Sunday, March 14, 2010

More About the Way I Work

I sent a full thesis proposal to my director today. Late, but maybe we can squeak it in. Basically it will depend on how much my committee wants to adjust it. Due to a number of personal reasons I ended up trying to do way too much work in way too little time. I'm not usually that bad. If I remember right my Master's thesis was a day early! I do tend to work well under pressure too, but some projects are way to big to do in a short amount of time. And even now thinking about my proposal I can identify at least three places that could use a couple hours more work.

Time to take a bit of a look at what I can improve on for the next project.

First, I have a bad habit of jumping the gun. I will be doing research and then feel like it has all fallen into place - so I start writing and realize it just isn't cooked enough. At this point I'm committed to writing, I've read about half the material and so I'm toggling back and forth between research and writing and my writing shows that it isn't my main focus.

Second, I am not the best at planning out paragraphs. If you remember my previous post on writing like Jazz, I am getting better at that. But my stream of consciousness does tend to leap across ideas quickly. But the best way to fix that problem is to carefully plan out my paragraphs. I am good at mapping out the material and organizing it at a high level, but planning a paragraph is not a skill I've ever developed.

Third, I am not guarding my academic work time well enough. Being a husband, father, and pastor can be very demanding at times. This one is harder for me to tackle.


I'm open to other suggestions but I think I know the way forward on a lot of these issues.

First, I need to plan my research process better. I need to map out the material I am going to be responsible for with each chapter. Completely read that material before I start writing. Jot down ideas in a separate note book. I think it will also help to have set deliverables all through the project. This will help me track my progress and keep on task. Thesis writing is lonely work.

Second, when I get to the writing stage I need to go back to the writing technique I used in consulting. Start with a high level outline of the chapter/paper. Write one sentence for each level as to what I will cover in that section. Next outline each section, one point per paragraph. Then write one sentence that is the one idea that paragraph will communicate. Then stick to the outline! This technique is helpful. Whenever you can't write one sentence then you have too many ideas in that section/paragraph. It seems quite AR, but I know from when I took the time to do it that it does work well.

Third, I think I need to establish working hours. If I get funding, I definitely need to rent a studio at the library. Other than that I'm not sure what to do. It is too easy for other things to take precedence over the reading and writing that I need to do. I just need to be on guard better.

BTW I now have a second academic paper accepted - this time for the AAR regionals! May is going to be a crazy busy month.

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