Saturday Dissertation Thoughts

I'm trying to be more conscientious than usual this week-end for two reasons:

1. I had mild conjunctivitis last week and lost 3 days of dissertation work :-(.
2. Very dear friends of mine from school and undergrad will be in town from varying distances across-the-pond starting this week-end and through all of next week including my bestest friend on this planet and I'd like to have time to spend with them without falling too far behind. I would have tried to forge ahead if it hadn't been for #1 above.

Since I wasn't particularly feeling like I want to work - the gym at this point sounds like something I want to do more than sit at my desk or go for a walk outside since it finally (!) stopped raining after being grey and well this past week - I started reading online dissertation advice. Two things I came across that I wanted to post:

1. Someone out there provides the following quotation by Dag Hammarskjold who was a UN Secretary-General sometime in the early or late 50s if I'm not mistaken: "Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was." Chances are that he might have been talking about achieving world peace but my dissertation currently feels like an equally Herculean task. The writer using this quotation recommends breaking the dissertation up into tiny tasks and not thinking of it like a project till the first draft is complete to avoid being overwhelmed by it. Ok cool. Sounds good in theory but I can't seem to stop thinking of my dissertation like a dissertation - how else would you write it as such? I think it's important to remember that it'll get done chapter-by-chapter or even sub-section-of-chapter by sub-section-of chapter. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. But I think seeing the broader picture is also helpful especially with working towards a consistent argument. I know it won't be perfect the first time round but I think remaining cognizant of that is inevitable and probably helpful.

2. "What do you call a graduate student who barely squeaks a lousy dissertation past her committee? Doctor!" Funny but puh-leez! I've heard the "a good dissertation is a done dissertation" bit but if taken literally it also makes me think that the end result would be something so lousy that even the minimal effort put into Ph.Ding was probably not even worth it. IMHO, you've got to have some passion to be here in the first place - why not dedicate oneself to the process as much as possible? Okay perhaps I'm being too harsh. I agree that a quest for perfection shouldn't get in the way of finishing because it can be debilitating but adages that seem to me to hint towards the other extreme seem just as useless. After all if I've given something so many years of my life and taken time out for it shouldn't I try to be produce something I know I'll be proud of and that will be respected?! On the other hand, the "good dissertation is done dissertation" bit can also be taken to mean "why don't you just concentrate on doing it?". If my advisor said this to me, I'm guessing it'd probably be an attempt to get me to focus on finishing rather than anything else - he probably has enough faith to know that I wouldn't submit something that wasn't substantive and worthy (of course all that keeping in mind my own capabilities). If that's what the whole "good dissertation = done dissertation" is taken to mean I'm all for it. I guess I ranted there for nothing ::sheepish smile::. Still, I see enough folks treating the whole Ph.Ding deal fairly cavalierly which is probably why I went off the deep-end for a bit. Why is it my problem what they do you ask? That's a whole other post for some other time :-).

Onwards to writing -only another 3-4 hours that I can afford to work today and I'm determined to exploit those to the fullest so that I'm closer to both a "done" and a "good" dissertation :-).


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