Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Moment of Dissertation Frustration (aka Whinefest)

I've been writing at my second case study for about six weeks, maybe longer. It seems like longer. And I can't seem to move forward, really at all . . . I'm stuck in the midst of issues that are so large and so complex that I can't seem get out and focus on the one thing that I need to focus on: student writing.

Overall, I'm writing about specific student-athletes in revenue-producing sports. With this case study subject, however, I'm having a very hard time separating HIM from all the NOISE around him. I need to focus on his writing, yet issues of athletics (and he was a "star" of sorts), race, and gender factor into it all. Not only those issues-- which in and of themselves can be written around-- but there are academic preparedness issues, socialization issues, basic writing (debates within and outside the classroom), and this was the year of my research that the whole class had behavioral issues. Intense and serious behavioral issues. This particular student/subject in the 2nd case study represents the second year of my research study, and this was the year of dealing with grown men who behaved as children in so many ways, really muscular and tall and heavy children (some of them with sociopathic tendencies)-- there was a grad student observing the class (and observing me) for his thesis, there were a lot of university stakeholders observing this course from around campus and that weighed on me (as they all had something to say about how I did my job) . . . . In some ways, these issues do not pertain to the student/subject at all, but in many more ways, they do. I just keep getting sucked into all these other issues and I'm not easily able to focus on the students' writing.

Maybe I've just having difficulty separating **my** emotional investment in the course as both a teacher and as a researcher from the one thing that I need to write about: how the student's writing changed throughout the year and how this course (my pedagogy) affected that transformation. So, my plan is to move to another chapter -- just work on something else -- and let the dust and the noise settle around this case study.

Yesterday, I sent the case study to a friend of mine who is an educational psychologist and she's done tons of case studies. She said she'd look at it and get back with me Monday about where I'm getting stalled. She might be able to offer some insight. I truly hope so. I think it's probably too late to change my dissertation topic.

Cross-posted: PartsnPieces

1 comment:

Abby said...

I know exactly how you're feeling Billie. I think it's a relatively common problem for those of us writing about people in social situations. It's hard to know what to focus on because so much of it is actually intertwined.

When I encounter this I try to write about all of the other stuff that's crowding my chapter. It seems like I need to get it on paper before I move on. I figure that stuff will be some sort of article or book chapter down the road, so it's not exactly wasted time.

But sometimes I don't have time for that, so I try writing the main idea (in this case it sounds like "student writing") on a post-it or something that I stick to my screen and reference often. That little reminder tends to keep me more on track.

But it is hard, because all of it is actually important, but you can only accomplish so much here. And try to keep in mind that this is only one project. It's not your last project. You can return to all of that other information after the diss is done. You don't have to ignore it forever, but you might have to shelve it for now, you know?