I went to a pile of great sessions today, but more importantly I talked to a bunch of people and got some REALLY good ideas.  This has left me more confused then ever.

My question (below) is related to a complicated decision I am trying to make.  I have enough class credits.  So I guess I should stop taking classes, figure out comps and start working on my dissertation.  I have 3 4 different ideas now (3 of them are related).

Choice 1:  Very quantitative, and working with data we already have.  Plays to my old career knowledge.  In my adviser’s main area as well as the area I’ve been publishing in so far.  Not sure where it would lead though; It isn’t “starter dough” ie an idea that could lead to several articles.  Very expedient, but not passionate.

Choice 2: Related to my adviser’s work, sort of.  Methodologically less purely quantitative and more related to my adviser’s adviser’s work (who I have never met and know only a little about, but at least my adviser is likely to be more familiar with the techniques.  More passionate but fuzzy about.  Relatively marketable and potentially very current although not in any state in which I have access to data.

Choice 3: Related to my adviser’s work in the same way choice 2 was.  ie peripherally.  Not quantitative; would use a case study methodology that I have never used and I don’t know that he has either.  More passionate about this. Slightly less marketable due to the methodology, not the topic.

Choice 4: Unrelated to my adviser’s work.  New methodology entirely (historical research).  Big change of direction.  2 potential topics to target under this one, both interesting to me.  Not necessarily all that marketable (the world probably doesn’t need many more historians.

I’ve more or less ruled out choice 4 due to marketability concerns.  I can do that after I get tenure somewhere (ie 10 years or so.)  The great thing about history is that it will still be there.

I am enamored of choice 3 at the moment but worry that the world doesn’t need more qualitative researchers (or rather that education needs more quantitative researchers instead and those of us with the skills should use them.)

I like choice 2 as a good compromise between 3 and 1, but am fuzzy on the specifics.  I would say it is the one with the least clear question so far.

I could do choice 1.  Easily.  But I’m not especially passionate about it, and one piece of advice I’ve read is that you shouldn’t do a dissertation on something you aren’t passionate about because you’ll never finish if you try.

Anyway, I’m mulling.  I’m open to comments, or I can just keep talking to myself. 

Regardless, I got some good clarity today (actually teased apart choices 2 and 3 and clarified choice 4 today) so this trip has been worth the time and effort.