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PhD Candidate at Griffith University, mummy, wife, teacher, social media enthusiast, avid reader

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Expressing my relationship with my blog

Today I had a good day. I am satisfied with my output and I am feeling more confident. I am again at the meta-cognitive end of my day. The time of day where I feel exhausted from the day of writing up my dissertation, needing to spend my last hour reflecting on the day that was.

Today was spent reflecting on my relationship with the participants, context and data. Thus, pipe in mouth (;-D @thesiswhisperer and @dr_know), I began thinking about my relationship with my blog and that I haven't declared my position in quite some time.

I am a teacher that likes to know how to teach stuff. I tend to absorb any information about the cognitive processes associated with any of my activities. I think about what I am learning and what techniques I could use to teach the learning. There is a lot to be said for the teacher that is not an expert in their field. Staying one step ahead of the students is an adrenaline rush and can be very rewarding, especially when both teacher and student experience a mutual light bulb moment. I had one of those moments yesterday and am still tingling from the experience of learning something new from my students. I yearn for those times and they become rarer and rarer as I re-teach a subject. 

My blogs are about my process of coming to grips with the complexity of writing a dissertation. I do not claim to be an expert or believe my way is the correct approach. Processes I thought were enlightened a month ago, I have discarded or regard with nostalgia. Processes I dismissed have now made a resurgence and again I swear by them. But the reality is, I am still a novice. I am still learning. I need to be flexible.

Many of the changes to my plans and processes have come about because I am a mother. My day is not as straight forward as leaving the house for campus and coming home for dinner and TV with my husband. Two days per week that I write involve feeding and dressing a 2.5 year old (who would hang from the ceiling if it was humanly possible) and a 6 month old baby. I herd them into the car, hopefully dropping them at their day-care Mum's house by 8:30am (on a good day). I am lucky if I can get start work by 9:30am. I am sure other mums can relate. My day is further complicated by my love hate relationship with my breast pump. I hate expressing milk (but love breast feeding my baby) and my day revolves around the timing of pumping. 

The timing of pumping is what has made some writing techniques (like pomodoro) difficult to rigorously maintain. 

Today (and I should caveat this through the emphasis on TODAY), I found an approach that flowed like mother's milk (sorry but it is National Breastfeeding Week). I started my day with 90 minutes of free writing, into my methodology outline, using Tony Schwartz's plan for personal effectiveness (http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/01/the-most-important-practice-i.html). This brought me up to my first express. The second session, I chose a book from my field and read chapter by chapter adding ideas, phrases and quotes into my outline. Each time I finished a chapter, I went and fixed a cup of tea. The four hour session then fell into a natural pomodoro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique). By my second express my brain was telling me that the day was done and I needed to spend some time reflecting on my practice. 

So we come full circle. I wonder how I will feel about this plan next week? I may love it or hate it. What do you think about it?

PS: Twitter and Facebook have been awash with tips and encouragement to help me with my writer's block (which, thankfully, has gone for now) and I will Storify all the advice in due course as my way of saying thanks to the "great good place" that is my social media reality.


Saturday, 3 August 2013

Writing to an outline and #tweetingmythesis

Where I road test outlining a chapter and writing the paragraphs. The following is a little bit auto-ethnographic and a little bit meta-cognitive.

  1. Last week I wrote my methodology outline by deconstructing the methodology chapter of a completed dissertation. I don't know why the methodology chapter made more sense to me at this stage in my thesis but golly I'm glad it did.
  2. I had a bit of trouble getting going this week so decided to do some reading to find inspiration.
  3. Looking at the language of methodology in the literature over brekky. Getting in the head space. #tweetingmythesis
  4. No matter how many times I read an article, there is always something new to be found. At the moment I am focusing on completing my draft by Christmas. How researchers in my field phrase their findings and ideas has been of particular interest of late.
  5. It's amazing the different things you notice each time you read the literature. This time efficiency in language #tweetingmythesis
  6. I like working with tables.  The outline style I developed is broken down into single paragraphs. I extracted the content of each paragraph from the theses I have read. I also noted the literature referenced in each paragraph.

    My lifestyle dictates I rarely have long periods of time to write. This outline style allows me to approach the methodology chapter piecemeal. I can write a paragraph (any paragraph) whenever I get a moment. I start by re-reading the literature to get a gist of the paragraph and go from there. 
  7. I am committed to just writing the paragraphs at the moment. When they are all written, I'll extract them from the outline and re-order to suit the needs of my methodology. Too often I get distracted by linking sentences. I'm usually so desperate to make the flow work that the process becomes counter-productive. Writing any old paragraph at any time is a bit more like free writing. It frees my mind from overall structure so I can just concentrate on the meaning of each individual paragraph.
  8. Can see a change needed in my outline but its a distraction. Need to write paragraphs. Order comes later #tweetingmythesis #PhDchat#socphd
  9. I quite like using the pomodoro techinique (road tested in a previous #tweetingmythesis). It is not quite working with the outline method so I have made some modifications. Instead of sticking to the strict 25 minutes writing and 3-5 minute break, I write a paragraph and then have a break. 
  10. #Pomodoro isn't working today. Having a rest after every paragraph inserted into my outline. 5 paragraphs down#tweetingmythesis #PhDchat
  11. I haven't finished my methodology chapter. I envisage it will be the star of #tweetingmythesis for a couple more weeks. I feel this technique, recommended by Studious Jenn (@mystudiouslife) will be a stalwart addition to my academic writing (#acwri) repertoire.

    If you have any feedback, comments, recommendations, corrections, I am all ears and thank you in advance. 

    I am also keen to road test some more #acwri techniques. Make a recommendation. I still have a long way to go and less and less time to get there so willing to try anything.