I am presenting my doctoral thesis research in progress at my department’s Seminar Series. I often attend the Department of Educational Research seminars from a distance, though this will be the first time I have presented at one.
While this has been a great opportunity to help me focus my writing and make some solid progress, the most interesting thing for me will be that this is the first time I will discuss my research holistically. Thus far, I have only spoken with other people about various elements of it; this will be a glimpse at the entire study.
I wonder what this experience is like for others? If you engaged in doctoral research, what was your experience like the first time you presented your study for feedback and comment?
Borrowing a not-so-clever allusion to Hamlet from the Great Bard himself, yet without the anger and other baggage he brings (!!), I am now turning my attention to writing the draft chapter of my literature review and conceptual framework. I set myself another ambitious goal, this time to have this section drafted in two weeks. Hey, what better way to celebrate Leap Year than by planning a tangible deliverable for February 29!
I am coming off the efforts of submitting my chapter 1 draft to my supervisors very late last night (or early this morning, depending on how you see the time), so am on a high of diving into my writing with full gusto. While I am writing these sections now even though I am long-finished with my data collection may confuse some educationalists, but there is indeed a method to my process (though that is for a future discussion). Since starting seems to be the hardest part of a thesis, no reason to slow down at this point.
Suffice it to say I will now bridge the literature to my area of inquiry, and have something to submit for review in two weeks. Hey, I can do that!
After working with the transcription for my doctoral thesis, I have found creating the structural outline for the entire write-up to be the greatest challenge.
Now, don’t shake your head wondering why I am considering this. Indeed, we always need an intro, and some literature, methods, data analysis, and the like. The trick I have found, least for those of us working on a doctoral thesis or doctoral dissertation, is to determine the structure of this given that we are conducting original research.
There is the main issue–this is ORIGINAL research. Why (or how?!) can my work follow the same structure as somebody else’s? Yes, we somehow need to address some of the same things, but our research designs and personal interests and writing skills all come into play. Nobody (I hope!) would confuse a randomized control trial with an autoethnographic inquiry, so why (or how?) should they look or be structured the same? My research engages in narrative inquiry (with a healthy dose of actor-network theory), and as my interpretation will be presented alongside the analysis itself (at least in some places), the thinking about using a cookie-cutter approach to chapters and sections vanishes. For those of us who relish in the originality while still wanting to follow a map, this part of the process can certainly cause some concern.
While an Introduction usually precedes Data Collection, consider that there is not only a single way to organize all of this. Some of these elements, such as the researcher’s ontological stance, disciplinary frame where the research is situated, and significance–to name only a few–can be placed in different locations, as needed. At times they may not even need to be isolated (or even mentioned); again, it depends on your work . . . and original work means there is no standard outline that works best for everybody; you have to make it up yourself.
BTW, don’t forget to be prepared to explain why you did so!
My self-imposed deadline of getting the first draft of my doctoral thesis Chapter 1: Introduction, Background, & Theoretical Framework (tentative title) is only 2 days away, and while I am on schedule for completing it, I have a few late nights ahead of me. As this process is around an original contribution to the literature, it is not possible to follow a formal, universal structure for what exactly gets included in this chapter. Let’s face it, how much can really be in an introduction without it’s actually being solid content of some sort?
With this said, I want to share a strategy I found useful–I located about a dozen doctoral theses using the same methodology I am planning to use (narrative inquiry), and isolated the various tables of content so I can see how people organized their work and named their sections / chapters. While most of the doctoral theses / dissertations contained a number of the points of content (intro, design, data collection, presentation, etc.), the ways they organized these parts and holistically fit them together all differed. Nothing like getting an overview of how others (who finished!) pulled their work together. While my supervisors will ultimately agree or disagree with me (and provide guidance), I want to try to get it together in my own informed way first.
Anyway, back to writing . . .
I am happy to say that yesterday I FINALLY completed the transcription review and editing step in my doctoral thesis research by sending the transcripts to my interviewees for member checking. The entire transcription and checking / editing the final transcript by relistening to the interviews again and making corrections has been the single longest part of my research to date, and I was only able to accomplish it through using the Pomodoro technique.
Previous experience has shown me, upon reflection, that the transcription-related step has always been my biggest hurdle, after which I tend to make consistent and steady progress (knock wood). I am glad that my interviewees (I have the best interviewees anybody could ever ask for!) have already started to reply that they received it (with even a few corrections, edits, additions, and clarifications). I am thus hoping to begin my formal analysis in about a month.
I am very thankful for the support of my interviewees and my research network; while I cannot mention many of you by name, I do thank you for your support.
There have been a variety of memes over the years to summarize one’s own research, perhaps in 100 words or in haiku, though the newest meme for this seems to be started by Raul Pacheco-Vega here and here and here. While the #myResearch tag has been tried before, it seems to have caught on this time (reasons for it just may be some interesting research in itself!), due perhaps because the right people seeing it, researchers have free time on Saturday evenings, it is the beginning of the semester, the current moon phase is waning gibbous, or choose your own reason. It is not clear why it caught on now, but thankfully it did.
Whatever the case, I find it useful to clearly and concisely state what my research is about — it keeps me focused AND there are possibilities for identifying other people doing related work. This is what I said:
#myResearch explores the experiences of doctoral liminality by postgraduate students who study at a distance bit.ly/prxlp1 #phdchat
Try it if you haven’t yet, and be sure to link to the #myResearch tag.
By the way, the more difficult you find this opportunity to share, the more you just may need to do it as an exercise in communication.
I revised the overview / summary I keep on my website about my doctoral thesis, as had to write a summary of it and wanted to show a current sketch for where my work is at this time. You can find it in the DOCTORAL THESIS (RESEARCH) link above, as per the image.
Any feedback for it will be appreciated.