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Dissertation Boot Camp
Transcript of Dissertation Boot Camp
Maintaining Professional Writing Habits
The University Writing Center Presents
Created by Tom Lindsay, Lamiyah Bahrainwala & Brianna Hyslop
Last updated by Courtney Massie, June 2016
Bank of stock frames:
How we can help you:
Where do you like to write? Where do you not like to write?
What time of the day do you like to write?
How long do your writing sessions typically last?
What does a "productive" day typically look and feel like?
Any personal strategies you use to keep yourself “on track”?
What is your greatest strength as a writer? Your biggest challenge?
What are your research questions?
What in/about the critical conversation(s) prompted this question or these questions?
What methods might you use to answer these questions?
Why these methods? What are your rationales?
What are your hypo-theses or your (tentative) arguments?
What's the significance of your (tentative) findings or arguments?
Bring with you:
Notes toward a dissertation abstract.
Any other materials you will need for writing an abstract.
We're going to:
Practice writing strategies discussed today.
Write a draft of your dissertation abstract.
The Undergraduate Writing Center Presents:
Peer Review and Transitioning from Research to Writing
Created by Tom Lindsay, Lamiyah Bahrainwala & Brianna Hyslop
Last updated July 2014
Next Week: Peer Review
For the 2016 Dissertation Boot Camp
Offering structure and tried-and-true strategies
Playing to your strengths and personal best-practices
Mastering the "moves" that matter in academic writing:
Content and Style
A Strategic Professional Genre
What does the dissertation look like in your discipline?
What role do you want your dissertation to play in your professional development?
What are a few models you might use to guide your process?
A Self-Maintained and Habitual Process
A Writing Inventory:
Rules To Live By:
Play to your personal strengths. And cultivate your personal best-practices.
But remember, your preferences are not destiny. When necessary, work outside your comfort zone.
Strategies for Establishing a Writing Habit.
You could schedule writing sessions on your calendar.
And schedule sessions 5-7 days a week, ideally around the same time each day.
For more flexibility, you might choose a manageable daily writing "minimum" by time or by amount produced.
Treat this "minimum" as non-negotiable and non-transferable.
Date, time worked, location, tasks accomplished, notes for the next session.
The Writing Log
working with prose on the page
putting rough prose on the page
Use these activities to structure your writing sessions from hour to hour, day to day, or week to week.
And no excuses.
Not feeling it one day? Don't quit. Instead, switch to another kind of writing activity, even if that just means reading over old draft material and pulling out main ideas for restructuring (reverse outlining), or reading an outside source and summarizing it in coherent paragraphs that might make it into a later draft.
See examples of dissertations from UT and beyond:
As the reader...
Attend to the "global" before the "local."
Be supportive; be specific; offer strategies.
Tend to the writer's concerns.
your experience as a reader.
Talk about the writing, not the writer.
As the writer...
Listen first; respond second.
Listen actively and plan for next steps.
Be respectful and generous.
Being strategic means being receptive.
Step into your audience's shoes.
Making the transition
Talk it out.
Yes, it sounds silly. But it's actually a useful and more structured form of free-writing.
(Especially for sections that might be formulaic, such as your literature review.)
Ooo, that's interesting! Tell me more.
I don't understand, can you put it another way?
Okay, so what I'm getting is X... Is that what you're trying to say?
But what if I was to argue Y?
You seem to be circling around the same point... Is that your argument?
Start with a topic, a question, a concern.
Keep writing. Write anything. Write for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour.
You might arrive at a big idea or a moment of clarity.
If not, hunt through your material for main ideas, questions, and next-steps.
It's like outlining only non-linear.
Put a main argument, idea, chapter title, task, or question in the middle of a landscape page. Maybe this will come from your free-writing.
Write sub-arguments, supporting ideas, constituent sections, relevant sources, leading questions, next-steps, etc. around the central theme.
Write an idea, section, or chapter at the top of a piece of paper.
Write subheadings for supporting ideas, sub-sections, or specific goals.
For 15-30 minutes, "dump" all the ideas you have for what to put under those subheadings. Use keywords or short phrases.
Some Thesis Models:
thesis question or problem
"I'll do X, then Y, then Z"
hypo-thesis or tentative thesis
The Contract: genre, topic, ethos, stance
We're expected to do extensive research, but often have little instruction or institutional support.
We have no models to read.
And we often don't feel we have permission to try and fail, or to write less-than-perfect drafts.
Dissertation advice is often individual and "self-help" in style, e.g.
"I did X, and it worked for me!"
Writing guides (and often advisers, too) offer one-size-fits-all or "magic feather" solutions.
Foundational ideas about writing process come from a time when paper was expensive.
These ideas tend to emphasize invention and a linear composition process: invention to thesis to outline to draft.
We're accepted to programs because we're skilled, but we have little to no training for the dissertation.
We're often told our dissertation ought to be
But ultimately, most dissertations are primarily
will revolutionize the way we look at
will contribute to
"Although at first it looks like
, when you
texts, or apply
you also see that..."
, but we haven't applied it to
The one that helps you write the dissertation
the one that goes in your final draft.
is not necessarily
The Research Article Model
why it matters
how you're going to solve it
What conversation(s) are you joining?
If concrete tasks and discrete time-chunks help:
Set realistic goals and expectations.
Regularly clarify and re-assess goals and expectations with advisers.
Write the dissertation, not the book.
Experiment, work often, and write messy drafts.
Try new approaches to writing and productivity; find what works for you.
They may posture as new, but contribute in narrow ways to established conversations, rather than changing or creating new conversations.
, but we haven't yet seen if it's true for or works for
outlines a limited project
a framing or guiding function
Elements of a Dissertation Contract:
history or literature review
write or re-write after drafting
is flawed; instead, it's
, I'm going to complicate the way we understand
To break up middling to long sessions, POMODORO!
Exchange 5pgs. of chapter material (Monday, June 6).
Attach a note with some concerns for your reader.
content, ideas, structure vs. editing and sentence style
introductions and conclusions
overall cohesion (intro, main clams, evidence, conclusion)
Read your partner's material for Peer Review.
Structured Peer Review on Wednesday, June 8.
Feel free to frame narrowly: Describe a few articles you're engaging.