Tuesday, April 22, 2014

More research

I doubt very much that this series of blogs about writing my research proposal makes for scintillating reading. I readily admit that they are written primarily for myself. It is interesting for me to read which paths I took, where I made progress and where I made mistakes. I read somewhere that it's good for a researcher to keep a journal of her progress, so this is my journal.

First of all, I want to correct a mistake that I wrote a few days ago. The Myers-Briggs Test Inventory (MBTI) is not the same thing as the 'Big Five'; I confused the two because the Occupational Psychologist (OP) added a fifth scale to her version of the MBTI.

Somewhere along the way, I obtained the idea that one's cognitive style can be obtained from the MBTI solely by looking  at the S-N continuum. I had to go over several papers before I found the one which referenced the idea. Actually, I think that I got the idea from the Wikipedia page on MBTI because the given paper actually said that the cognitive style was derived from S-N and T-F.

It's all well and good making this statement, but I needed a way to include suitable questions in my research questionnaire in order to establish what the respondent's cognitive style is. I retrieved the questions which appear in the OP's version of the MBTI, but these questions were about which job the respondent would like, and seemed totally unsuitable. 

There are many questionnaires purporting to be the MBTI, but only one is the official MBTI. The end result of the test is assigning one of sixteen values (four characters from each continuum) to the person who took the test. Any set of questions can theoretically do so, but presumably the 'official' MBTI is the only one which has been validated - checking by other means to see that the results obtained from the test actually match the respondent's personality. Off-hand, I don't remember the degree of validity for this test - I think it's somewhere around 60%. 

Anyone can string together an instrument containing 60 questions, fifteen to each dimension, then on the basis of that compute an end value. But this value is worthless unless it has been validated.

Looking for MBTI questions on the Internet was a frustrating experience. There are several sites which offer an online test, but each one offers a different set of questions and there is no way of knowing which questions comprise the S-N continuum as each site performs its calculations "offline". Eventually, at 6:30pm yesterday, I struck gold when I found a document meant for "future chief residents" at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. The document contains seventy questions, a score card and then a series of explanations for each of the sixteen types. I needed only four pages out of a sixty page document, but those pages are priceless.

Looking at the scorecard, I can see that the S-N continuum is based on twenty questions, as is the T-F continuum. So I may have to add forty questions to the questionnaire, something which I very much do not want to do, or maybe only twenty. I suppose I could add ten questions from one scale and ten questions from the other scale and to hell with the validity. In any case, I don't know what the validity for this complete exam is, and as I write in the research proposal, I am not interested in making a psychological determination for each respondent. I'm only interested in the general sense of cognitive style. 

I need now to add a paragraph or two about "self efficacy", whose definition I am taking to be "the belief in one's capabilities of using a computer in the accomplishment of specific tasks". One might term this "computer confidence".  The paper which I have is very interesting and even shows a fascinating model, but it's completely out of date! The paper was written in 1995 (19 years ago) which might be a short time in psychology but a huge time in terms of computers. In 1995, the average person didn't know what the Internet was; now it is ubiquitous. There were mobile phones in 1995, but they were large and generally only business people had them, whereas today, even five year olds have mobile phones (and possibly even smart phones as opposed to the telephones of yesteryear). I shall have to see how suitable the research questions in the paper are, and maybe update them for my use. Presumably, this may be a factor only for the over 40s: anyone younger than will have grown up with computers and will feel comfortable with them.

I improved a few other parts of the research proposal: I added a much clearer structure to the section on the literature (which is the main part) and I finally figured out what my aims and objectives are. I was unwittingly helped in this by reading someone's PhD thesis; I had hoped that I would get some questions about spreadsheet competency from this thesis. The questions turned out to be of no use as they basically asked each respondent to rank herself (I was hoping for an objective ranking), but the section of the thesis which was concerned with aims and objectives was priceless. I don't mean to say that I copied the aims and objectives from the thesis; I couldn't as they are about a different subject. What was important to me was the linguistic construction of the objectives and their derivation from the aims.

My mentor underwent an operation today so he'll be out of action for a few days. I want to add some more material then send him a new, updated version next week. I also have to address some of the points which he has raised (some of the points arise from his misunderstanding, so I don't have to change anything in my work in order to answer these points).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Musical progress

All the work on doctoral research has naturally taken time and mental strength away from one of my other hobbies, namely music. Whilst I often listen to music while working on the research proposal, I haven't been creating any music. I worked on a song of mine called 'Most of these days' during December and completed an arrangement but somehow never got around to recording the vocals.

I decided to remedy this the other day and got set up for recording. After the first take, I discovered that my computer - or more accurately, one of the fans - is making a relatively large amount of noise which was being picked up by the microphone. I tried using the 'noise removal' function of my mixing program but this wasn't successful.

I realised that I could record vocals on my mobile computer - but I wasn't able to install my old copy of the multi-tracking program that I use under Windows 8. After scratching my head for a bit, I saw that I had Audacity installed on the mobile; it took some time for me to figure out how I could both play back the music and record vocals at the same time (there is a setting that enables this but I had to search for it).

After recording a few takes, I copied the vocal files to my disk-on-key and thence to my main computer for tuning, editing and mixing. To my surprise, the vocal track was out of sync with the music on my computer; this was easily fixed but I wonder how this happened. After playing with the equalisation, I obtained a vocal sound which went well with the music.

The computer was set up on the kitchen table next to an open window; the recording picked up no small amount of bird song. At first, I was tempted to edit this out, but after a while, I realised that the birds added a nice amount of realism to the vocal. This 'effect' is mainly heard in the first verse which has fairly sparse accompaniment, but it's also heard in the second verse.

So now I have two songs ready and waiting to go, along with several 'bonus' tracks. Unfortunately, I haven't written a complete song in about two and a half years, although the lesson of the song festival held in December is that I can easily write a tune, provided that I have a text. Writing the words these days is extremely difficult as I don't know what to write about.

In December, I started writing English words to one of the songs which I composed. Whilst the first four lines were quite interesting, the next four were rather naff. The opening was based on a dream which I actually had.

I dreamed of walking with the Queen 
She asked how my exams had been 
She gave ideas to follow up 
She held my hand and wished me luck

I'd be quite pleased if she would tell me how to differentiate between aims and objectives, although I'd be prepared to settle for another sixteen lines of lyrics.

[SO: 3542; 2,12,31
MPP: 376; 0,0,5]

700 blogs

I didn't notice, but the 700 blog landmark came and went. I completed 600 last June, which means that my pace has speeded up somewhat. 100 blogs in ten months is 10 blogs a month, or about one every three days - not bad. I 'blame' the DBA for that, a subject about which I have written frequently in the past year.

Unfortunately, I have no simple way of knowing how many blogs were written about each subject, so I'm going to make a table now of the most popular subjects, and I'll use this as a basis when I get to 800 blogs.

Subject Number
Van der Graaf Generator24
Office automation20
TV series20