Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dreams, obsessions and predictions

For the past few weeks, I've been waking nightly at around 12:30-1am (although the actual hour varies), two to three hours after I go to bed. I don't know whether the cause is physical or psychological; I lean towards the latter explanation as there are so many thoughts rattling and rolling around my head. I think that I'm obsessed with the doctorate.

Whenever I use the word "obsessed", I am always reminded of author Robert Silverberg and his character Lew Nichols in the novel "The Stochastic Man". Chapter Six begins with these words: From September of 1997 until March of 2000, nine months ago, I was obsessed with the idea of making Paul Quinn President of the United States.  Obsessed. That's a strong word. It smacks of Sacher-Masoch, Krafft-Ebing, ritual handwashing, rubber undergarments. Yet I think it precisely describes my involvement with Quinn and his ambitions.

Replace the words "Paul Quinn" with "doctorate" and one gets a fairly accurate picture of my state of mind. Early on, Nichols wakes in the middle of the night after a strange dream (he's a uber-pollster but during the course of the novel, he learns how to predict the future, or see) and I too wake in the middle of the night after strange dreams. Instead of dreaming about naked women, I awake with words like "unicode" or "nominal variable hypotheses" on my lips.

I should point out these code words have immense value for me (in other words, they're not simply random): "unicode" meant that I would have to develop my computerised questionnaire using unicode components so there wouldn't be any problem in displaying Hebrew characters with computers running Windows 7 and 8. The questionnaire will be distributed to unknown users and I want the program to run "out of the box" with minimal support. Yesterday afternoon I worked on the questionnaire program, replacing 'normal'/old-fashioned components with their unicode versions; this was easier than expected, although I had to remember to create the resource file (which contains the questions) with a unicode aware resource compiler. Gibberish to you, probably, but important to me.

My previous blog entry mentioned the four kinds of variable (interval, ordinal, nominal and dichotomous); the phrasing of the hypotheses in my research was suitable for interval and ordinal variables but not for nominals. An example of a nominal variable is the department in which the respondent works: sales/marketing, purchasing, production or other. These values are differentiated only by their names or (meta-)categories and other qualitative classifications to which they belong.

My mentor is always bringing up the subject of hypothesis wording as obviously this is something very important. As I have no experience in this area, I am finding it difficult to phrase the hypotheses in an acceptable manner. I asked for an example which he sent me; I then rephrased most of the hypotheses in a similar manner to the example. Most of these are what are called 'directed hypotheses': I am predicting the direction of the association/relation between the dependent and independent variables (for example, "The level of EUC practice is directly related to the percentage of bespoke items within the company’s product range"). Sometimes the direction is reversed - "The level of individual EUC practice is inversely related to the frequency and/or depth of training with the ERP program". [Apparently the influence of the fictional Lew Nichols has been extending through the book's pages and affecting my thought processes]

But how is one supposed to word a hypothesis relating to a nominal variable? After about half an hour of searching this morning, I found a solution: There is a difference in the level of individual EUC practice with regard to the user’s department. It will be interesting to see whether this new wording finds favour with my mentor.

One of the psychological factors which I have been investigating is psychological ownership.  I had been searching for questions with which I could measure this factor, and two days ago, I found the necessary questions in a paper which I had downloaded over a month ago and overlooked. After rewriting the questions in order to deal with ERP and spreadsheets, I was uncertain about whether this was the correct factor which I had in mind, as the questions didn't seem suitable (for example,  the first original question is  "this is MY organisation", which I altered to "the data stored in Priority is MINE").

 In discussion with the occupational psychologist (a session which reminded me of a viva exam [How can it remind me (a verb about a past activity) about something which has yet to take place? More shades of Lew Nichols]), I realised that this factor is not what I had originally intended. I then reviewed papers which I had previously retrieved and printed, coming across a paper which discusses user ownership in an IT context. Not only does this concept correspond with the idea that I had been trying to propose, the paper included the questions asked during its research. So I was able to incorporate these questions into my questionnaire with minimal changes. The academic definition of user ownership is “the state in which members of the user community display through their behaviour an active responsibility for an information system”.

Here I am documenting a false step which I took and how I corrected it.

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