Saturday, April 19, 2014

Researching during the Passover holiday week

It being Passover week, I've been on holiday. Unlike 60,000 other Israelis, I've spent the week at home - but I haven't been idle. For the first day or two, I had some work to do for the occupational psychologist (OP), but she's flown to Pittsburg for a few weeks, so that avenue of work closed down fairly quickly.

But I haven't been sitting around, twiddling my thumbs. For several hours each day, I've been working on my research proposal; at first, I did some extreme editing, but the last few days I've been reading more papers. Today I finally made some headway on two subjects which are very important but were seeming to be difficult to fit into the format that I wanted: cognitive style and spreadsheet competency.

One of the programs which I wrote with the OP suggests to the respondent what sort of job would be suitable based on the respondent's answers to questions; one part of the questionnaire (or as they call it in psychological speak, the instrument) is concerned with a variant of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), or as I saw it called today, the "Big Five school of personality psychology". The five scales which make up the Big Five are "extrovert-introvert", "Sensing-intuition", "Thinking-feeling", "Judging-perceiving" and "Conformity-rebellion" (very interesting: googling "big five" brings up different names). Anyway, the "sensing-intuition" (S-N) continuum describes how new information is understood and interpreted. Individuals who prefer sensing are more likely to trust information that is in the present, tangible, and concrete: that is, information that can be understood by the five senses. They tend to distrust hunches, which seem to come "out of nowhere". They prefer to look for details and facts. For them, the meaning is in the data. On the other hand, those who prefer intuition tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical, that can be associated with other information (either remembered or discovered by seeking a wider context or pattern). They may be more interested in future possibilities. For them, the meaning is in the underlying theory and principles which are manifested in the data.

In other words, the S-N continuum is the cognitive style. I have to show and cite the connections between Myers-Briggs and cognitive style, but that shouldn't be difficult. Having made this connection, I can now take the twelve questions whose answers result in the S-N continuum and place them in my questionnaire. This will need a small change in the questionnaire database but that is something that will be easy to handle. One instrument which I had found for measuring cognitive style required forty questions, which seemed to be overkill in relation to the rest of the research questionnaire, but twelve questions are definitely manageable.

I've also been working on measuring spreadsheet competency. I found online exams which have some suitable questions. There are many questions which I think are irrelevant - which key press starts editing or what is an alternative name for a spreadsheet - but some of the questions, especially those concerned with formulae and functions will be useful.

At the beginning of the week, I discovered a body called the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group (EuSpRig) which maintains a website containing amongst other things, "horror stories" about financial losses caused by spreadsheet mistakes. As the Americans would call it, "the smoking gun". I discovered that this group is having its annual conference in Delft, Holland at the beginning of July and that there is a paper being presented which is very close to my area. At first, I thought it would be great to go to the conference, but the timing would be problematic, and as it will take place at the beginning of July, the airfare would be prohibitive.

After exchanging some emails which the Dutch organiser of the conference, I found a paper called 'Mining spreadsheet complexity data to classify end user developers', which is very interesting. I am not interested in following the algorithm presented (I'm sure that 99% of the spreadsheets created in my company are as simple as can be), but the lead author has promised to send me some connecting material, including his questionnaire, from which I hope to extract some questions. [The paper seemingly can't be found via Google Scholar; I must have obtained it via the Heriot Watt online library]

I notice that my mood is strongly connected to my level of progress with the research proposal; when it is going well, I feel wonderful, but when I am stymied, then I feel frustrated. I was very frustrated this morning as I am not succeeding in delineating the aims and objectives of the research. According to the text of IBR1, "the aim is the desired end product of the research whereas the objectives are the actions necessary to achieve this aim". For some reason, I seem unable to translate the meaning of this sentence into the form that I need. I have the aims, but I can't figure out what the objectives are. I probably need a simple transformation, but it's eluding me.

[SO: 3532; 2,12,31]
[MPP: 376; 0, 0, 5]

No comments: