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I’ve spent the morning managing to avoid most internet-based distractions and instead constructing some notes as a basis for writing one of my thesis chapters. Progress is slow, though in retrospect, most progress in PhDs is slow!

The notes are structured so as to make me think about my argument in a way more detailed than I’d done previously. Specifically, they are structured in a table, where across a given row I state the subsection number and subheading, then the key message to be conveyed in that subsection, then the different points that make up that key message, and finally a list or indication of the evidence/sources to be cited in the subsection. The table carries on (very calmly I might add) with other subsections, messages, points and citations to give a full account of just about everything that needs to be said in the chapter.

Not bad, theoretically. Maybe I’m getting somewhere.

I have tried this approach before when I have felt the PhD Dream to be futile. For example, I entered a phase last summer in which I was writing up two simultaneous versions of a paper (one for a conference, and another for a journal). Although there were only two versions to be written, the paper itself was written and rewritten at least four times, and edited many more times after that, because, like many PhD Dream Chasers, I often can’t write a paper perfectly the first time. I begin writing, and then I start to ramble on about theoretical intricacies not directly relevant to the aim of the paper, and before long I have forgotten what that aim is anyhow. I then have to go back to the start – not just the start of the paper, I mean I have to delete 90% of what I have – remember what my aim was, structure the paper a better way, and rewrite. And it is just so difficult to part with a lot of the material I produce the first time, because I develop a kind of attachment to it.

It’s like my PhD is my baby, and I can’t bear to just get rid of whole parts of it. It breaks me.

Anyway, because of all this stuff I’ve just explained, I’m fully anticipating writing my chapters at least twice each, and a lot more editing than I can imagine. I’m headstrong enough to still believe I can submit in May, but no doubt I’ll have been to the fiery depths of hell and back by the time I get there.

Now I’m going to keep calm and carry on chasing this futile PhD dream.

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