Midway assessment for my PhD

Today I had my midway assessment, a milestone for every PhD student. πŸ™‚

This is how UiT describes it: “The midway assessment shall provide the student and supervisor with an independent assessment –
evaluating whether the student has adequate progression to complete the PhD education according to schedule. The student shall receive specific feedback on his/her work so far, and get suggestions for the further work. The midway assessment provides the department with an opportunity to discern students that need structured follow-up. It is expected that such an assessment will improve the progress of the project, and increase the likelihood that the student completes the course of study within prescribed time.”

I sent in several documents ahead of time, and presented my research today to a committee (one professor from UiT and one from the University of Oslo), and to my 3 supervisors. Because of the pandemic, everything was on Zoom.

After the presentation we discussed my research, and I received lots of useful feedback that will help with the rest of my project. The professor from UiO is an expert in quantitative methods, in the field of education/special education. She had several good arguments for why I should include qualitative methods in my research:

  • Information literacy, by nature, is a field that is also qualitative, and shouldn’t only be explored quantitatively (although this is also a useful contribution).
  • If I want to publish articles in more general, educational journals, with larger visibility and more impact than those in the information literacy niche, I should use other kinds of analyses. Not just quantitative. I could use “mixed methods.”
  • If I only use quantitative methods, everything I write will be peer-reviewed by statisticians, and they can be very demanding, and perhaps concentrate more on the numbers than on the implications of the findings.
  • The analyses and statistics involved in doing a longitudinal study (which I’m in the process of doing) are extremely complex, and it can take years to master them.

She also encouraged me to compare students’ scores on the IL tests/measures, to outcome measures such as grades and completion of college degrees. That would make my research more interesting and relevant.

This was good advice, and I really appreciate that she used so much time and effort to evaluate my work. πŸ™‚ It was incredibly useful to get input from an external expert, who was previously uninvolved in my research, and who could examine it through a new lens.

Of course it was hard for me to hear that I’m slightly off-track, but it’s better to hear it now than even later in the game, I guess… Although it will be challenging to change my direction at this point, it’s probably wise. (And after I’ve digested this newest input for a little longer than 3 hours,Β  I’ll probably be even more convinced.) My study design has already gone through several revisions, so why not one more?

I’ve come to realize that doing a PhD means being constantly confronted with new intellectual challenges and continual revisions in plans. It often feels like my brain is doing somersaults, which somehow keep me on my feet. πŸ˜‰

A big thank you to the two professors on my committee and to my three wonderful supervisors! πŸ™‚ I feel privileged, humbled and grateful, once again.