Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Did you publish (or write) today?

A few days ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to an article that appeared in that day's Chronicle of Higher Education. The article, by Rachel Toor, "Did You Publish Today?" reminded me of myself. It also reminded me of you.

The Chronicle's work is protected, so unless you have a subscription, you might not be able to access the article. If you have difficulty, let me know and I can email you a copy that I downloaded.

The article has some interesting points, though. We can't just sit and write dissertations (in our cases) 8-hours a day . . . fingers moving across the keyboards, brilliant thoughts pouring forth effortlessly. OK, maybe you can. I can't. The article goes into some detail about how much work goes into writing: research, organizing, cleaning desk space, . . . . there are so many things that are important to the process but they cannot be called "writing."

I'm often discouraged that I'm not producing text faster than I am. But there is still coding to do (in some cases), a little transcription still, some statistical preparation, and today? Today I scanned documents, and that activity took almost all day. Yet it is important work. It is work that is related directly to the dissertation, but that work might yield a paragraph of text, or, if I'm lucky, a full page.

But that's the nature of the work.

Take a look at the article by Toors. You'll be glad you did. And you can count it toward dissertation writing. :-)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Endurance: The Marathon Metaphor

Writing a dissertation has got to be about one of the most demoralizing (yet invigorating) experiences we'll ever endure. It's hard, hard, hard work. "Endure" is a good word. It's not as if the work is so horrible that it must be "endured" (the negative connotation), but completing a Ph.D. is a test in endurance . . . a marathon of sorts (yes, a tired metaphor, but I'm tired). :-)

One cannot complete a marathon in just a few minutes . . . for even the fastest runners, the most insanely in-shape individuals in the world, it takes hours. Not everyone who attempts to run a marathon can run it; some walk, some don't finish. However, if we keep planting one foot in the front of the other, keep moving forward, we'll eventually finish that marathon. We may not run the race in record time, and we may have to walk, crawl, or stumble to the finish line. But we'll finish. At the end, those marathon medals look the same for everyone.

In a similar way, writing a dissertation is something that can't be accomplished in just a few weeks. For many of us, depending upon other responsibilities and other factors, completing a dissertation takes a year . . . or two . . . or three. If we keep writing one page after another page, eventually we'll get it done. We may mope and cry and wail on the way, but we'll get there . . . running, walking, stumbling. We'll get there. That ribbon at the end? That Ph.D.? It's the same for us all . . . no matter how quickly (or not) we got to the end.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A little news

I'm sure Abby will chime in on this herself, but I like to be a cheerleader. Abby submitted her diss to her committee today. I saw her in the English office, where she was copying, hole-punching, and organizing six giant stacks of paper. She's been working really hard (and writing some brilliant stuff), so it must feel good to have it out the door.

Yay, Abby!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Case Study Chapter

I hate the case study chapter.

I can't seem to leave it alone. I tweak it. I revise it. I clarify it. I agonize over it. I edit it. I want to burn it. However, today I added 1,007 words to the already massive 28,508 (yes, I have one chapter that now has just under 30,000 words). That equates to 115 pages. One chapter. One long-ass chapter that I hate. One long-ass chapter that I hate that is as long as my Master's Thesis and is as long (or longer) than some dissertations I've read (not those in the humanities, but still).

And I'm still not done with it.

In reading back over it (and over it and over it and over it), I realized today that the last case study subject is not quite as developed as the other two. I do need to (eventually) move back to "Eric" and be as fair and equal to his work as I was with "Sean" and "D'Ante."

But later. I have got to look at something other than these blasted pages.


Just a question to both dissertators using transcriptionists: do the folks you use (or are going to use) keep the "flavor" of the speakers' language (slang, poor grammar, stops, starts, vocal utterances [um, ah, whatever]), or do they modify it to be "correct" (as the transcriptionst deems correct)?

One more day

So this whole thing is due tomorrow. Tomorrow! I'm still shocked at that. There was a part of me, probably is still a part of me, that didn't think this thing would ever be done. I just imagined myself writing it, never really having it written. The weirder thing is that I can't really remember writing it. I remember revising, but the first drafts are all a blur. Strange. My sisters say that they can remember that childbirth was painful, but they can't remember the specifics of it. Back surgery was like that for me, too. As was the ruptured disc itself. I know I was in a lot of pain, but I can't remember the specifics of it. 

That's how this dissertation feels. I've got the general feel, but I've lost the specifics of writing it.

Anyway, it's down to the wire. Today I need to revise my conclusion, which I'll have almost done in a half an hour. I have to skim an article that one of my committee members is sending me -- it won't take me long -- so I can incorporate it into the conclusion. 

Then I need to revise chapter 3 again (it's the bane of my existence, that chapter). Then copyedit them both. Then finish fixing my works cited page. I'd like to get all of that done today.

Then tomorrow I'll format, print, and distribute. 


Monday, May 19, 2008

In the works

I took some comfort in Chris' recent rant about transcribing-- a misery loves company sort of thing. It triggered me to look into transcribing services. I contacted one company today and sent out the first of three 90-minute group conversations. Within five days, I should have a transcript in my inbox. I'll let you know how it looks.

I hope it's good, because I really can't spare the time or the patience of transcribing these myself. I can spare the space on the credit card.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

a lot of me

I know you've been hearing a lot from me lately, but the dissertation is, as you might imagine, pretty much the only thing I'm doing. So I think about this blog quite a bit.

Right now I'm leaving the grad carrels to try to find a poem that I want to use in my conclusion. My conclusion, by the way, is insane. My chair will most likely hate it. It's all weird and personal and borderline new-agey. it's not what I thought I would write. but at least right now, it's all I have. and maybe all I seem capable of.

Here's my advice:  if you can avoid having to write anything new in the few days before your dissertation is due, avoid it. My brain is so foggy and weird right now. It's like synapses are misfiring, hitting all the wrong stuff. But I'll finish this weirdo conclusion tonight, then copyedit chapter 4. My chair has my chapter 3 revision now (that's my weakest link, chapter 3) and my intro revision and I'll maybe need to do a little more revision on both of those. I'd like to be done with all of that tomorrow night so that I can use Tuesday for formatting, fixing my works cited, and such. Then printing and distributing on Wednesday.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. 
It may be a train.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Unanticipated Struggle

I always figured dissertation writing would be hard. It is. And I figured, for me -- the consummate procrastinator -- it would come down to the wire. It has. What I didn't anticipate is the problem I'm having with repetition. I mean, in 200+ pages, how many different ways are there to say offers, provides, argues, asks, holds, believes, moves, strategies, work, works, works toward, ways, ways in which, this is not to say, i do not mean to imply, notes, says, and then? Honestly, this is a struggle I did not anticipate.

Friday and 301(+) words

OK, This week -- my first week of summer "vacation"(*) -- I've spent probably 6 concentrated hours a day devoted to writing the dissertation. Know how many words I've written? 301. In about 20 hours.


If word court was the only thing I measured, I'd be depressed, deeply and sadly depressed. But word count isn't the only thing. I've been revising the two chapters my advisor returned to me with those small five comments that ultimately encouraged some revision that has taken a week to flesh out and make clear. But that's OK. The work needed to be done. Those chapters are now done -- as far as I can tell. (**) I have also been outlining the next chapter (based on the case studies that are now finished).

Now, I'm onto the next major chapter-- findings and analysis-- the outline I've been working on.

(*) My "vacation" is that I don't teach in the summer, but I work in a Writing Center, 8:00 to 5:00 every day . . .

(**) Do any of you have the experience of reading back over your work -- work that you and your advisor thinks is polished -- and finding stupid typos? I'm finding them all over the place. I type "as" instead of "at," for example. Chris will be paying for a transcriptionist. I'll be paying for a proofreader.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


It is due in one week.




(she exclaims, frantically waving her hands in front of her in a Homer Simpson sort of way)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Transcribing: Holy S!*t

Transcribing interviews is the biggest pain in the ass EVER!!! It takes sooo l o n g. Ugh. That's it. I'm done. I've done this crap before. I'm doing it now. No more. I'm gonna finish the interview I'm working on now and maybe one more. Then I'm paying somebody. I don't care if it costs me $500. Even if it costs me $750 it would be worth it. The time it would take me to do 10, 20, 30 hours of interviews is measured in weeks. I can't afford to be transcribing for weeks. I'll set a dollar amount that I'm willing to pay. Then...

I'll be sending interviews somewhere.

Monday, May 12, 2008

a wish

If somebody could just wake me when this was all over, that would be great. Thanks.

Feedback Received, All Missions Go!

Hi, campers--

I received feedback from diss advisor yesterday -- it took a long time, but the changes he suggested were very thoughtful, but they are minimal (maybe five comments over 150 pages).* Now, I must move forward with the meat of the work-- the findings and analysis chapter. I've been outlining this chapter as I went back through my data the past few weeks and looked for implicit arguments I need to now make explicit.

The full-time aspect of my job begins today (not that I didn't work full-time before, but I had more control of when I spent my time). Today, I work an 8-5 job sitting behind a desk waiting for students to come by for tutoring. It's not a lot of fun. However, with this time that I have to be here and since I have little else to do when I'm here, I will focus on this dissertation. Maybe August is a realistic possibility now.

(*) Should I be worried about this?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


TWO WEEKS!  My dissertation is due in TWO WEEKS!

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaand I'm panicking. 

My chair insisted I take a day off, so I did. But it's back to serious work tomorrow. I need to revise the other 2/3 of my rhetorical listening chapter by Friday, Saturday at the latest So it's going to be all grad carrels all the time. 

I'll keep you updated. How's everyone else doing?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Chapter 4 revision

I finished the revision of chapter 4 this morning. I was planning to have it done yesterday evening but didn't quite get there. I needed one more hour. So it's done and sent to both my dissertation writing group and my chair. The first half seems okay to me. The second half is still a little messy.

I'm going to take a break, wrangle some lunch, and then start reading the disaster that is chapter 3. I'll try to formulate a revision strategy for that chapter this afternoon.

How's everyone else doing? Seems pretty quiet on the DBC front.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The stresses of waiting

Hi all. So my chair (who lives in a different state) has had my revised first two chapters for about a week now. She told me that she would get back to me on Monday about the first chapter (my lit review).

As of this morning, I still hadn't heard from her.

Now, she has a baby, a pretty old dog, and it's the end of her semester. these all seem like valid reasons for not finishing my chapters. but, in my dissertation-induced insanity, I decided that the chapters are SO BAD that she couldn't figure out what to say to me. That it was taking her MUCH longer than she had anticipated because of all of the very long comments she had to write.

I have literally been breaking out in hives (something I do when I'm stressed. Fun.). So I finally emailed her today telling her that I didn't need the comments -- I'm working on chapter 3 next -- but that I really needed her to tell me whether or not the first chapter was total crap and needed overhaul.

Happily, it doesn't (need major overhaul). she read it today and it's in good shape. There are nitpicky things throughout--clarifications, fleshing out, rewordings--and one major thing I need to do (write a few new pages on feminist pedagogy), but all of it can, i think, be done in a day.


I'm trying to finish the revision of chapter 4 today. It might take me until tomorrow morning, but I think it's possible to get it done today. We'll see. I'm here until 6 today, with one 1/2 hour coffee break in about an hour. Cuz that's what I need: MORE COFFEE!!!

Anyway, to those of you out there who aren't yet sending chapters to chairs, let me just say that waiting for comments, at least for me, is agonizing. But near the end of the process, when your chair or committee members start saying, "hey, this looks good," . . . well, that doesn't suck. :)

Write on, my friends.