It might be that it's Friday night, and that I get to hang out with some old Peace Corps friends later, and that I get to spend some lazy, pampered days in New York soon, but I'm happy right now.
I had an extremely validating conference call this afternoon. For the past two weeks or so I've been poking away at my computer, forcing myself to generate code that might work to turn out numbers that might be vaguely relevant or useful or correct. If this sounds like the wrong way to do research, welcome to data triangulation. We look at lots of numbers and try to pull out something meaningful from them.
Problem is, I've never been trained in triangulation -- I'd never even heard the word in this context before my first meeting with my thesis advisor. I figured someone would clearly explain to me how the process works in time for me to present the findings of said triangulation to a high-level group of researchers here.
So far nothing has become a whole lot clearer, and I'm on my own for the presentation, which is next week. The main higher-up on the project, though, R, always seems to have something in his head. He's said several times that we'll need to "take it to The Next Level" with the help of analysts at UCSF, which drives me crazy because this project, as my master's thesis, should mostly be done by me. Which is why it was so nice to speak to said analysts today, in a call that R missed, and learn that "The Next Level" appears to be a nebulous area existing only in R's head. The first few minutes of the call went something like this:
UCSF: "So, did you and R get a chance to talk on Wednesday?"
Me: "Yeah, we went over some scheduling issues and he gave me some tips for the presentation, but I was hoping he'd be on this call. He wants your help in taking it to the Next Level."
UCSF: "Yeah, so about that Next Level... do you have any idea what he's taking about? Because, the level you're at now... that's about the level we can work at."
Which is so great to hear. Because after 2 weeks of battling it out with Stata (and constantly checking friends' blogs and celebrity blogs), it seems that maybe I do have good instincts in this whole data analysis thing. Not that a trained professional couldn't do it 10 times faster, but I think I'm coming out with about the same results that an MPH on the project might, via the same logical routes that my thoughts have been taking over the past 2 weeks. I may not have the organization or confidence or refinement of a seasoned professional, but at least I feel that I could someday.
So I'll let you know when I've reached The Next Level, but for now I'm happy on this one.