Confessions of a PhD Student (9): “I created a monster”

Doing my PhD has been an adventure. I began with a very general idea of what I wanted to do. My work was fuzzy, vague. I was lost in a labyrinth of information. After doing a literature review and having several discussions with my supervisor, I was able to narrow down my topic to something specific and manageable… or so I thought.


Based on my research questions, I worked on ways of getting some answers. I chose a mixed approach. I included different instruments and methods to triangulate the information: interviews, surveys, document analysis, business metrics and more. I decided to consider the perspectives of all relevant stakeholders to obtain a more thorough understanding: students, teachers, course designers and managers. To organize myself, I divided the data collection in several stages, each of which could be considered an independent study…


…And my project grew out of proportions. One day I looked at my methodology chapter and thought: “I created a monster.”


My supervisor once told me that I want to fix the world. I do, one research project at a time… But maybe I exaggerated with my thesis… I had heard it before: “You want to do too much”. They told me a couple of times. Ok, ok. They told me LOTS of times.


I didn’t really understand it until I saw my plan written down and got scared by its monstrous dimensions. I can now accept that it encompasses too much. I do want to fix the world. But I cannot study everything right now. I have human, resource and time constraints.


So I will take control and narrow down my methodology.


I will fight and conquer my research.

No more monsters for me.

– Brenda Padilla

Leave a comment


  1. Well, education is learning more and more about less and less.

  2. Brenda
    I think your post would be a great message to our PhD group in Second Life so I am going to share it with the Virtual Worlds Working Group PhD special interest group!!

    Thanks for sharing your process.
    I just submitted my dissertation about a month ago.
    Good luck!!

  3. i had a similar experience wanting to contrast this with that and that…and then i finally got real in the face of the substantive number of separate ethics applications i would be required to make for different sites of study and substantively different groups.
    Now with just one site of study (and inside of that 3 separate cohorts) I have a huge, but not insurmountable, amount of data. I am soooo glad i did not go there for putting the world of hundreds of hours of observation and interviews and data of policy documents and other artefacts into one 100,0000 word doc is a big enough ask.

    Seth Godin says overwhelm the small space, make the world smaller,
    “It’s entirely possible that you will choose a niche that’s too small. It’s much more likely you’ll shoot for something too big and become overwhelmed. When in doubt, overwhelm a small niche.”

  4. bdra

     /  August 18, 2011

    Wow. Thanks for your comments. I am glad to know that others have been there. It makes me feel less lonely.
    @Lindy, sure feel free to share it! And congrats for submitting your dissertation! 😉

    I loved the idea: It is all about learning more and more about less and less (Cann). Overwhelm a small niche (Godin).

    – Brenda


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