Thursday, 4 December 2014

Post 36: There are multiple zooms on the thesis writing camera: on realizing that writing the thesis is an organizational puzzle!

For many months I stressed about getting started on writing my thesis, and over the past two months, I've realized that most of it was overblown worry on my part. Writing is a lot of fun (and I definitely send big THANK YOUS to my writing group), and has been for a long time for me. So why all the insecurity, hesitation, and balking about the thesis writing?

Part of it is the size of the project, undoubtedly. This is probably the biggest thing that I will produce in my life so far (!!!!). Part of it as well, is the scrambled, getting lost in the details on my part, too. I was getting lost in the little pieces, and gazing at the pattern on one puzzle piece, while diving to the pick up the next puzzle piece without figuring out where the first one went.

Here's where I'm going to employ the camera metaphor: writing a big project is knowing when to zoom in, and when to zoom out. I recently wrote a post about paragraph thinking: but realized afterwards that paragraph thinking is only useful when you already know where what you're writing goes! :)

When I met with my supervisor a few weeks ago, we had a really great discussion where we realized that part of why I was asking so many questions about which section goes where is because I was in macro mode, when I needed to be in landscape mode! When we realized that, he asked me to write out kind of a one-pager outlining my entire thesis, how I was splitting up and organizing chapters. It was almost a relief to finally sketch out chapter contents and realize: This has to go, this can't be there, this isn't closely related enough; Oh, this section will be shorter and smaller in scope.... after all, master's theses are only about 75-100 pages (even though I have seen quite a few in my department that have been upwards of 150 pages).

Local maidenhair ferns, Adiantum aleuticum, hanging out in a cool spot, keeping their feet wet at the Sooke Potholes! 
Now for a different metaphor: in the past two weeks I also realized that writing a thesis is really about figuring how to fit puzzle pieces together. I had been walking around with a section on my scientists drafted in mind for a bit (who they are, why them, the different collaborations they engaged in when I thought at the beginning of my project there were more discrete research organizations, challenges in contacting various groups of them, etc.), and thinking about my methodology/methods chapter and what would go in there (methodology, methods, challenges and limitations), and what would go into my introductory chapter (thesis questions, abstract, great opening quote, context of climate change and rapid ecological change, and why it's important we engage with scientists).

So between juggling the various puzzle pieces, and organizing them into borders, and breaking them into colours and compatible sections (best puzzle building strategy!), things have gotten a lot easier and feel much more manageable. And I definitely can't underscore how important the emotional part of this project has been so far! It's nice to feel the buzz of seeing progress being made.

Onwards and upwards to stitching my 4 main literature sections together! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment