Dissertation Drama Week #7
My work pace feels like it’s ground to a halt over the last two weeks, at least in terms of word count. The goal set by my supervisor was to collect comment data from my fanfiction samples, and start doing the coding that I’d promised I would do, in order to narrow my focus further. But personally, I was also aiming to get my method done as well.
After writing half my method, and collecting and coding almost 200 comments, some ethical issues reared their ugly head, and I had to dump 3/4 of my sample and rethink my sampling method completely. On top of that, I woke up last Friday with a stonking cold, which I’m still not quite recovered from.
What did I learn from this shamble?
- If you can see the twist in the road, slow down – I had a gut feeling that my ethical issues were not 100% fixed, but I didn’t want to waste time by not doing anything. Of course, instead of doing a ton of work that I then had to throw out, I could have been reading and building my knowledge for my next steps. I was so focused on building my word count that the thought didn’t occur until after the fact. Poor planning on my part, but something that I will definitely keep in mind.
- When things go wrong, do take a break – When things went wrong, I did not stop working. I was determined to catch up with myself. So all the work I originally did in 3 days, I did again in 1.5 days. On that .5 of a day, I was already ill and knew I was only going to get worse, so I pushed myself even harder to finish up. I then spent the weekend lying in bed in a state of semi-death (although I still dragged myself upright to blog). Basically, I’m an idiot. Don’t be me. Take a break, recover, then start working again.
- Sometimes, you need to edit as you go – Of course, once I’d screwed up my methodology section, I couldn’t just continue writing it. I needed to move whole chunks around, rework parts, and add greater detail into the coding and sampling sections. It wasn’t something I could leave and come back to, like my literature review (which just needs more of an argument). My method was a mess that needed sorting, so the rest would be coherent. Don’t leave yourself a pile of trouble to come back to later. Tackle it while the issues are fresh in your mind, so it doesn’t confuse everything else.
- Reading, is working – I feel like this is a really important point to get across. I’ve reached a stage now, where there is a gap in my knowledge and I need to fill it. I’ve never really done any proper stylistics work before, so I’m lacking a model to use for my dissertation. Therefore, I’ve spent a portion of the last three days reading up on possible models I could make use of. I’ve gone from being utterly daunted, to thinking, actually, this is doable. Worrying over my word count is all well and good, but it’s never going to grow if I don’t have the knowledge to put in. Researching is not just writing, it’s reading too! A fact that I still need to hammer into my brain.
I’m going to leave it at four this time, mainly because DEATH still. But I hope that these little insights are helping folks feel better about where they are with their dissertations. Personally, I’m looking forward to this time next year, when I can read all of these through and laugh.