Novice researchers face interrelated and complex choices when embarking on an inquiry. The consequences or limitations of each decision may be far-reaching. This article is an auto-reflection on the intricate process of conceptualising and operationalising a thesis in which practical and contingent factors appear to have had a stronger influence in decision-making than philosophical frameworks or supervisory guidance. It aims to underscore the lengthy and often confusing route that graduates follow in pursuit of a higher degree. The target readership is students, emerging scholars, supervisors, and reflective practitioners in the educational linguistics research arena. The actual study pertained to a community project offering televised academic support to Grade 12 learners and sought to establish why the rate of oral interaction between presenter and learners was unexpectedly poor during instructional broadcasts. Key findings suggested that the rate of viewer participation during telelessons was not directly influenced by their limited English proficiency as initially anticipated, but by a combination of variables related to technical limitations, presenter nescience, and inappropriate methodological design.