Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Ever since I announced my dissertation topic to my MSc instructors back in October everyone has been commenting on feasibility. The funny thing is no one really could tell me why my idea wasn't feasible, but now I'm starting to understand. However, just because they don't think it's feasible does not mean that I'm ready to give up that easily.
I won't go into the specifics of my idea here since it's supposed to be proposed all official like in the next week or so, but I have definitely run into some problems. The first having nothing to do with my idea at all.
When I originally applied to the university, I did so already knowing what I wanted to write my dissertation on. I was so excited that I even started asking the instructors about it months before we were even supposed to be thinking about it. When January rolled around we received the description for our dissertation topic selection and I was so disappointed to see that we were assigned broad topic areas that we were supposed to fit our ideas into. To me, that is not researching. Why would we research something that has already been done over and over again and on topics that we discussed in class? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of researching? Anyway, somehow I managed to reformulate my idea and squeeze it into the prescribed topics. That said, the instructor heading the dissertation portion of the program was still skeptical.
We scheduled a meeting and two weeks later we met. I started explaining what I had discovered and where I wanted to go with my chosen topic. She cut me off about three sentences in to ask me what my topic was again.
Whoa. What?
I thought that perhaps she asked for clarification, to make sure I was on track, but turns out she really didn't know. Why hadn't she even just checked our email correspondence we had been having before the meeting? At least pretend to know what I'm there for. I kind of felt like it was a huge waste of time since she had no idea what I was talking about. As I outlined some of my thoughts, some research I had found Etc, she asked me a few questions and then said,
"I guess we both have a lot more reading to do."
What had she been doing in the two weeks between our initial conversation and our actual meeting? If we were in a business meeting and she was supposed to be in charge and she said, "Oh, I need to do some reading," she'd be at risk for losing her job. If I came to an exam or a presentation I was supposed to give and was like, "I need to read more" they'd give me a failing grade. As dissertation advisors they are expected to be able to assist their students. Not be like, I don't know anything so I'll just read later. So, there lies my first feasibility problem: am I going to be able to write a dissertation when my advisor doesn't put forth an effort? She keeps talking about how she's part time-works two days of the week at the university-and so can't give me more time than those two days. Fair enough, but shouldn't the university provide advisors who are actually available? The dissertation guideline states that each student should receive eight hours a week from their advisor: I don't know about anyone else, but I'm certainly not getting eight hours.
The second problem contributing to the feasibility of my project actually has to do with the project design itself. I am struggling to get participants. Basically, my project is needing military personnel who work with military defense dogs to be interviewed.
Any takers?
 Distance doesn't matter because wonderful things like Skype an the phone can easily fix that issue, but it is proving difficult to get a hold of anyone. I've emailed the division of the UK military who deals primarily with the dogs, but have not heard back. I have also been emailing every State individually to see if anyone in the United States military would be interested in participating. The problem I'm running into there is that half of the email addresses don't work, some of the military bases don't have contact information for their Public Affairs people at all and some only have phone numbers. I'm going to have to start calling. Contacting each base individually is incredibly time consuming and that is the biggest concern with the feasibility of the project. There is not a single point of contact for the division that deals with the dogs. It's just not set up that way. So, I have been slowly moving through the alphabetical list of the States since yesterday. I haven't decided what to do with the States where the emails haven't gone through because the addresses on the sites are wrong. Hopefully, I'll get participants from the other States and won't have to worry about those I can't get a hold of.
I basically have a week to get this proposal completed so I guess that will be my first concern. I have to make sure that it's convincing so that I'm allowed to continue on with it. I just have to convince Madam "I need to read more" that it is feasible.


L^2 said...

Hey Jess,
Have you contacted anyone at America's VetDogs yet? Their website is:, and they are a subsidiary of the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown New York. Maybe they could connect you with some helpful people for your dissertation topic, since one of the many types of working dogs they train are combat stress control dogs that are deployed with the military.

Just Jess for now said...

L! You are a genius! I had never heard of this program before, but I've emailed them now. A million hugs to you!!!!!