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Tag: Dissertation

Thinker’s Block: Play Your Way Out of a Dissertation Rut [GradHacker]

Thinker’s Block: Play Your Way Out of a Dissertation Rut [GradHacker]

From this month’s GradHacker blog post:

“There is no earthly way of knowing,” muses Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “in which direction we are going. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is a hurricane a blowing?” While hurling through the darkness with ever-quickening images streaking across the walls of the tunnel, Wonka’s voice reaches a fevered pitch, something bordering on terror and ecstasy. “YES!” he shouts. “The danger must be growing for the rowers keep on rowing! And they are showing no signs that they are slowing!”

As a child, I loved this scene from Willy Wonka, because it was weird and there were creepy bugs everywhere; as an adult, this scene carries more meaning, because I realize that it is actually about adulthood. It is making the point that everything in life should be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, creative and dangerous. And that every experience builds on top of the last, creating momentum and energy.

I try my best to carry this ethos into my dissertation. Yet, after weeks and weeks of typing, alphabetizing, transliterating, and correlating, this sort of rote grunt work leaves me intellectually unfulfilled and bored. Yes, I am still productive in a general sense (750 words a day or bust!), but after a while my work starts to feel like all of these discrete units that I am just mindlessly plugging into my dissertation. I cannot see, for example, the forest for all the trees or the “so what” for all the research.

I call this sort of intellectual boredom thinker’s block. Just like writer’s block, the inability to write for a protracted period of time, thinker’s block is the inability to think of interesting ideas or build meaningful connections in one’s scholarship. It feels like you have all of these beautifully painted wooden blocks, but, when you go to stack them together, they keep tumbling down. To keep your blocks together, you need good ideas that link all of the data, text, or research together. But sometimes those ideas just will not come.

To read more, check out the full article!

[Image by Flickr user Ed Menendez and used under the Creative Commons license.]

Re-Starting: Strategies for Returning to Your Dissertation

Re-Starting: Strategies for Returning to Your Dissertation

From my latest post on Inside Higher Ed’s GradHacker blog:

Three months ago, I had a very clear plan for how my summer was going to progress. My cross-country move from Southern California to New Jersey was meticulously planned, and I was ready to start my life as a full-time dissertation writer. After unpacking, which I figured wouldn’t take more than a week, I just knew that the words would easily and effortlessly flow from my fingertips. A chapter by the end of August: no problem!

But then something happened. A stream of somethings, actually. Maybe more like a raging river of somethings…

To see the rest, check out the full post!

[Image by Flickr user Acid Pix and used under the Creative Commons license.]

GradHacker: Choose Your Own Database Adventure Game

GradHacker: Choose Your Own Database Adventure Game

An excerpt from my latest GradHacker post!

“The first time I ever touched a computer was in the second grade. Our elementary school had built a state-of-the-art computer lab, which was attached to our library. One afternoon, we filed into the windowless room and nervously sat in front of our computers. I had absolutely no idea what these boxes were even supposed to do, but, after an hour, I had learned how to turn my Mac II on, insert a floppy disk, and play Number Muncher. Many of my classmates were unimpressed though I was enthralled. From then on, I did everything I could to get back into that lab. Yes, I liked learning DOS commands and typing, but mostly I just wanted to play Oregon Trail or Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

These early experiences, supervised by librarians and teachers, established a strong connection for me between computers and information. Because of this, research has always felt like a game. I study history, for example, like I would play a game of Clue, strategically working my way backwards to understand what happened, when, and why.

After I passed my qualifying exams and started writing my dissertation, though, research became an overwhelmingly demanding job. Books and microfilm reels and citations and journal articles and notebooks and dictionaries and random scraps of paper started piling up quicker than I could process them. Every time I entered my office, I heard Venkman say, “No human being would stack books this way.”

It was time to get my act together and corral my collection; it was time to build a dissertation database.” […]

To read the rest, check out the full article at GradHacker, Inside Higher Ed!

[Image from Flickr user, and used under Creative Commons License]

A Toast: To My One Year Anniversary at GradHacker

A Toast: To My One Year Anniversary at GradHacker

As many of you might already know, I am a contributing author at GradHacker, a blog written for and by graduate students which is hosted by Inside Higher Ed.

This month marks my one-year anniversary at the blog, so, to celebrate, I am lifting a (metaphorical, since it is 10am) pint to GradHacker and linking to all of this year’s posts!

  1. Loving Your Back in Graduate School | May 5th, 2016
  2. Organize Your Computer with Help from an Archivist | April 24th, 2016
  3. Take Yourself on a Scholar Date | March 17th, 2016
  4. Analyzing Analytics at the University | February 14th, 2016
  5. Software for Adding Some Digital to Your Classroom | January 24th, 2016
  6. The 12 Days of an Online Class | December 23rd, 2015
  7. Ready for Your Close Up? | November 30, 2015
  8. Designing a Digital Classroom | October 4th, 2015
  9. Stop Feeding the Trolls! | September 14th, 2015
  10. Fostering an Active Online Discussion | June 23rd, 2015
  11. Learning Moments (Screen) Captured | April 30th, 2015

Each of those posts represents a lot of work and mental energy; however, they have also reinvigorated my love of writing and supported my attempts to think widely.

I have decided to re-up, so look forward to another year of how-to posts on everything from archival management and DH to writing a dissertation and finding a job.

This next year is going to bring with it a bunch of personal and professional changes, and I plan to write about all of them!