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Getting There

Have you ever encountered the phenomenon, that things that ought to be easy take much longer and you struggle with, whilst the things deemed difficult and challenging are pretty straight forward and easy?

I rewrote my introduction this morning, this was my 3 rd attempt. The second attempt I had sent to my supervisors and it came back from supervisor A with loads of critique points and comments. I ended up completely rewriting the thing.

The problem is that I read about 5 different How to write a Dissertation books, and double checked about 6 different dissertations on how they approached the Introduction. As for the five books on How to write a Dissertation: each one of them gave a very different structure of an Introduction. MAJOR CONFUSION

As for the other dissertations: I was recommended to look at other dissertations, if I am unsure about the structure or approach to a chapter. The problem was that for the introduction chapter there seemed to be a no rules apply approach  – or I should say everyone makes the rules up as they go along. Some Introductions I scanned through forced the reader to read a whole autobiography before actually revealing what the dissertation was about. Others featured the Research Questions – which I was reprimanded for.

And forget about getting an idea about the extent of an Introduction. The page numbers ranged from 5 to 20, for the latter – my supervisors would probably slab me – 20 pages Introduction?! Seriously? So I am having 5 now – initially I had 4 and was really happy with, but a colleague told me that this is too little. So I extended to 10 pages – and to be honest I just babbled on because all I had to say I had said. Subsequently, no hard feelings at all, when my supervisor’s comments came back.

But one question emerged from that mess. Why is it so difficult to write such a straight forward chapter? Seriously?!

I had the same issue with the Methodology chapter, which is also a very easy chapter. What do you want to know? How do you go about it? Why? What else could you have done but didn’t? Why not? Explain methods, explain pilot – what changed? Discuss Ethics. – easy schmeasy. But I wind myself and struggle and probably overthink the whole issue.

For instance I am having a complete mental block when it comes to writing what other approaches (other than Ethnography) I could have used for my research. Now non of the other approaches I could think of, or read up on, do fit. They would not have helped me answering my research questions but would have shifted the focus of the research, therefore there are no other approaches I could have used. HOWEVER! My supervisors keep insisting that I discuss other approaches I could have used and why I did not use them – this does not make any sense at all and I do not know how to approach this. I gave several pages of organigram/history of research approaches logically (very logically inside my head at least) deducing why I chose my approach. Yet, the critique remains – You do still not talk about other approaches you could have taken. … I am giving up, I seriously do not understand what my supervisor is asking for.

So I listed a couple of methods I really could have used but did not, due to time restrictions or ethical concerns for instance. I am very confused.

Similar issues I encountered with the Introduction chapter – to get back to the initial topic. I got reprimanded for having my research questions in the introduction (as I had seen in another dissertation and found it a good idea) but then the other supervisor told me my Main Findings and Limitations of the Study should be in the Introduction, but this only makes sense (at least in my head) if there are also the Research Questions.

So there we go – two of the easiest chapters in a dissertation and I am absolutely stuck!

But don’t worry I digressed and wrote the Abstract and Acknowledgments today, too, and put all the chapters in one document.

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Nathalie Sheridan

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