I am currently writing the conclusion parts of my chapters. Some thesis does not necessarily need an elaborate chapter conclusion, but as my chapters consist of two main case studies I’d need to do one. I thought I’d note what are the important things that need to be concerned in the process of writing such part in my thesis below.
- Remind the reader about the main objective/intention of the chapter and also why it is important. For example, my current chapter is about reading the spatial connection that unfolds between home and the city from its maintenance process. Without this understanding of availability/unavailability of connection, often matter between spaces unable to move through and then displaced.
- Outline important findings in the chapter in relation to point 1. Findings must be emphasised based on the structural logic of the chapter. For example, the chapter starts by reviewing gap of territories in maintaining the river and its banks and the wider fabric of the city as a lived space. The chapter then proceeds by mapping how informal dwellers engaged within this gap through their maintenance process.
- Add a bridge linking to the next chapter. My next chapter is different case study that similarly discuss spatial connection through maintenance process, but in a different mode of spatial production. Highlight the difference in here, but also the significance why they also need to be seen as a whole. For instance, the first case study occur in a ‘permanent and done throughout the day’ mode of spatial production, while the second case study is more ‘temporary and cyclical’. This influence the spatial connection configuration produced that enrich the overall knowledge. I also need to emphasise that it is not about waste itself, but instead the process of how environment is contaminated and decreased its quality/ become unsightly (ensure that objective and methods are important instead of the research setting/data).
- Create limitations of such part of this research (but also its significance as a selling point). Limitations of my study might be on its methodology in researching cleaning process and waste disposal, as there is possibility that one’s might lie when they were being asked. I should have record them one by one, but time and space constraints hindered me to do so. Perhaps other methodology can concentrate on just limited number of people, or should have focused only on traces and not narrative? (still not sure here).
- In relation to point 4, highlight things that are important and can potentially become future research to conclude in the overall thesis conclusion chapter. The above paragraphs has note different modes of methodology. Other point can be different type of data itself (not waste disposal, but perhaps electricity etc). This is important as the next case study rely on different type of data, although share the same methods of research with tweaked steps of analysis.
- Most important thing, persevere and ensure it is finished. Don’t decrease the speed because you think that it is going to end soon!
My almost ten-month-old baby has been sick for almost three days. He got flu and sore throat from his big sister, and as a result, is down with fever, reluctant to eat, and basically just want his mommy. I couldn’t go to work in the office because he only wants to nurse, so therefore I have to stay at home.
In the same time, I am currently trying to finish a major chapter, like my main fieldwork. I want to complete it in a week. Yesterday, it was absolutely unproductive, and it is really demoralising when you have an unproductive day. So I tried to track my time as attached below to make sure I am doing something and not gone to the ‘why bother’ mode.
Although not much, turns out it I am actually producing something. From 11 to 16.15, I spent more than 2 hours working or half of the time tracked. And I finished drawing two of four drawings needed. Another hour is spent for picking my twin girls from school and shopping for groceries. The other hour is used mainly to prep lunch (even doing things such as scrubbing bin cap–the perks of working from home) of which takes longer than lunch itself (only 10 minutes). There are five minutes breaks here and there to snuggle with the baby (but what can I do about it?) Now as the baby is eating his (slightly burnt–just kidding) baked potato I might go back to work 🙂
In the last few months I often face paralysing moments that left me stuck in my writing process, and often prolonged my writing/drawing process in assembling the PhD draft. To untangle these moments, I found that there is one particular tip than can be addressed to reshape my focus.
My mentor in my home university made an analogy of focusing on any working process as approaching rows of columns. You just need to reach the column nearest to you. You know that there are plenty columns left that you need to get onto, but for now just think of your one particular column, and get there. Then when you arrived on that column, you get to think of the next column. As simple as that.
This analogy is reflected in many other references across movies and literatures. One of the dialogues at the end of The Martian film narrate Matt Damon welcoming his students, saying that in the time of crisis, they need to just focus on solving one problem at a time. Then if they managed to solve enough problems, they might get to get home—refering to his complicated journay back to the Earth.
Regarding such strategy of focus, Peter Drucker quoted the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It tells a story of the summer when her brother was doing a report on bird which he actually had three months to write, but somehow had neglected to and now due the next day. Anne’s father wrapped his hands around the poor boy that was paralysed by the massive task, and said calmly,’Bird by bird. Just take it bird by bird.’
PhD is not a sprint, whatever phases you are at. It is a long and painstaking process. Lengthwise, it is in minimum five times other documents that you submitted during undergraduate and masters. So let’s just reach the next column and track your way from there. Making sure you reach one column at one time is better than thinking of five but reaches nothing.
I am just starting to edit my new chapter, which is one of my analysis chapters. It is projected to be 15,000 words, I have 10,000 to edit (I am now 2,000 words in) and have to write another 5,000 words.
When you are in process of doing the middle to end part of chapter, your motivation is at its peak position. You already know what you are doing, all of the data has been laid out, and that you just have to roll with it. While on the other hand, new chapter is weighed with distractions (yes, including this post), uncertainty, and fear of the daunting new task.
So how to keep your motivation steady? I compile some of the tips that work best for me when starting new chapter and move forward.
- Start from the thesis’s outline structure, and map out how long it would take in your calendar. You could also move from the back and decide when you should finish and take it from there.
- Write down each section’s synopsis. The synopsis should have (a) link from previous chapter (b) main interest of the heading and (c) structure of the text in each section.
- If you have to write new text, outline the arguments first. Don’t attempt to write anything from scratch. It’s just not gonna happen.
- If you have drawing/picture/images inside the text, for me I preferred to do/insert it latter. It is helpful to crank out all the text and then find out what kinds of drawing work more efficiently.
- If you have to edit, remember that editing takes ages. Don’t beat yourself up!
Tracking your progress is important, and even more so in your PhD writing.
I am currently editing my second chapter about literature review, which was 24 pages when I started and roughly 10,000 words. Initially I thought that I would spend 1-2 days editing it based on supervisor comments and other progression of writing (moving parts from other chapter, etc).
However, turns out I have been doing it for over 4 days. It makes me feels depressed as I didn’t meet my expectation (over and over again). So I time tracked my writing to understand why it takes ages. Using a simple spreadsheet (see below), I track my writing time and pages that I am currently editing. I tried to put a timer as well so I would feel much motivated.
Turns out for each page to be edited I spend around ONE HOUR.
(some of it takes half an hour, but then often I spend longer on other pages due to missing or incorrect quotes and other major changes).
While this number makes me slightly even more depressed, at least it gave a more accurate calculation for my future target. It is true that everything takes (way) longer than we think.