Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rubber, meet Road: On starting the dissertation process


So. It is finally upon me!  The time to put pen to paper (or in my case tap some keys on the keyboard to throw some stuff called text into a Google Doc) in order to start putting together my dissertation proposal.  In some respects I am doing this backwards.  I am taking a Research Methods course this summer as a way of getting re-acquainted with some things, and to get better acquainted with others.  I think that the more you practice something the better you become at it. And, heck, one of the assignments in this course really lends itself to (1) getting at least part of the research methods section done, and (2) getting some feedback on it before I go into my actual dissertation prep seminar in the fall (EDDE 805).

So, what am I doing "backward".  Well, typically (as I am told) you are meant to start with an intro chapter which talks a bit about your setup.  This is generally something like 15-20 pages.  Then you have a chapter on the review of the literature on the topic (another 20 or so pages), and then you work on the methods section (I guess another 15-20 pages depending on what you are doing.  Since I don't have to do chapters 1 and 2 yet, I am jumping straight into chapter 3.  I am providing a brief introduction so that my readers know what the heck I am trying to research, but it's really a 2 page synopsis, not the whole introduction, more on that in the fall - perhaps I will ask for some pointers while I am at it :-)

So, I've written my chapter outline,  I've made some notes in bullet point format for each section, and I've written my introduction (that brief synopsis I was just going on about). I am in the process of looking over my research methods texts, getting my citations and concepts "straight" before I commit them to virtual ink.  Then it hits me.  This is the first solo project I've done in a while.   While working solo is fine, and I would argue a prerequisite in order to prove myself as a capable researcher (that is OK to be left to play unsupervised), I tend to really like collaborative research. The type of research that I've done with colleagues from Rhizo, from MobiMOOC, and from work (if I am forgetting people, my apologies, I don't mean to be exclusive by listing those three groupings).  I like collaborative research because not only am I working on projects that I like, and want to produce new knowledge, but I am also learning, learning collaboratively, with others.  While I learn something from doing literature reviews when I work alone, I think that I learn much more when I work with others because I am often exposed to frames of reference and viewing things that are not my own.

As I start this journey for the dissertation proposal, I am wondering how I can make the process more collaborative.  So, even though the final deliverable (dissertation proposal, and dissertation) is really my own product, one that I will have to alone conduct, write, and defend, - is it possible to make the process collaborative so that I am not just some lone dude in a (virtual or physical) library reading, crunching data, and writing?

Thoughts?
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