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Thesis Joys

March 29, 2007   

Read my previous entries if you want to know the theoretical details behind my study, because I don't want to repeat it endlessly.  In short, I'm having participants look at screens of Yellow Pages advertisements and choose which business they'd be most likely to support.  I'm measuring ad effectiveness with reaction time, their selection of either ad, and the amount of time they spend looking at one ad compared to the other.  I'm at the stage right now where I basically live in this room (Science 3016; come harass me please) testing people.  Each test takes about 15 minutes or less and involves me turning off the lights and getting in people's faces to put the eye-tracking machine on their head.  Needless to say, it can be pretty awkward, especially if I can't "catch" their eye's reflection right away.  In these cases, I end up peering closely into their left eye and getting frustrated while muttering things like, "I don't understand this... your corneal reflection is MOVING to your SCHLERA!  WHY?"  And I don't want them to feel bad for having an unstable corneal reflection, because god knows what that can do to a person's self-esteem.

Once I set up the eye-tracking stuff, the actual study runs like two minutes.  The analysis will be a different story-- it involves me taking thousands of lines of data, compressing it, and scanning through summaries while applying them to the ads.  It will certainly be a pain, but I'm looking forward to senior week when this is all done and I'll be able to say that I completed an empirical study from conceptualization to literature review to data collection to analysis and to results/discussion.  That's a big deal, if you think about it.  Out of everything I've done in my academic career at Hamilton, doing a thesis makes me feel the most independent and... capable, I guess.  All of us doing theses have become specialists in an area of our choosing.  I DO want to say, though, that even though it is an independent project, I really want to thank my thesis advisor, Penny Yee, for taking time to help me out when I send her extremely long-winded and exasperated emails at 2 in the morning with subject headings like "HOW DO I GET FROM .FIX TO .FSQ??!"  This happens fairly often.  In fact, I'm writing this entry in my thesis room after a meeting with Penny in which we figured out a substantial amount of analysis business and I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief.  I really can't get anything done if I'm at all worried about my thesis-- I'm several weeks ahead in all the rest of my classes just so that I can focus on this one thing.  As intense as that sounds, though, it's really all about time-management, and it's entirely possible to regulate your schedule to handle a project like this.  All right, time to go preorder my cap and gown from the bookstore... this really is the final stretch, isn't it?  Wow.