Friday, September 14, 2012

Assembling a Dissertation Proposal

I'm not a great cook, but I can assemble a great salad.

Writing, on the other hand, is totally my thing.  However, writing a dissertation proposal (about 75 pages) was starting to get unwieldy and overwhelming, especially with the naive ambition of my ideas.

So I have decided to change the way I think about it and bank on my strengths.  Now, I am in the process of assembling my dissertation proposal.

The proposal has the following sections:  Introduction, Statement of Problem, Literature Review, Theoretical Framework, Research Questions and Hypotheses, Methodology, Abstract and Timeline.

I have butcher paper representing each section gracing every bare wall space in my dining room (my art work is resting temporarily on the ground).  I will post pics soon - it's quite lovely in a colorful, creative and organized way.

As I read through articles (from the sweet spot of my venn diagram - the intersection between low-income urban families, parent-child communication and posttraumatic resilience), I am posting ideas about research questions and methods that are recommended in the discussion section of these articles.  I am also posting information for the lit review.  Index cards, post-it notes and sharpie pens (in lots of cool colors) are my best friend right now.

Also, I had to completely re-write the discussion section of my publishable paper - I didn't really know what I was doing the first time and tried to fake it.  I decided to learn how to write it by doing what painters do - copy the experts.  So I literally wrote out - sentence by sentence - the discussion section of about a dozen articles (the very ones I am using for my dissertation proposal - a two-fer) to crack the code and find the pattern:  (1) study finding, (2) how it is consistent or contradicts with existing research, and (3) interpretation(s) of finding, (4) repeat as necessary.

Surprisingly, it meant I could read and internalize what I was reading no matter where I was reading (cafe with great music, cafe with cute men everywhere, on the couch with the TV tuned to So You Think You Can Dance or Top Chef or Project Runway, etc., or 11pm at my dining room table).  Now I can skim through those sentences - and the inevitable stars and notes I wrote in response - in order to post them on a corresponding butcher paper.  I am actually EXCITED about going through all the articles to mine them for ideas for my proposal.  I am a nerd and I like it. 

Who said research can't be creative and fun?  That's precisely why I do it.


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