Sunday, December 16, 2012

First Submission of Entire Dissertation

There were many times this semester when I didn't think I was going to make it this far -- but viola!  I just submitted (late last night!) the six chapters of my dissertation.  If you count the appendices, I am pretty sure I am around the 230 page area in terms of length.  NOT that this is the most important consideration, of course!  (But it is kinda cool to think that I have NEVER written anything this long EVER!  Even if it is a huge piece of crap, there is still that little victory to think about!).

So how do I feel about what I submitted?  Meh.  I worked as hard as I could on each chapter but by the time I got to the last chapter (the conclusion) I think I was just wiped out.  I looked up some info online and peeked at a few examples of dissertations that were rhet/comp based but I just feel like that chapter is the most "mechanical."  I guess what I really need at this point is to know what I have done wrong (or not well) and then just to change it to how it needs to be in order to make it to the next step ...

... which is defending the whole thing.  In person.  In front of very smart people.  Sounds like fun, eh?  I am almost at the point of thinking that my entire research is crap but I know this is coming from the person who has been "married" to it for far too long.  I want a divorce.  I want my own place to live!  I might be willing to take the dissertation back but only after she (why do I think that she is a "she"?) attends marriage counseling and comes back a happier camper!

OK, so maybe the marriage analogy is a bit goofy!  I have had a bunch of people ask me about the next step so here it is!  First, the great Dr M tells me what I need to change to make this project more readable and overall better, I make the changes (perhaps we redo this steps a few times!), I defend the whole thing in one scary meeting at SIU, I make any other changes that the committee asks for, and then I graduate!  (and the goal is for this to happen in May!).  My only issues right now is trying to figure out how I want to sign up for my last 3 dissertation credit hours (the goal here is not to have to pay SIUC more than I need to!).  So do I sign up for all 3 remaining credit hours in the Spring and make sure I am done by May no matter what -- or do I pay for 2 in the Spring and save one for Summer just in case things go badly?

But in the meantime -- I am  taking a recharging break (after one of the most difficult semesters ever when you combine dissertating all the time + problem students).  Next week I off to Chicago for a few days with my good pal, Peggy, and then just lots of home time with Jim.  The idea of being a 1950's Mad Men-inspired housewife sounds like fun for a few weeks!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Little Video Pause While Grading!

Check out this fabulous video created by the students who are members of WRIT 110, under the direction of Binghamton University Writing Initiative faculty member, Sean Fenty.  (WRIT 110 is a bridge course designed to motive first-generation college students, English language learners, and others enrolled in our Educational Opportunity Program).  I think these students are quite inspiring!  Maybe I could look into having my students do something like this next semester?!

And now back to grading papers and editing dissertation chapters!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday of Finals Week!

So here I am in the middle of finals week.  And here is what is on my brain:

1.  I think I have messed up the conclusion of my dissertation.  It's like my brain has just gone "off."  So, of course, as I am googling a phrase like "What do I need to think about in terms of a dissertation conclusion?" almost everything I encountered started with the words, "The conclusion is the most important chapter in your dissertation ..."  Just what I need to hear.  Thanks, karma.  So I did the best I could muster this weekend but I don't think it's all that brilliant.  But I guess it is as done as I am going to get right now.  At any rate, I will be sending the fabulous Dr M all my chapters by this weekend.  The major writing -- I think -- is done.  Now I need to proofread and edit a bit -- and then be prepared to do (a lot) more of this editing once the chapters come back to me.  At this point, I am feeling like "Tell me what to change and I will change it; no questions asked!"

2.  On Monday we got bad news about our two remaining cats.  Katie (Jim's cat) apparently has a rather large mass near her kidney area.  We won't know if it's cancer without a super expensive test but Dr Lewis (our fabulous vet) seems to think that it doesn't really matter if it's cancer or not at this point -- it is still bad.  And it is going to get worse.  So we had some blood work taken (ching! ching!) and we will probably have to make the decision to put her to sleep in January.  We certainly don't want her to suffer but still.  This sort of hurts.  And then there is Zora, my cat.  The best guess from her strange behavior (and weird eyes, a new symptom) is that she has a brain tumor.  Again, an expensive test would tell us for sure.  So, we will probably need to make the decision to euthanize her as well, though I think her situation isn't as dire and we can wait a few more months.  I have had Zora almost 16 years.  Losing her will probably be more difficult for me.  In some ways, she is all that I have left from my pre-Jim days.

3.  Final research papers are exploding out of my ears!  This semester I taught four sections of ENG 102 (big mistake on my part) and now I am busily reading final research papers that have been a bit depressing.  What happened to the great purpose/ Research Questions I have been seeing in the preliminary work?  Where are the sources that are balanced and insightful?  (One student used 6 sources from, something he didn't have in his better written Annotated Bib).  Where did I fail these folks?!  Though there are some fabulous papers, so far the majority are not very good.  I am taking this as proof that I need to rework the way I teach ENG 102 and try to find a better way of engaging these students.  I think many of the assignments I designed work well (esp. the survey and interview portions) but I need to see if there is a more effective approach all around.  So basically I am saying that this gives me something to "do" during the break.

But here are some good things to look forward to!  I will soon get to spend gobs of time with Jim (yeah!) and I get to take a quick trip with my pal Peggy (yeah!) and our little house high in the sky could use some deep cleaning (since I have been distracted with the dissertation).

Friday, December 7, 2012

On to the Conclusion!

Okay, so this weekend is conclusion time.  Here is the pro:  I have been dumping all kinds of odds and ends into the "conclusion" document I had already created a few weeks ago.  Con:  It's in no particular order and much of it might be crap.  One more con:  I sort of feel like I am "done" in terms of energy.  So probably my biggest obstacle is just getting the last one big burst of energy and finding the enthusiasm to prove to my readers, "Yes, this was an important piece of research and let me show you why it's important."  Before embarking on this next writing task, I did a little Googling to see exactly "what" (generally) people do in a dissertation conclusion:
Apparently, the final chapter in your dissertation should include recommendations.  I think I can do that -- what? Share my opinion with others?  I think I can manage that part with my big mouth!
Based on several web sites that I looked at, it looks like you can further break the chapter down into a number of subsections (I am not sure how strictly I need to stick with this but I suppose it gives me something to aim for)
Introduction – introduce the chapter to the readers and include such things as what this chapter will review and summarize the dissertation research, identify the main methods used and discuss their implications in the study.
Problem statement and Methodology – present the problem statement as you have presented it in the first chapter (what was the problem and what did you want to achieve). You should then review the methodology, in detail, but without repeating anything that you have already said (How in the world am I supposed to do that?).  You will need to review the methodology so that it provides enough information to the reader about the methodology so that they don’t have to go and read this chapter independently.
Results of Summary – You should keep this section brief and identify the result with a general statement paragraph which it then followed by another paragraph that supports the evidence collected. You should avoid interpretation here and thus be objective about the results.
Discussion of Results – You should discuss the meaning of the results here, in brief, and highlight any important areas that you have identified. You should also look at the different things that the study means and how this is evaluated to the overall understanding in your dissertation.
Recommendations – You will want to keep this section brief and maybe to one paragraph or two, and explain what, from the research that has been conducted, there will be recommendations to the organizations or, if you are presenting to academia, then what further research should be conducted in the future.
(Dissertation monster is comin' to get me!)
And so there you go.  I might already have some of this written.  I feel like I am already starting to repeat myself a little but ... oh, well.  Once this chapter is done (By Sunday night!) -- on to some editing and proofreading!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Beware of the Swear Words!

Question: What would make these last two of major dissertation writing just that much more difficult?

Answer:  The fuckin' flu!
I know I had a lot of enthusiasm last week that I would be able to finish the major writing on a strong note (remember the "I can see light at the end of the tunnel?" business?).  Well, I am thinking some stupid semi just pulled up ahead and it is blocking the gosh darn light!  Just to help me work out what is making me feel stressed, here is a list of "problems" I am encountering this week:

1.  The before-mentioned flu.  I guess I caught it from Jim (who has had a bad time of it for a week+) and this has completely interrupted my sleeping, my ability to breath, and my head.  Fuck the flu.

2.  End-of-the-semester Research Projects in my ENG 102 classes.  I have never taught four sections of ENG 102 (and might I add, four very full sections of 102) and I am beginning to understand why this was not the best idea in terms of scheduling.  In my books, ENG 102 is harder than ENG 101 (for both the student and the instructor).  There is a heck of a lot of "mind work" with assessing how students are artfully creating research discussions and you have to read it using 100% of your mind (at least to do it well).  Being this on for 80+ students at the moment is a little hard.

3.  Dissertation Girl is starting to hate her project.  I hope this is normal.  I am pretty much "done" -- as of this afternoon -- with Chapters 1-5.  Now I have to shape and mold all the notes I have for Chapter 6 (the conclusion!).  I know there are some problems with some of the sections in the first five chapters but fuck it.  This perfectionism thing is dragging me down right now.  I am willing to settle for okay (at least, for now!).

4.  My own stupidity.  Related to #3, what is up with me using sources in any of my dissertation chapters and I for some freakin' reason didn't add the source to my ever-evolving Works Cited "chapter"?  This means, of course, that I am wasting huge amounts of time tracking down sources that I should have already noted.  Grow a brain, Dianna!

5.  Other obligations.  Our family this year decided to buy gifts for a family we adopted instead of buying gifts for each other.  By next Friday, I have to deliver all the items to the case worker for the family we adopted under the "100 Neediest Cases."  Jim and I just bought the items for the mom (who we "adopted") but I haven't wrapped them (do we even have wrapping paper?).  So now I have to connect up with Jim's sisters and mother and try to collect everything together and make the delivery.  I know this is the best possible "gift" that we could have given ourselves for Christmas, but is it bad that there is a small part of me that wishes I were getting gifts for Christmas instead of doing this family adoption?  (OK, even typing that out makes me feel selfish but it's probably because something that wasn't supposed to be a "burden" is beginning to feel like a burden).

6.  No exercise the last week or so because of #1.  I recognize this makes me grumpy.  Fuck it.

OK, I think I am done (and hopefully, done with saying "Fuck it" every three minutes!).  I am just bummed (mostly) that I got sick during the one time in my life that I can't get sick -- right now!  Just the thought of thinking I could be done with this dissertation was so tempting to believe last week -- now it feels a little bit further away.  However -- the show will go on!  I just have to do three things by next week:

1.  Finish the conclusion
2.  Make sure my in-text sources line up with my Works Cited
3.  Do some amount of proofreading and editing so Dr M at least understands my overall point.

I can do this, right?  Just one more shove of energy?