It’s getting real now, y’all

It is not enough to know what you want to research or even your theoretical framework, you must also know- what you want to do, how you want to conduct the research.

So I finished my course work last semester. This semester I took a seminar class to prepare for my prelim. In my program the prelim exam is not an actual test, but a presentation of your proposal (chapters 1, 2, and 3 of the dissertation), in which you are grilled by faculty and students and of course your committee. I am nowhere near ready for that, as I am just beginning to figure out what I want to do.

And I am way overdue with an update here. It has been a bit of a journey to get here. In summer 2014, I started this program with pretty much no idea what I was going to research, but knowing something related to nursing education. I bounced around and explored a variety of topics- from nursing faculty’s informatics competency, to student’s activities on the internet (that was a fun foray into the world of digital ethnography), and slowly moved towards simulation, settling on prebriefing (PB). It is not enough to know what you want to research or even your theoretical framework, you must also know- what you want to dohow you want to conduct the research. Which has been my challenge.

I have been frozen in a way because I could not come up with a plan that seemed feasible. Thinking of experimental research is overwhelming. There are no ready-made data sets collected that I can access, and while it is a good thing that the literature in PB is rather limited (leaving me room to do some work), it also means there is a lack of examples to follow.

It was also challenging that my program had gone through changes, my committee has pretty much dissolved except for one stalwart member who has stood the test of time.  I struggled to articulate my thoughts in a way that could present a reasonable proposal. My committee might not be experts in my topic, but they must understand it and its importance. Through some reflection and the support of a mentor who has done work in the area of PB, I was able to put together a plan and share it in the form of my “elevator speech”:

Prebriefing is considered an important aspect of simulation design, however, there are no theory-based models available for nurse educators to use when developing simulation learning experiences for their students. My research goal is to design and pilot test a simulation prebriefing model based on cognitive load principles which will increase germane load and manage the limited working memory of nursing students who participate in simulation learning experiences. Using a revised version of a cognitive load measurement tool which has been previously used with nursing students in simulation, I will compare the cognitive load of nursing students who receive the cognitive load theory based model of prebriefing to those who receive a conventional prebriefing. In addition, I will do some reliability testing of the revised tool.

 Now I am working to turn this into a chapter one. I already realize my problem statement, aims and research questions are still weak and scattered. I hesitate to commit as I am just not sure how I will operationalize this plan. Will I take over a sim lab somewhere and allow students to come and let me try my intervention (theory based prebrief) out on them, and compare their scores on a cognitive load survey? That’s what I imagine, but then my brain freaks out as I think of the logistics. It may be too much.

But I am counting on the expertise of my committee to guide me to something reasonable and not too far away from what I am looking at. I have spend a lot of time thinking about this topic, reading and learning the theory and collecting literature. Talking with my expert in the topic has also helped.

I am aiming to have my first 3 chapters done by end of fall 2018/early spring 2019 and defend my proposal sometime in Spring Semester 2019.  Depending on how I collect my data and what that looks like, I might be on track to defend my final dissertation by fall 2020. While it won’t be “before I turn 50” as I had hoped, it will be while I am “still 50” which is totally OK!