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Dissertation Retreat

In 6 modules you will learn more about Professional Learning Communities.

Alex Wulff

on 14 June 2018

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Transcript of Dissertation Retreat

Fortune and Fame!

SSC & University Writing Services Present A Dissertation Retreat: Treasure Island!

Alex Wulff
A.Introductions B. Schedule- Overview
C. Goals for Our Retreat
Avoids misconceptions about writing (large blocks of time are required, writing is just putting to paper what is in your head, writing is what you do after you know everything, etc.)
Writing goals should start with the long-term goal (a dissertation chapter), but writing calendars should be built from daily goals. Working from the reverse produces goals, but not achievable ones.
Daily goals are had to achieve...if you don't write daily.
The most famous daily writing method is the Pomodoro method, which we will model for the next three days.
Continuing to to move forward is more important than assessment.
(Revision is easier than creating new text.)
Why Daily Goals?
Create short-term (and medium-term) achievable goals for the dissertation
Examine writing habits
Model "everyday" writing
Practice "everyday" writing techniques
Emphasize the value of community for dissertation writers
Provide accountability models for achieving writing goals
Provide writing resources
Goals of the Writing Retreat
Creating Achievable Goals
The Plan
the reasons for the plan
Morning Day 1
Goals and Habits
Letting Your Sauce Marinate - Or Making Revisions
Whenever I start cooking, I make sure that I have all the ingredients on hand. Then I make a plan for when everything needs to be made in order for the meal to be served at the right time.
Planning Ahead
A Guide to Cooking Your Dissertation
Serving it up - Or Finishing Your Dissertation
Boiling Spaghetti - Or Final Preparations
Forming the Meatballs - Or Writing Drafts
Gathering Ingredients
Referring to authority
Looking at recipes
Talking to your chair
What exactly is your chair looking for?
Create outlines
Look at examples
Synch schedules
Set up your work station - get prepared!
Compiling the Sauce - Or Doing Your Research
Morning Day 3
Moving Forward
Morning Day 2
Creating Structure and Accountability
Module IV:
School PLCs, District PLCs, and
Educator Teams
Writing Your Focus Statement:

Summarizing Previous Research
You will summarize through out, but the lit review will be a key component.
Your ability to say "the three most important schools of thought concerning X" will tell your committee that you have joined the professional ranks.
You are creating a map of your (specific) field. Other lit reviews can help. Look for relevant examples. Most book length projects have a lit review somewhere.
Reading for summary can be quick, maybe 45 minutes for a book. (Take notes as you skim. Read only what you need for YOUR project.)

Write Your Current Short-Term and Mid-term Goals

A Sample Rough Table of Contents
Table of Contents for Inheriting Generations

I. Introduction: The Problems of Inheritance 1
a. Haunted Hearts and Inherited Property 1
b. From Fear and Anxiety to Solidarity 9
c. Misreading the Market and a “Surface Reading” of Inheritance: Revising Haunted Hearts 17
d. Organization of Chapters 30
Questions you can ask yourself:
Why is your project important?
Who disagrees with you?
Why are YOU doing THIS project?
Who will you convince?
What will happen if you do convince them?
What are the appropriate methods for this project? Why?
What are the best examples you could chose to demonstrate your argument?
What is a focus statement?

A 3-6 sentence statement explaining your project:

I am investigating representations of inheritance in 19th century American literature. The few examinations of inheritance conducted in the past accuse 19th century Americans of failing to curtail inheritance, and therefore the inequalities of the capitalist marketplace. My argument is that Americans were actually fascinated by inheritance during the 19th century precisely because it was a way to understand the marketplace. Critics have ignored inheritance because they see it as separate from the market, as a vestige of aristocracy. In my dissertation it becomes the place where Americans think through the market and make their peace with market demands.

Basic Parts of a Dissertation Chapter:

An outline is a plan waiting to be staged.

Outlining to Create Goals
SSV SSC: Student Success Center
Achievable goals should be short, clear and demonstratable
Achievable goals are demonstratable: this means they are destination, or event, based.
(An easy test for demonstratable: If you wake-up in the morning and the "goal" has been achieved...how would you know? Would you be someplace different? What would have happened? What would have physically changed?)
Achievable goals are your own. They can fit into a more general timetable, but they are yours.
Achievable writing goals include much of what is considered pre-writing. (If you write it...it counts!)(Actual pre-writing still exists, but it is conceptual, constant (or at least on-going), and creative.)

A. Write your Goals
for the next three days
of our Retreat
The Dissertation Process:
A Recipe

Please revise these goals after each of the first two days so that they reflect what you see as truly achievable
We will write for a little less then 20 hours, which does not include breaks
We will take 5 minute breaks between writing, with a 15 minute break after three twenty-five minute sessions
Please make your goals as specific as possible: How many pages, or words, will you write? What section of your dissertation will you focus on?

Establishing a consistent writing routine
Working with a group
More frequent contact with your advisor
Managing Commitee expectations
Creating realistic goals and a timely schedule
-Peg Boyle Single,
Demystifying Dissertation Writing
B. Write why you think these
are achievable goals and share them with your group
The Pomodoro Technique
is really a time management technique that helps writers because it helps you keep focused and creative, thereby allowing you to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

You work for 25 minutes, then take a break for five minutes. Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato.
Self-Control AND Freedom
– Block websites for a set amount of time.

Track Time
– Audit how you’re spending your time on your computer.

– Set a timer for specific tasks (keeps all selected tasks open).

Focus Booster
– Focus on single tasks for 25 minutes apiece. You can list out your daily tasks, and then it tracks your time as you work through them.

– Limit your attention to a single application at a time.

Focus Writer
– Recreates a word processor-like environment, blocking out absolutely everything on your screen except for the words you type.

Stay Focused
– works in the reverse manner to Self-Control or Anti-Social. Rather than setting a period of time for which you CANNOT use the Internet, it allows you to set a period of time to indulge in time-wasting.

Time Out
– Allows you to set (forced) timed breaks. (Your screen goes dark)
Apps to help you stay focused
Writing Habits:
Answer these questions
1. Where do you write? Can you protect your writing time in this space?
2. When do you write? What time of day? What days?
3. How long do you spend writing? How many hours do you write in one setting?
4. How many days of the week do you write?
5. What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
6. What is your greatest strength as a writer?
7. Who reviews your rough drafts?
8. Who reviews your final products?
9. Who holds you accountable for your writing goals?
10. How could you improve your writing process?

What is the main question you are answering in this chapter? What do you need to claim in order to ask this question? (William Wells Brown’s Clotel is misunderstood. Why? Because…) How does this question relate to your overall project?

Write down some information about the main question you are answering:
• What background information will your reader need to know?
• How will you provide this context?
• What are a few possible counter arguments? (Who writes these counterarguments?)
• What are the most difficult parts of answering this question?
• What does someone need to believe to be convinced that you are right? (Do they need to be convinced of X first, then Y?)

A Dissertation Outline Recipe:
1. Develop a focus statement for the entire Dissertation
2. Creating a rough one page outline for the entire Dissertation
3. Creating a rough one page outline for each chapter and estimating pages for each section.
4. Adding notes and citations to each outline.
5. Create a table of contents, complete with headings and subheading, for your Dissertation. You will revise this as you go.
One Page Outlines:
Write Down the One that Fits...and make it fit better.
Theme 1
Theme 2
Theme 3
Lit Review
Example 1
Example 2
Example 3
Lit Review

Lit Review
Article 1
Article 2
(Article 3?)
Lit Review
Study 1
Study 2
(Study 3?)
Mine: Intro
Lit Review
Historical Context
Example 1
Example 2
Example 3

We will return to focus statements
Why is your project important?
Who disagrees with you?
Why are YOU doing THIS project?
Who will you convince?
What will happen if you do convince them?
What are the appropriate methods for this project? Why?
What are the best examples you could choose to
demonstrate your argument?
What is the coolest thing about your dissertation?
For 3 audiences:
1. Your field 2. Your mother-in-law AND
3. A Stranger in an Elevator
Creating a Writing Calendar
Make a commitment to write daily
Find regular, short time periods... and hoard them
You can place these on a calendar to start.
Create goals that have content, but are more about writing amounts (2 paragraphs on...)
Tell Someone Your Plan...and maybe empower them to make you write.
What stops you from writing?
Assess what stops you from writing in 5 minutes.
Do not stop writing during this five minutes.

You can give your accountability partner something you want back.
You can promise that you will have X done by Y. Simply promising makes us more likely to get something done.
You can create a reward in this process...your accountability partner might not be able to ask you X question about your dissertation while you are on schedule.
Leaning Downhill
Even with goals that are strategic, clear, measurable, and built around a daily schedule...writing is still hard.
Over the next three days, practice what you need to do at the end of a writing session to be ready for the next one.
Do you stop mid-sentence? Do you write a quick plan? Do you swear a lot?

Naming what you are doing can help you think about organization and structure

Daily Goal: 2 paragraphs summarizing X
Dissertation Moves:
If you are writing a dissertation....you are usually doing one of these things.
Qualifying Your Argument
You want to qualify your argument (The Defense will be easier.)
Qualifying and then suggesting paths for new research can help when limitations come as surprises.

Move 1: Claiming importance/limitations
Move 2: Mapping the field
Move 3: Summarizing previous research
Move 4: Indicating a gap in the field
Move 5: Announcing research or study aims
Move 6: Presenting hypotheses
Move 7: Describing methodology
Move 8: Summarizing results
Move 9: Investigating hypotheses
Move 10: Presenting conclusions
Move 11: Reemphasizing central claim
See John Swales' 1990
Genre Analysis
for more discussion of "moves"

Write these as specifically as possible. We will share them in groups.
Writing Resources:

Everything we have used (and more) is on the University Writing Services website:


All dissertation writers should have a Dissertation Writing book they trust. All writers should have a Writing resource text they trust. Cheap copies abound for the second, but not the first.

Planning Ahead
Gathering Ingredients
Compiling the Sauce
Forming the Meatballs
Letting Your Sauce Marinate
Boiling Spaghetti
Making a Salad
Serving it Up
Always remember: Your committee is your audience!!!
Making a Salad - Or Dealing with Distractions
Making a good marinara takes layering and time, but it isn't hard.
How to Research
Begin your research with a list of ingredients - a working bibliography
Go somewhere quiet with a stack of 5 sources (1-2 an hour)
For the majority of my research, I:
Use the table of contents and index to narrow my reading
Skim topic sentences
Write a summary of main argument/idea
Include well-worded quotes (with page#)
Mark your own ideas
After two weeks, start writing!
Now that the sauce is simmering, I start creating meatballs - the most substantial piece of the recipe.

Your writing is your product; it is the result of all of your hard work.

Some tips for making writing happen:
Set goals (writing groups help)
Use the pomodoro method
Write often - I've found 1 hour a day, 5-6 days/week to be productive
The Good Writer
Revision is a separate stage of the writing process
Experienced vs. Inexperienced writer - main difference.
A terrible draft- who cares?
Now I put my meatballs into my sauce. This is where the magic happens.
After you write drafts, you need to revise them. This is where the magic happens.
Tips for Revising:
Be prepared to return to your research or to do more research.
Use a pencil and paper on drafts.
Pay attention to topic sentences, concluding sentences, and transitioning between ideas.
Look for your main clauses.
Visit University Writing Services.
Practice makes perfect!
Anyone can boil pasta, right?

The key to boiling pasta is
. You are waiting for your guests to arrive and for the sauce to be ready. You don't want to ruin your meal by overcooked or undercooked spaghetti.
Just like when you are cooking - you should know when you want to turn in all your forms, schedule your defense, and have your format review.

Here are some of the deadlines from last semester: http://www.slu.edu/academics/graduate/pdfs/spring-2017.pdf
Here's the tricky part: I usually need to make a salad to go with the pasta. This can mean multitasking.
It turns out, life continues to go on during the years you spend working on a dissertation.
People (or you) get sick
Your family needs you (or you have kids!)
You need to work
You move/change jobs
Daily crises
So what can you do?
Commit to your scheduled writing times and your writing goals.
Treat them with the same respect you would give your job.
Be flexible and forgiving
Now is the fun part - sharing your masterpiece with others!
Make sure you have gone over all the scheduling details with your chair and committee.
Enjoy your success!
Practice your defense in front of friends and family members.
Play it cool - even if you don't feel it.
Before I start cooking, I like to set all of my ingredients out in an organized pattern.
Your Dissertation Plan
Begin with the end in mind
Graduating May 2019?
Turn in to Grad Ed before May
Defend in April
Submit Final draft to chair in March
Need approved draft in January

6 months BEFORE graduation!

Full transcript