Dissertation Proposal, Day 1

Everyone needs to mark a Day 1. Today is my Day 1.

Yes, I have been working over the past semester to get to this point in the research process, and I do have 30+ pages of analytic memos that could be considered ample pre-writing material.

The progress I made today feels like great Day 1 progress. Inspired by giving feedback to a dissertation study-buddy’s DP chapter 1 draft, I decided to counter my tendency to overwrite by outlining the “Context and Background” 8-10 page section of chapter 1 one paragraph at a time. In being an editor to countless friends, students, and family members, I have often used this trick with folks struggling with getting ideas out in an organized fashion. I read each paragraph and note in the margins what each paragraph seemed to be about (one sentence). It allows the reader to go back and see the logic (or lack there of) in their writing on a paragraph level.

Using this strategy backwards, as a pre-writing strategy, yielded terrific results. Instead of going back through the memo drafts and reconstructing past thoughts to build anew, I outlined by writing topic sentences for each paragraph, going from paragraph one at the highest, most general level and continuing down to paragraph twenty at the most discrete level poised to introduce the next sections in chapter one (problem statement and purposes of the study).

I stopped part-way to sketch out my ideas visually, kind of a draft set of figures for this section of my proposal–another trick I learned from giving feedback to my study buddy yesterday, stopping to sketch out her ideas in visual format as I was understanding and reading them. I got this idea of using scales to visually represent the context of my study where urban educational leaders need to balance two very important roles  as school building leaders. A few minutes later, I had some satisfying images from Google Image Search, and I popped them in PowerPoint to play.

End result: three draft figures for my proposal.

Inserted into my draft with my outline of 1-3 sentence for each of the 20 paragraphs, I finish the day of dissertation writing with four of the ten pages complete for this section. Pretty good!

with grace


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