Writing a doctoral dissertation and running a marathon: personal reflections on similar experiences PART III

20 – 30 km: legs feel heavy and tired

The time between mid-June and the end of August has been certainly the hardest. Maybe because of the summer, or because the World Cup kept me awake almost every night till late, or because in the desert landscape eat the University with just two or three people in the PC lab working on their dissertations, or maybe because this was also the part were I wondered whether my data would make sense.
I started by organising the data. I numbered interviews and personal observations, divided them into four categories, and entered them in an Excel spreadsheet: Cambodian background, education background, civil society, and community participation. This helped me to have clear categories and reference numbers to refer to in the text. I then went through the interviews and observation in each category to gather also some numbers out of the qualitative data. I listed, for example, all people who said that the main contribution in schools is labour, or that the school-community committees exist on paper but do not work in reality, etc. With regard to the checklist (questionnaires) I used to interview School Association members, I soon realised that Excel was useless for the analysis. I began to work with SPSS, a programme I never used before. In doing so, I found it extremely useful to communicate with a friend working in the GTZ project in Kampong Thom who is also working on a PhD in rural development and who is very knowledgeable with SPSS. He helped me to improve the data entry structure and suggested in some cases the most appropriate analysis. Having said that, I must admit that during these months I had to struggle to keep going as the work with data entry, analysis, and table/charts layout progressed very slowly. Though I derived the most useful information for the dissertation, I did not enjoy it as mush as other parts of the thesis probably because the analysis of data helped to prove a point rather than to discover new things.

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