April 18, 2011

Please talk to me

My dissertation project requires me to interview a lot of important people. When I proposed the project, this seemed like a great idea. I could travel around the city and meet interesting people. I would have original data that nobody else had. Publishers would fight each other for the rights to my dissertation, which would be insightful, informative, and full of engaging little stories.

In reality, getting important people to talk to me is incredibly difficult. Most of them don't answer my e-mails at all. It's like the request never happened. I have managed to get a few interviews, but I still need to get responses from a staggering number of these people. I am asking each person a set of uniform questions, so I need a fairly large N to combine and analyze the results.

I think I need to be much more persistant and aggressive in my solicitations. I hate asking for anything, hate using the phone, hate begging people to talk to me. But it's nearly May, and I am badly behind schedule. I need to stop feeling shy and embarrassed and start relentlessly pestering people.

Phase One: A friendly e-mail from a "student" who would really appreciate a brief interview

(nothing happens)

Phase Two: A friendly follow-up e-mail, asking again

(nothing happens)

Phase Three: Call the person's staff and leave a message

(nothing happens)

Phase Four: Call the person's staff again, and break down crying on the phone, gasping through sobs that I'm 27 and I've never done anything in my life but go to school, and if I don't get this person to talk to me, my advisors won't let me graduate, and soon I'll be out of money and I won't be able to feed my poor, helpless cat.

Phase Five: ?

Not sure what to do if all that doesn't work... I could stage some sort of breakdown in front of the person's office, take off all my clothes and start screaming my questions, but that might be some sort of IRB violation.


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