Tuesday, July 29, 2008

2 Dissertating Challenges

[Cross-posted on Learn To Live With It]

Since I'm still here :-), I wanted to share 2 more thoughts. The first is an overall challenge while dissertating. The second thought is specific to my empirical chapters but one can conceivably extend it to the rest of the dissertating experience.

1. The hardest thing, time and again, heck I'd say day in and day out is the ABCD rule. That is, Apply Butt to Chair and Dissertate. Even when there is momentum. Even when you finish a chapter. Even after a particularly good writing day. It takes every ounce of strength and willpower to sit down in front of your laptop/computer/what have you each time and click on that icon on the desktop that represents the document you're currently working on. I think the clicking of the document is very tough. Those seconds between moving your finger over the trackpad to the click to the opening of an in-progress document - worse still if you're starting a new document - that's just when I end up feeling the urge to flight. Once it's open I think I breathe more easy and feel like I can tackle this. A productive morning doesn't automatically translate into the desire to sit down and continue the same rhythm in the afternoon. I wonder why that is. I suspect because it's intimidating to stare at a blank screen not knowing how much you'll write today or if you'll write anything that's usable. The latter is the most difficult - when you know you're putting in the time and the output, although helpful in working through an argument, isn't going to end up in the category of "finished dissertation pages" can be rather frustrating. Personally, I need pin drop silence to write and process. So it means being sort of a recluse. Hmm not just sort of. Not that I have trouble being myself and I cherish my "me-time" I do crave social interactions. That I currently seem to be starving myself on that front might be why I'm feeling so worn out. But I also know that I have to be strong through this or it isn't getting done - not just by the deadline I have in mind but not at all. And I'll be damned if I have this stretch out a few months longer because I just don't have the mental or emotional energy to continue feeling as stagnant as dissertating can feel. [Nopes I'm not bitter but I am restless.]

2. I'm currently writing a chapter that is based on original field research. I have a lot more interviews than I can conceivably include. I've made peace with that. Of the ones I thought I'd include until last week, well let's just say it would be overkill if I included all of them. I've noticed that, on average, the analysis of each interview is ranging about 20 pages. If I include all 11, well you do the math. So I'm working on cutting down the number. And it's almost like asking a parent of more than one kid who their favorite child is. I have no magical formula how to decide which ones to include and which to exclude. It's not just about page length. I suspect they get redundant real quickly in terms of the overall argument. The minute details are fun but not critical to moving the argument along. To be honest, the practical side of me concurs with a serious editing of that list of 11 - because having fewer to analyze means the deadline becomes attainable. In this worn out state, that consideration is part of the calculation. Of course then I end up feeling guilty. So I review my analysis again and it also makes intellectual sense. The challenge here is not about overcoming the guilt - or at least it's not what I'm focusing on. I have figured out what to do, more or less, for this current chapter. It might mean ignoring 2 interviews that I was really excited about but could well be a stand-alone chapter on a sub-topic within the dissertation in terms of the empirical sites I'm looking at. That the interviews of these individuals are of retired military officers and I'd planned for 'the military' to be a separate chapter in my dissertation but dropped the idea since I didn't have enough interviews to do that because of access issues [long story that I really don't feel like revisiting right now]. However, I could change these into a spin-off piece in the form of a journal article so it's not like I won't work on them ever. Nonetheless, what's difficult is that you do so much work and so little makes it to the dissertation project that it feels akin to a major letdown. Again I understand that it's not like I could have found a magic shortcut along the way and what feels like meandering is just part of the process and how it works. Still, that it never figures in can be heart-breaking and gut-wrenching.

Enough ranting/blogging, now I must open the file for chapter 6. Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

I just found this page. I am procrastinating while dissertating. Gack! It is nice to know I'm not the only one having trouble narrowing down what data to use and what not to use and most definitely ABCD.

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