Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Distractions Aren't Always Bad!

I know the question on the mind of everyone (ha! ha!) is this:  How is Dianna keeping her sanity with a heavy teaching load while working on her dissertation?  (an especially great question after learning that I have no been "off" diet soda for 6 days!).

I have two responses:  (1) hot yoga and (2) poetry.

My friend Peggy bought me a Groupon a few months back for a new hot yoga place that opened up in Edwardsville, IL (not too far from where I teach in Granite City).  I did do hot yoga a few years back -- and sorta liked it -- but because the location in the city was not convenient and the price was on the high side (and, okay, perhaps I was feeling a bit lazy too!), I stopped going after 5-6 times.  But now I am back doing it about 3 times a week for the last month.  I love it!  Yes, it's hard and all that but there is something about the actual fitness challenge -- and the fact that the yoga keeps me in the moment -- that I am enjoying.  In fact,  would say that there is almost a "joyous" aspect to the whole thing that I can't quite describe (which you wouldn't think would happen when I am in room with a bunch of twenty somethings who are wearing hardly anything on their size 0 bodies!).  Just in case anyone is in the area and wants to try it out, click on this for the link to "Hot Yoga Edwardsville."  The most important piece of advice is that you have to try it more than once.  Seriously.  You WILL want to give up after that first experience but stick with it.  Honest!

The other moment of sanity in my day is the free class that I am taking online in Modern and Contemporary Poetry (called "MoPo" to the 30,000 of us who are taking it!).  This is my first experience with a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) and I am loving it!  The class is offered through coursera.org (click on the name for the link) and the class is taught by Dr. Al Filreis from the U of Penn (he has a fabulous web site!).  Poetry has always been a little of a puzzle for me and I guess I thought that since I am so focused on composition matters right now, it might be fun to encourage my mind to work a little differently as I am writing up the dissertation.  But I do recognize that it is hard for me to not get obsessed with something so .... I limit myself to about 30 minutes a day.  As a teacher, I can't express how much I am learning in this fun class and forum.  As a student, I am in love with William Carlos Williams, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson (something I didn't think I would ever say!).  In fact, I thought I was just going to follow along with the readings and not to any of the assignments, but ... I do submit a paper for the first writing assignment.  We were supposed to simply respond to one of Emily Dickinson's poems and reflect a close reading.  I set the timer on my computer for 20 minutes and came up with a snazzy little response (that I actually submitted).  That 20 minutes got me fired up enough to work on my methodology chapter for 30 minutes before class started this morning.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Methodology Musings!

So all of my data (for both a day class and a night class) has been entered into tables that I created in Microsoft Word and now ... I start writing up my methodology chapter.  I have to admit that I feel a little disappointed that I don't already have this chapter DONE (I was hoping to have this finished at Dartmouth last month) but I hadn't realizing going into Dartmouth that I was going to be spending so much of my time ironing out my data categories and then figuring out how to make them work with the data that I had (copies of student essays).  So, I figured the smart thing to do would be to finish the data identification process that I made up during the seminar and see what "story" the data might tell me.  This, of course, will end up being the "Results" and "Analysis" chapters of my dissertation but I think this process also helped me fine-tune my thinking about the "Methodology" chapter -- how my whole darn research is actually designed in the first place.

This week I will focus 100% on the Methodology chapter -- I have a meeting with Dr M on Friday in Carbondale and I would love to bring her what I have so far (e.g. a completed chapter).  I know a big part of it is just sitting down and doing it -- I have tons of notes and scrapes of paper and I spent this evening pulling all of those together and reviewing what I need to do for this chapter:

The video above helped actually in just gathering my thoughts before I plunge into a marathon writing session!  I love the quotation that it starts with in terms of defining exactly what a methodology is -- "a philosophical stance of worldview that underlies and informs a style of research" (Sapsford, 2006, page 175).  I know that on one level I know what it is that I want to say (I have the notes to prove it!) but there is this bug sitting in my shoulder telling me that I can't do it.  Anyone have any bug spray?

Monday, September 10, 2012

OK, brace yourself for another bad poem:

Dianna didn't want to spend the weekend coding
But she also didn't want to spend that time moping.
So she got off her ass
and made a fast dash
and now is done making charts, tables, and loading.

In case you couldn't understand my poetic verse above, I finished inputting the data into charts and then coded that data based on my categories (which I actually had to change a bit once again!).  This afternoon I need to go through and do some calculations (e.g. how many of which code was used?  Is there a significant different between the first essay and the second essay?).

Once I have those patterns figured out, then I need to write them down in the results and analysis chapters.  And these two parts will be my project for this week!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ode to Not Coding

There once was a woman in the Lou
A student at Carbondale too
She felt like a lard
Because coding is hard
But knew that she had a dissertation to do.

I am not sure what is going on with my head today but I don't want to code (but somehow I obviously have the energy for writing bad poetry!).  I have just a little to finish but I want to be doing anything but coding.  And it's not because I am bored by what I am discovering.  In fact, I finished the day class last week and noticed a few interesting patterns and now that I am half-way done with the night class I have also noticed some interesting trends as far as how the students are talking about race.  But .... I am just not in the mood to code.  I took a quick break to the fabulous bookstore across the street (and even a walk with Jim and Stella) and nothing.  I just feel like a total failure for not feeling the inspiration to just sit down and do it.  Of course, writing this blog is another way to avoid coding but I guess by writing I am realizing that there is nothing to do but just do it (Egads!  Now I sound like a Nike commercial!).  End of story.  Once I finish coding this last class, then I can write up the "results" chapter of the dissertation.  Though the "methodology" section should have been written by now (it's currently floating around in my head and in the form of some general notes), I can't say that I have been able to get that down on paper either.

So here goes.  I will not go to bed tonight until I finish coding the night class.  My goal this next week will be to write up those patterns.  If this works, perhaps I will use the next week to -- finally -- get the methodology section written up (again, I have tons of handwritten notes on this portion from my Dartmouth work).

Sigh ... alright, back to coding.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Page Numbers!

So I am slightly giddy this morning over one issue I am always telling my students not to worry about -- the length of a text!  Everytime I give an essay assignment, one of the first questions I hear from students is "How long does it have to be?" especially since I leave that type of information off my assignment sheets (generally).  I want students to focus on the IDEAS more than how much space they still need to take up.

Well, I just did some quick math and have discovered that my actual text-text so far is about 64 pages (not even counting two chapters that I am still in the note writing stage and haven't written yet) with about another 55 pages or so in data text (to show how I did my categories).  On top of that, I have an appendix that will include my syllabus for the class as well as the essay assignments themselves.  So not counting what I know I still need to work on, this puts me presently at about 130-140 pages.  Since 150 was the bare minimum that I was thinking I had to cough out, I am feeling pretty darn good that I am already at that number :D. 

Now, this is not to say that I don't have a lot of work to do.  I have bunches.  But I can see a tiny little piece of blue sky far ahead that tells me that I am going in the right direction.  I was pretty productive yesterday so I just have to hope that I can keep this up!

This week's goal?  I just finished compiling the data from the day class (my big pile of yellow folders).  Now I need to finish up the night class (blue folders) and start telling "the story" of the data as a whole (which will become my analysis/ results chapter!).  I have already noticed a few interesting patterns!