot speak statistics fluently now, but at least I know what it is and will keep practicing it so that I will not forget it.
The most important lesson I have learned from the Qualitative Data Analysis assignment was that the most difficult question to be answered is “So what?” After going through a lot of thinking about the data, analytic approaches and strategies, I already had the descriptions of my data, but how to make sense what I had found was the most critical part of the process. The tutor once told us that we have to be humble by offering some interpretations from our evidence and perspective, not the definite truth of the data or the world. This was challenging because I wanted to make claims from my findings but I had to carefully think about the possible interpretations using the evidence I had. There are still a lot more for me to think about the assignment I have already submitted as well as the qualitative data analysis process.
Overall, doing the two assignments was a great step in my process of growing up as a researcher. The experiences I gain from this “learning by doing” cannot be found in any textbook. I cannot predict the grades of the assignments but I can say that had a positive feeling (anxiety too, of course) upon the completion of the assignments and I am now ready to move on to conducting my pilot study and learn more!