Who knew picking a dissertation topic could lead to an identity crisis? It likely would not have been an issue had I been prepared to start data collection at the beginning of this semester for my original topic - but I wasn't. I needed an actual vacation over the summer. And I'm not too excited about the idea of waiting until next fall, so I've been trying since summer to come up with a new, doable topic about which I am excited. Lots and lots of possibilities that I like and can see myself doing, but nothing quite gave me that "YES!!! THAT is what I will do!!" feeling.
However, while browsing a dissertation that I am referencing in one of my comps projects today, it struck me that quite a few authors of the dissertations I have looked at (and trust me, when you do a meta-analysis, you look at a LOT of dissertations) include their pets in the acknowledgements section. You know, the "I would like to thank (fill in the blank) for their guidance and support" etc., etc. There are really quite a few people that include dogs, cats, horses, birds, and an assortment of other pets in their thanks. I guess I didn't pay much attention to this when looking at dissertations focusing on animal-assisted activities/therapy - you would almost expect that anyone writing a dissertation relevant to the human-animal bond would acknowledge the role of their own pets. But the dissertation I was referencing today was in a field totally unrelated to the human-animal interaction, and yet here the author was, thanking her dog for his role in helping her to successfully complete the program and earn her degree.
And then it hit me - why not use THIS as the topic of my dissertation? The role of pets/companion animals in the lives of graduate students. It has a nice ring to it. I could look at dissertations in which the authors acknowledge & thank their pets. I could look at rates of students earning their graduate degree who have pets vs don't. I could do some interviews and look at the type of pet, quality of relationship, etc. - why are these students attributing their success in school, at least in part, to their pets?
And, as a friend and fellow doc student pointed out, it is blatantly related to EDUCATION (since my degree is in educational psychology, after all).
Just a seed of an idea, at this point, but an idea that has captured my interest enough to blog about it, so I can remember this idea later and explore further.
And now, back to that comps paper responsible for starting this thought...