Growing up experiences of university students from single parent families

Leung Tik Wai

Completing the Honours Project is never an easy task yet it is a rewarding experience. When I look back to my first draft of proposal, I could see how much I have achieved– from a blank loose page to an organized report.

I believed that conducting literature review is the fundamental step to start the honours project, and it lasts until the completion of the research. I would regard it as the most challenging part to me as I had troubles finding useful or appropriate journals or reports to support my project. Since the information found from different academic papers are loosely connected, it is hard to stick them up to draw a complete picture. Thus, it is quite time-consuming as I need to ensure that I have a clear flow to write my paper and provide a reasonable and clear explanation to explain the significance of carrying out this project.

Being inspired by the literatures I have found, I decided to do a qualitative research and use in-depth interviews as my research methodology. Making the methodology decision is easy but the challenging task is to explain convincingly my choice in the paper. I have learnt that it is necessary to discuss the benefits of choosing one methodology over another, stating that in-depth interviews can benefit me to investigate my decided topic.

My research is titled as ‘Growing up experience of university students from single parent families’, which targeted to explore the academic successful stories of university students from single parent households. As growing up experience is complex to be understood, it is necessary to receive detailed information about interviewee’s thoughts and behaviours through investigating their own stories in single parent families. The conversational process enhanced by in-depth interviews can draw a complete picture of university students’ growing up experiences in single parent households, which include not only the knowing of what had happened, but also how it was going. Therefore, by comparing the characteristics and strengths of different approaches, I chose to carry out a qualitative research rather than a quantitative one.

In my opinion, in-depth interview is much harder to handle than using questionnaire as the research approach, especially in the analysis part. To analyze the data collected by giving out questionnaires, we can use the application SPSS to draw charts and tables, and then convert the data into numbers. It is not complicated to run the application since enough guidance will be provided and similar illustrations can be used to describe the tables generated. In contrast, the analysis of in-depth interview is a complex one without an exact answer. It is not about numbers and variables, but data obtained in the interviews, e.g. the intonation and talking speed of interviewees, the words interviewees used, the way they express, the pause in their speech etc. Yet, the interpretation and understanding of the interviewees’ speech might be different; therefore, it could be hard to code and analyze the information received from interviews, especially for us as learners that are doing research. Besides, there are many uncertainties in interviews as we could not expect what the interviewees will talk about. Despite the fact that I had a set of key interview questions to be covered, the order was never the same and I needed to modify and raise new follow-up questions according to what the interviewees had said. It made me struggled sometimes as I was afraid that I would miss any important points to ask, and that unintentionally ask some leading questions. Therefore, I was quite nervous during my first interview, but things got better after a few practices.

Even though considering an in-depth interview is challenging for me as a learner, it is also the most exciting part of my honours project. At the early stage, I had difficulties in finding interviewees. Since the in-depth interview may cover private, personal and sensitive issues, some of them rejected to participate in the research as they might feel uncomfortable to share their stories to a stranger. Luckily, I was able to find enough interviewees with help from my friends. What touched me a lot is that those interviewees were really sweet and considerate. I remember one time I thought I lost some of the recordings of the interviews, so I contacted my interviewees to see if they were willing to do the interviews again. They all comforted me and said that it was not a problem, and even gave me words of encouragement. I was really thankful that I have met some kind-hearted and sweet interviewees that treated me like a friend. Besides, I felt really rewarding when my interviewees told me that they felt really comfortable during the interviews because it was more like chatting with a friend rather than doing an interview. Other than that, I could actually improve my speaking skills and learn how to summarize others’ ideas as well as to provide appropriate responses.

Moreover, I have never expected interviews would be an exciting data collecting process. Unlike questionnaire, it is unpredictable. You will never guess and expect what your respondents will give you, which make the interview more interesting. Having an interview is just like listening to stories of people’s life, their unique growing up experiences gave me inspiration and new ideas on certain issues, including love, family and life. I love how the interviewees not only share their own stories with me, but also their values and their motivation to love their life. I have several friends that are from single parent families, but I never have the chance to listen to their stories in such an in-depth narrative way. On top of completing the research, I also have gained a better understanding of the society.