Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ten more

Just reporting that I've got ten more pages of notes for the lit review, bringing me up to 16. This whole note-taking thing is new for me. I've never been a note-taker. I've always read everything I needed to read, made comments in the margins, and then sat down to write it all in a day or two. For my exams I have 110 single-spaced pages of quotes. Not a whole lot of actual notes. Neither of these approaches will work for the dissertation.

So right now I'm trying to briefly summarize each article and freewrite reactions and connections, then include relevant quotes. It's going okay so far. I'm a little nervous, though, about how to make this all work in a year long process. Any advice on note-taking throughout or on writing processes in general would be welcome.

Jan 30- update

I'm pleased to say that my meeting last week with my director went well, and I've gotten the go-ahead to schedule the prospectus defense. Today, I heard back from one committee member who is particularly busy this semester, and that person gave me the go-ahead too.

Now it's on to the pesky business of finding a time when all 6 of us can meet. I have no illusions that this will be easy.

I've been writing or revising every day, which makes me very proud of myself.

Here's to keeping it going...

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Calculator

Billie was asking me how I got through my procrastination. I'll write more about it later, but if I had this neat tool when I'd started, maybe I wouldn't have procrastinated so much!

If you're writing your dissertation, especially if you're just starting, may I recommend the Dissertation Calculator from the University of Minnesota Libraries? If you give it a start and end date, it generates milestones, which can be emailed to you. It does include such stages as 'getting closure,' that you might not think about when you make your own checklist, and it doesn't end with the defense. Here's a sample calculation using, roughly, my dates. If you're a methodical worker, this might be an accurate representation of the diss process, but for me it isn't really. It works well as a checklist, though maybe not an accurate calendar of dissertation progress.

(crossposted from my professional blog)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Possible questions???

sorry if this is cheating, but i'm cross-posting a section of something i wrote over at my place. i was doing some thinking today and came up with some stuff that i'd put out there for you, my fellow dissertators, to possibly comment on. here goes:

so, anyway, i finished reading the final sections of PITF [Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson] today and it got me a thinkin about possible diss r-s questions i could realistically aks. i want my inquiry to be both simple and useful/applicable to pedagogy. i'm not abandoning the student-athlete ideas. however, the questions i came up with today while musing in the aftermath of PITF had little to do with student-athletes. the questions are just rumination residue, so i shouldn't worry that my student-athletes are going to be left in the dust (right?). well, i don't know. anyway, the subject pool shouldn't/doesn't matter as much as the usefulness of the question guiding my research (i think). especially if i'm able to construct a study that investigates my hypotheses about physicality and effective learning (phenomenological learning practices). here's what i came up with:

Is there a relationship between the amount of writing done in high school and the level of achievement reached in fyw?


Is there a relationship between the physical act of composing and writing ability?


Does one have to physically compose a text in order to acquire an understanding of how to successfully navigate a written discourse community?


What is the relationship between actually composed text and achievement in college-level writing courses (FYC)?



Basically, the idea is based on an epiphanal moment while reading Mina Shaughnessy’s Errors and Expectations wherein she discusses the discrepancy in the amount of physical engagement with writing texts between “traditional” and “open admissions” high school students. Of course we know that there are correlations between the amount of responded-to-writing that one does and their improvement as a writer over time. (We do know this, right?? Or is this simply an assumption??) My argument, before beginning the research anyway, is that the writing improvement comes as much from the feedback as it does from the phenomenological experiencing – i.e. the physical act of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. How I could test for this (experimentally) could be by assigning one group of students a shit-load of writing that gets no feedback, no grade, simply writing (e.g. frequent posting to blogs such as I assigned last semester) viz. a more traditional classroom wherein there is no blogging, only 4 major papers plus the process-writing documents associated with such writing. The measure would be a pre- and post-test in the form of in-class or take-home essay assignment… btw, the difference between the control group and the blogging group would be, simply, the blogging requirement.

this is all still pretty fresh and i still have two huge chunks of PITF to read. i'll decide what to make of this in the moments/days to come. in the meantime, i think i'll cross-post this over at dissertation boot camp to see if any of my fellow dissertators have any thoughts on the matter. in the meantime, as usual, i welcome the insights of you sage folks out there being all lurkerly.

Getting done

Hello everyone! I've just joined the boot camp and I'm excited to have a nice few months of blogging with you.

I'm a historian of science, working on a dissertation about turn-of-the-(20th)-century medical quackery. I say that I'm joining you for a few months because my current plan is to finish a full draft by early April, in preparation for a mid-May defense! I'm a bit scared and overwhelmed at how soon this seems.

I've had years of procrastinating and dilly-dallying, had personal illnesses and tragedies throw me off course, but I've emerged here in late January with drafts of every chapter, intro and conclusion. My advisor used a pregnancy metaphor to describe finishing the dissertation: now is the time to push. She's going on sabbatical next year, and other folks on my committee go away for the summer, so I have a real deadline. I'm finally at a point where there's no way out but through.

My next milestone is to have Chapter 3 in a final stage by February 1. It's coming together much more quickly than I'd feared. Then it's revising a chapter every two weeks till it's done, or till April, whichever is sooner.

I'm currently feeling pretty stoical about my topic--or, more accurately, fed up. I'm hoping that all of your enthusiasm will wear off! I also noticed that many of my fellow bootcampers are in the early stages of their diss. I'm happy to give advice and tell true stories of how I got from there to here. Nice to meet you and bonne chance!

Confusion Can Create Clarification

Hi, all. Like my alliteration? :-) I hope your week is going well and that you are achieving your goals. I'm hanging in.

This past week, I had a lot of IRB (Institutional Review Board, approves work with human subjects) issues, and it threw a kink in my productivity (like I needed any additional excuse). These IRB issues have been dragging on for quite some time, but they came to a head this week, and I realized just how tedious and time consuming the work that required IRB input could be. Secondly, I realized how difficult working with some folks can be, particularly when they don't share the passion for the work. (These folks would be IRB administrative assistants.) Thirdly, though, and this actually might be the good news, the IRB issues brought to mind a point about the dissertation: I should simplify. I was working to construct a quantitative and a qualitative dissertation, dealing with student and faculty surveys, an ethnographic study, and a longitudinal study . . . . analyzing student writing, survey responses, a particular course I teach. It was just too much and I couldn't wrap my little fingers around it all to begin to write about it. As it stood, my dissertation was probably going to be 8 or 9 chapters long. That's just too much for this kind of dissertation and for what I need to do to finish.

So. The IRB issues-- while a pain-- did get me to rethink the direction of my work and to simplify. I think it was Chris who said: K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid). That's my goal.

More concretely, however, my goal this week is to draft the pedagogy chapter. By Friday, I'll have a draft for the advisor.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Introduction, A Start

First, thanks to Billie for signing me up, and thanks to Meagan for the link on your blog. This is a fabulous idea. Dissertation writers need all the support we can get.

So, a brief introduction. I'm Abby, a doctoral candidate in composition studies at the University of New Hampshire. I'm just starting my dissertation on feminist rhetorical theory and composition pedagogy. I (think I am) looking at the ways in which three feminist rhetorical theories can answer challenges to traditional modes of teaching argument. That's the idea at least.

I passed my proposal defense a year ago, I think and, to be honest, have been floundering a bit since. I'm teaching one course a semester and I'm not great at balancing my dissertation work with my teaching. I'm also not great at balancing my work with my deep love of t.v. But I completed the pilot version of my classroom study during the spring semester 2006, I completed the main portion of my classroom study last semester, and I'm including this semester in my classroom study as well -- I figure it's good to have a back-up cache of data.

I am currently trying to get going on my literature review chapter and hope to have some part of a chapter draft done by the end of March. My first posting here coincides with my first actual writing -- I wrote six pages of notes today to get going on that lit review and have just finished reading another article. I'm going to write and read for another hour and a half before heading to dinner. I know it's only notes, and I know it's only 6 pages, but I'm pretty excited to have anything written at all. It's a start.

Good luck to all those reading, writing, thinking, and pacing.

Dissertation Macots

Krista, over at Thinkery, posted a picture of her dissertation mascot: a stuffed sting ray. This mascot, she says, watches as she writes and thinks.

I have a peace bear (who happens to listen to Sarah McLachlan) as my dissertation mascot . . . she keeps me calm (the bear and Sarah) as I write.

What kind of mascot do you need, dear boot campers, to get you through this process of writing?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Much better day!

Got a lot of reading done today and some writing. It felt good to accomplish something!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Not Such a Productive Day (but I refuse to beat myself up over it)

Today I was to have met with my advisor to discuss my current chapter, but I was unable to meet with him (issues with my daughter and her car being broken into). [He's also not at the same university where I am. It's a drive to see him.] It seems, though, that so much gets in the way of writing the dissertation, of meeting with advisor, of just doing the work of dissertating. I don't think I intentionally sabotage my efforts, but it does seem like it sometimes. The car gets broken into? I have to schedule student conferences? I have to attend meetings that can't be scheduled any other time? The dog needs a bath? The curtains need changing? Something always seems to get in the way. I wonder, though, if I don't just place those things in the way . . .

However, I will not berate myself over it all. I'm keeping to my goal of writing something everyday. I'm reading each day and making notes . . . and it's all coming together. Just very very slowly. Tomorrow will be a better day. It will.

Productive Day

Made it to the library at 8:30 a.m. Skimmed some articles before finally saying, "Get something down on paper. NOW!" Wrote quite a few handwritten pages (that I'm hoping my sister will type). Stopped for lunch and to write an entry for my other blog. Spent the afternoon writing.

I feel good!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A goal accomplished

I'm at home, alone (unless you count my cat, which I often do, to tell the truth), and have no one to hear my exclamation:

I finished my proposal draft!

It's been sent to my reading group and to my director. I'll be meeting with him tomorrow to discuss it.

The draft is substantially complete, but not done, so I'm not completely off the hook. It feels good, though, to know that the major holes are all filled and now all I need to do is come back with some spackle and sandpaper.

My goal for this week: spackling.

Open Post to DBC Lurkers: (Welcome!)

Hello, dissertation boot camp lurkers,

We are glad you are here! This is an open forum and you are more than welcome to participate, comment, post, support us as we write dissertations, allow us to support you as you write, and in general, join in the merriment. If you would like to post, though, you must have access to the blog. Please leave a note here, email me (Billie) at partsnpieces [at] gmail [dot] com, contact any of the other posters you might know, and we'll get you in and on board. We would enjoy getting to know you and helping you reach your goals of a completed dissertation!

Come and join us.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dissertation planning resource

I just discovered Complete Your Dissertation. (Found at The History Enthusiast.) It's written by someone who makes a business of dispensing dissertation advice. There's plenty of *free* content. I just watched this short video about putting together a schedule for completion. The info there isn't revolutionary, but it is helpful.

Cross posted at Reads and Writes.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Let me introduce myself . . .

Hi. I'm Jason, and I haven't started on my dissertation yet, but I will soon. Right now, I'm reading about twelve hours a day, getting ready for my dose of academic hazing, otherwise known as comps. I take them at the end of this month.

After comps, I've gotta get crackin on my 4C's paper. I'm doing a series of interviews with teachers and administrators about using new media in writing classes and TCU's New Media Writing Studio.

My goal is to have a prospectus and a chapter by the end of the semester. That's ambitious, I know, but I'm still holding out hope that I'll have a shot of going on the market next year. We'll see.

I don't have a good blurb about my dissertation project yet, but I'm interested in the technology, and the impact it's had on teaching writing and rhetoric since the 1930's. I plan to look at legislation and several other archives. I'll iron out the details in the upcoming weeks.

Right now, though, I trying to fill my head stuff to regurgitate over six essays over three days of testing (and orals, too). I'm examing in Modern Rhetoric, Literacy/Historiography, and New Media Literacy/Computers and Comp.

Okay, breaks over. Back to Bakhtin.

gettin started??

Uh, sorta.

i emailed the director of institutional research at my institution to see if i could get my hands on some data: a breakdown of grades and gpas for student-athletes and regular students for various semesters. He emailed me back saying give him some more details and he'd be happy to provide all the data i wanted! Pretty sweet.

What's not pretty sweet is this: that's the only thing i've done to "get started" on the prospectus. i mean, of course i've already put together some other things via my pilot study etc. But this is the first specifically protocol related thing i've done. Too, i need to get crackin on some article reading. Till now all i've been reading are books. i need to bury my nose in some qualitative and quantitative studies such as the diss that billie sent me last week (thanks, b!).

i still haven't finished Philosophy in the Flesh yet. But that's okay.

Oh, one last thing, once i get my hands on this data (i.e. grade breakdowns) i'm not quite sure what i'll be doing with it. However, as a measurer of performance, i figured that was one logical place to start comparing athletes and civilian students...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

elle's Update

So, my activities today included...


Which you might think is common practice or, at least, common sense. But not for me. I operate under the theory of, "Hey, I know what I want to say. No need to write it down!" So I never outline. But, since I was struggling, I thought, what the heck.

And I must begrudgingly admit that it seems to have helped.

Goals and progress

Those two goals I set for myself in my last post? About writing every day and finishing a draft of the proposal? Neither happened.

But I don't want to focus on the negative. Instead, I'll take credit for doing a lot of work on the proposal yesterday. I pulled out a notebook (because for the life of me I can't put my thoughts directly into the computer) and restarted the proposal. I wrote for an hour, and then pulled out the proposal draft and decided what I wanted to keep and what needed to go. Much progress. Still not done, but much progress.

On an academic and personal note, I also set up a time budget for myself. I don't know if this will work or not, but I set up a spreadsheet where I can record the hours I spend each week on diss work, teaching, prep, tv watching, blog reading, etc. I don't do well with a rigid schedule, but this time budget might work. I'm hoping it will. I've not been as motivated as I should be lately.

My goals for this week:
1) write every day
2) finish a solid proposal draft
3) email draft to committee

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Week of January 15 (I'll be the ant or the tortoise)

Hi, all. I've been writing, but writing very slowly. I know that dissertation writing is a slow process, but I want it to be faster than it is. Because I'm not just flying through this work, I feel like a loser . . . I think to myself that I should write 10 polished and perfected pages a day so that by the end of the month, the diss will be finished.

But I know it doesn't work like that. I know that. Really I do.

I was thinking the other day about the tortoise and the hare . . . or the ant and grasshopper . . . or something. I want to be the fast one, but I need to be the slow one. I need to remember that all it is, all it really can be, is one foot in front of the other.

I read on a blog several months ago (in comments, so I can't link to it easily), that dissertation writing is a different genre and it's one that we (as grad students) have not had to write before. This commenter noted that writing a page a day (which for most of us is manageable) could equate to a completed diss in about a year.

I'm holding onto that idea today. I can't write 10 pages today, but I can write one. Anyone with me?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

i suppose i should oblige billie as well...

cross-posted over at Wind Farm

i'm currently working on my prospectus for my diss at Temple Univ. i'm a comp/rhet/literacy studies guy, and i’m having a small issue with getting started on my prospectus. so, if i may, i'd like to briefly describe my project to see what you guys think.

I’m interested in theories/models of reconfigured classroom spaces (Dewey, Hawhee, Sirc, and even J. Rice are examples). “Reconfigured” b/c “traditional” models of classroom instruction are “unnatural” (see Dewey) and inefficient/ineffective for many students (see Hull and Schwartz, Mahiri, and Smith and Willhelm). What I’d like to do is use student-athletes as a subject site for examining how humans learn in non-traditional spaces. The theoretical framework that I plan to use includes, primarily, Vygotsky’s notions of concept formation in the development of higher mental processes, but with a twist: Lakoff and Johnson (Philosophy in the Flesh) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s (Phenomenology of Perception) theories of phenomenology which articulates that concept formation in the mind is actually an embodied phenomenon. I THINK that student-athletes and coaches might be a really productive sight of inquiry and possibly serve as a sort of model for effectively reconfiguring classroom space. Now, there is a danger in holding onto this assumption before starting my research (whatever form that takes – though it’s likely to be ethnographic in “intent”); obviously I’m going to need a really good and “objective” Grand Tour Question to help in mediating this bias (which is partly formed due to a small pilot study I conducted about 2 years ago).

Now that I have provided a perfectly ambiguous summary of my dissertation dreams, I present to you my question: What ideas come to mind for a good GTQ? This is not a simple question by any means, but I don’t expect you to ruminate for hours over it – just an idea or two that pops in your head. By way of example, my committee chair suggested that I explore this topic through an examination of “motivation”: how/in what ways is a student motivated to learn? how/in what ways is a student/athlete motivated to learn? Another example is the GTQ for my pilot study: “How do you learn stuff?” Originally it was something like, “How would you describe the mind/body synthesis or lack thereof that you experience in classroom learning situations viz. athletic learning situations?” but the 17 year old boys to whom I posed this question looked at me like I was an alien when I uttered something similar to those words. Since my access to them was limited, my quick goat-thinking helped me come up with, “Uh, how bout you just start with telling me how you learn stuff.” Whatever the GTQ eventually is, I’m inclined to have it be as simple/basic as possible (yaknow, K.I.S.S. – keep it simple, stupid).

one last thing: for a long time now I’ve been thinking about how my diss would go – the methodology, the subjects, the site, the data collection and analysis, etc. The more I think about what I thought my project would be, the more I lean towards practicality. And then I think about how I’m already ready to be done with it. That last statement can be as complex or simple as you want it to be; though, what I really mean by all of it is I’m not so committed to any particular aspect that I wouldn’t consider making minor or major changes. I’ve done what might be considered a substantial amount of ground work already. So, in a nutshell, I guess what I’m aksin for is some help in shaking things up… After all, the best dissertation is a done dissertation. yaknowhatimean?

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

At Billie's Request...

I'm a 20th century historian and the diss is tentatively titled, " 'Just Step Over 'Em 'cause the Line Keeps Rolling': Black Women in the Poultry Processing Industry of ElDorado, AR."

Narrow as all get it out and I'm still dragging my feet.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Intro & some modest goals

Hi all--

I'm currently working on my diss proposal at UNH (Working Title: Race in the Composition Classroom: Purpose, Pedagogy and Students’ Interpretations), which I'm hoping to defend by the end of January. There's more about me here.

Two goals for now:

(1) Write something every day (I'm copying off of elle here). For someone from the land of expressivism, process, and Don Murray (may he rest in peace), I haven't been keeping up with writing to learn lately. I need to get back to doing that.

(2) Complete a solid, intelligible draft of the whole proposal by Monday, January 15th. (This is an achievable but aggressive goal. I think.)

Monday and Back to Work (literally)

It's Monday, and I had to come back to campus today to prepare for this semester. Last night I made a list of things I needed to accomplish for course preparation, so I can work through that list, checking off items as I go. I can THEN work on the dissertation. Oh, how I wish I could reverse the order of those items, dissertation first, other stuff second. Anyway, my goal today is to chop through the list of things to do (email, copies, phone calls, syllabi prep) then write this afternoon. Specifically, today I want to write about the death of Darrent Williams (this may or may not make it to the dissertation, but the issues surrounding him are important and they could inform my chapter on perception). While I didn't know Williams, I did once work with students at the high school he attended when I directed a dual-enrollment program at another university. On Saturday, Williams was buried and the local newspaper had coverage of the funeral. How the paper chose to portray the man in this article (explicitly but also implicitly) was highly unfortunate, and that's not even the right word. There are such negative perceptions associated with African American men, athletes, that I need to write about it. I might post more on my other blog, but that's the goal: write about this specific case and let this inform my other work.

Coward that I Am...

...I'm going to start off with a very general goal. My first goal is to do what everyone around me has insisted is so important: write something everyday!

Trust me, that will be a step up for me.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Billie's Goals 1/5/07

I've felt good about my progress the past few days. My work hasn't been constant, but it's been steady, and I've gotten quite a bit done. And that's good. My goal for the next few days (by Monday) is to produce at least 20 pages that will morph into an introduction for the dissertation. I'm going to strive for more, but my goal is 20. Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

First goal

Now that comps are done with (THANK GOD!!!), my next task is to knock out this lil thing called a prospectus. Since Boot Camp is (primarily?) a place for setting goals and submitting drafts, i'll spare the details for my place. By this time next week i'd like to have completed my reading of Philosophy in the Flesh (Lakoff and Johnson's enormous follow-up work to Metaphors We Live By) and have a substantially revised draft to an article that i submitted to a journal in our field. Now, you might be thinking that focusing on an article at a time when i should be drafting my prospectus would be a distraction. The truth of the matter is, you're probably right. In some ways it probably will be/is a distraction. However, my justification is that i'm just double-dipping. The article - which is on some research i did on high school student athletes' effective ways of learning in classrooms and on bball courts - needs to have some serious beef added to the theory section. And here is how i plan on making this a useful prospectus exercise:

The theoretical framework for this article (and, at this point anyway, my diss research plans) includes Dewey and Vygotsky's notions of play, Vygotsky (and Neo-Vygotskians) theory of concept development, Bakhtin's/Dewey's/Vygotsky's social theories of dialogism, Merleau-Ponty's theory of phenomenology, and Lakoff and Johnson's elaboration of and unification of phenomenology to concept formation/development.
All of this may sound like a lot. And it is. I know this. I should note, though, that dialogism and social aspects will, for the time being, remain in the back seat - very subtle, almost implicit-like. Primarily i am concerned with concept formation and development as it relates to the body and language use. This means i'll focus mainly on Vygotsky, Merleau-Ponty and Lakoff and Johnson (with some words, possibly, about Dewey and experiential stuff).

So there it is. My first diss-related goal: establishing a theoretical framework for research on student-athletes' learning as an inquiry model for reconfiguring classroom space for 21st century learning/training.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Billie's Plan for 1/4/07

OK, since it's a new year, it's time to get to work on this dissertation. Let me introduce myself . . . My name is Billie (aka Partsnpieces), and I'm writing a Rhetoric/Composition dissertation on an institution's ethical responsibility to underprepared student athletes. As I work on this, though, I'm refining my topic. It's moving itself toward a dissertation that outlines a new pedagogical approach to teaching marginalized students, a teaching as coaching model, but it's just that my students happen to be student athletes at a Division I-A institution.

Since my prospectus was approved last semester, I've felt overwhelmed about how to get started on the diss, as it all seems so massively overwhelming. So I do what I when I'm overwhelmed: nothing. Today, however, I went to the library and organized my dissertation hard drive and I realized that I have **a lot** of raw data to work with. After seeing that I have over 100 pages of writing (bad writing, but writing nonetheless) and knowing that my data from surveys is complete and is ready for analysis, well, I feel excited to begin the work. I have something to work with.

Today, I constructed a Gantt chart that outlines my writing plans for this semester (dissertation, plus some conference presentations), and at least on paper, it looks doable.

Now a quick caveat: I have a tendency to think really big, and I have another tendency to make claims about my abilities that I can't actually support. "Oh, yes, I can have 150 10-page essays graded by tomorrow morning, no problem!" OK, a slight exaggeration, but I am going to work hard at keeping my goals manageable and realistic.

So, Goal #1 (for Thursday, 1/4/7): I will head to my PhD institution library and will spend at least five hours there writing, 10 pages on my introduction.