How oh how do I do this discussion chapter??!!

This week my bete noir is the discussion chapter. I think I’ve found a way through by revisiting those pesky research questions, but the super structure has been eluding me. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a simple little journal article! A few themes! Findings that sit happily under headers! Less than 7000 words in total!

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, hang on, didn’t she have themes emerging from the data, like, weeks ago? Weeeellll, yes she did. And jolly good they were too. However, they didn’t fit very well with the superstructure and I hadn’t really signposted them very well in the literature. So in my discussion I’ve gone back to my research questions and not tried to be clever, merely clear. My findings are separated by case, then participant, then values and beliefs, then practices. So there. Plus there’s a bit at the end where I show that there are themes across cases emerging from the data.

And now that I’ve been returning to the literature some more I’m drawing the threads together between theory and findings. It’s adding words I don’t have, though.

I’m ignoring for a moment the still overblown and repetitive literature review, but already the thesis is calming down and beginning to take shape.

Most of the references are in the reference list, most of the in text citations are cited. I’m starting to look for transitional paragraphs that take the reader from one section to the next, signposting and clarifying the structure.

The discussion chapter is still hideous but I’m now a third of the way through. Looking good. Of course, the most horrible part of doing this is when I read something by someone else that is just perfectly written, and I want to weep a little because the work I’m doing is so gauche by comparison. Gulp. Sigh, pick self back up and remind myself it’s ok not to be perfect.


When the going gets tough, the tough go to the discussion chapter

Righto. I’m in that terrible non-sleeping place. Some might call it insomnia: I call it anxiety. I know exactly what’s causing it and there’s nothing to do but change my focus again.

Off to the discussion chapter I go. I knew it was nearly time to reshape it but as is normal my literature review has stumped me yet again. And as I don’t have the luxury of time to sit smelling the flowers I need to get on with another section, and my discussion chapter has been languishing semi-written in limbo land since January. It’s time.

I was hoping to spend another week on my literature review but I’m at the point where I don’t know what to leave in or take out. So it’s time to enter the world of meta-cognition and actually see where my substantive theory and theoretical underpinnings meet my findings.

After that I’m going to go through the whole thesis and see where the transitions need strengthening. Then it’s back to the literature I go, and make those final passes of literature or theory I’ve missed. I think for me the literature has been the hardest bit. Certainly the area I’ve put off the most!

Then I’ll go away for a few days with the whole thing printed out. I’ll read it out loud and see where it doesn’t make sense, and do the final pick up of grammar and spelling and in text citations before formatting and organising the appendices. Which are finished, by the way. A final fling of the introduction and conclusion to make sure I’ve not missed anything or made grandiose claims and there it is. Done.

4 1/2 weeks to go. With any luck I’ll get some sleep after that.

Thesis-baby is growing up. Sent her off to review-college.

On Friday I handed in my thesis for review. I am much closer than I thought to the end. In fact, I can see the end of the tunnel now. The light is there, shiny….

I’ve worked on my thesis all week including removing one of the research questions because, in the words of my supervisor, it is a rather circular question that is actually partly answered in the first two questions, and then part of it I can’t answer at all. So, take it out. Ok, quoth I. At this point, I’m not going to argue with the wisdom of someone who has done lots of these things. And I’m in need of an objective observer.

I wrote me an introduction on Wednesday and rearranged my discussion chapter. It’s looking better already. My friend (who got her PhD last year) texted me to ask what I was doing – nothing, quoth I, just sitting at home doing my thesis (and also looking at an old article that DH and I put on the back burner because I felt it was a bit too revealing and I needed time away from it. It was a good piece which I’ve sent to a friend for commentary prior to sending it to a journal). So I went into her work and we worked together. Just like old times. And it was great! Super productive and everything.

On Thursday I looked once again at my literature review and began to see a light where previously there was dark, dark swampy swamp. So on Friday I sat in my jimmy-jams and worked on the whole document, reading through each chapter and beginning to fix up bits that didn’t make sense.

And then I put it in one document. Yes, I’ve created a draft thesis. The whole thing. It’s 296 pages and some of it is substantially too long with not enough substantiation or in text citations. (I am a very wordy writer – could use some decent editing.) Other sections have no stuff at all. Including chapter 4, which is just a title. There is a ToC (table of contents). Whoa.

Now, of course, I’ve read it again. Blah. Sometimes I hate my writing. Other times I think it’s fantastic. Usually my writing is fantastic when I have to do it in a hurry. Guess what I’ll be doing in the next 2 months? Writing my thesis in a hurry.

And how did I feel, doing this? Well, DH was home when I sent it. I burst into tears. He laughed at me. He didn’t know why, but everyone cries when one waves the kid off to college. This felt like that – the beginning of the end of my thesis-baby.

And now I have no excuse to delay doing my personal tax.







Making the big decisions!

I made a big decision this week. I decided my study falls into the “mixed methods” camp as per my original vision. I spent a lot of time devising a pretty good survey of singing students, and had 97 participants in the study. I think that counts as a good participation rate, given the overall size of the population. I want to include the results of the study in my thesis as it informs my case studies.

Why now? Why this? WTF and what am I thinking? Well. My PhD journey can be seen in part as a rather unsatisfactory attempt to follow the methodological desires of my principal supervisor. Leading to all sorts of depressions and angst by yours truly.

I specifically designed my study to be Mixed Methods. I like the approach and I’m not going to pretend that my survey phase doesn’t count just because I didn’t do a specific statistical analysis of the questions. I analysed the findings descriptively by percentage. Not sure why this should be discounted. Nevertheless I need to make sure my survey chapter doesn’t take up too much space, and only examines the key questions pertaining to my thesis. At the time of constructing the survey, I felt that more information from participants rather than less was going to be more useful. So it is, but I can’t include everything in the chapter…

Still. I’m in a happier place than I was this time last year. Ok. So, now to finish the thing. 2 weeks ago I started my introduction chapter because I knew it wouldn’t take long. I’m halfway through that. I am about to tackle my literature review, having been given some good, targeted structural advice by my supervisor. Makes it much easier to break down when one has a structure in place. I’m already about halfway through the chapter in draft form, having done a lot of work in previous years on the history of singing and conservatoires.

So, I’ll take about 2 months to finish writing this, if I only have one day per week (and maybe some of the weekend) to do it. Which takes me to October and my discussion chapter – in sections that the research questions determine. One month to write that and I’m in November. I have more time for study then as my Uni teaching dries up from November – I have Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays back. Then it’s writing the survey chapter, finishing off the introduction – maybe I’ll do that this week -, revising the narratives (not much, actually, because I had a look at those on the weekend and there’s not too much to do short of paraphrasing some of the longer quotes as they don’t really add to the narrative’s significance), fixing the methods chapter, et voila! I’m putting it out there – I’d like to submit by February 2014. Now, I know I’m on leave until then, but it’s the time to do it – when I have some breathing space. I CAN do this.

Hear ye, hear ye: Submission by February 2014!!!!

August: Finish introduction; revise and rewrite literature review.

September: Literature review continued.

October: Write discussion chapter and conclusion.

November: Write the survey chapter and construct the survey appendix. Revise narratives. Revise literature review.

December: Revisions of methods chapter, survey chapter.

January 2014: Revisions.

February 2014 1 – 14: formatting document, SUBMISSION.