Sunday, December 29, 2013

Writing Chapter 4

Writing Chapter 4 is usually one of the most grueling and tiresome points of the dissertation process, but for once timing was on my side as I am enjoying the opportunity to write my first draft of Chapter 4 in warm and sunny Florida.  I have been looking forward to this opportunity for over a month when I began to feel prepared to write the chapter.

Since Thanksgiving weekend, I have not had the opportunity to write Chapter 4 because I was either busy preparing or enjoying holiday events, visits to or from family and friends, or writing member checks for my participants.  During my downtime in December, however, I was plotting and outlining Chapter 4 in my mind.  I never got the chance to sit down and write any of it until last week.

My family and I have only been in Florida for 6 days and yet I have already written 55 pages of Chapter 4.  Two of these 6 days don't count because one was the day of arrival and the other was Christmas day, so I really wrote 55 pages in 4 days.  Today marks the point in which I completed writing the major components of my grounded theory, so I am quite satisfied now.

Looking over those rough 55 pages, there is plenty of room to flesh out my weaker arguments and transitions.  I also have a lot of ideas of how to reorganize the content of those pages.  I believe in my second edit of these pages, I would probably remove as much as or a little less than I would add.

My goal is to hit 100 pages before we leave Florida, and I'm making good progress on that.  With the bulk of my argument already covered, I am worried less about quantity and worried more about the quality.  With the 55 pages covering the biggest cross-case patterns, I anticipate the next 10-15 pages will cover the significant single-case findings that directly answer my research questions.  So I plan on spending Monday and maybe Tuesday (the remainder of 2013) writing that section.

After writing the significant single-case findings, I plan to tie my grounded theory with at least two established models, one in the field of acculturation psychology and the other in the field of English language education.  I'm trying to imagine a graphic organizer to represent how I plan to combine my grounded theory with these two models.  For now, this imagined graphic organizer is too complicated and messy, although the main ideas seem clear.  I need to create a graphic organizer that is clear, if not clearer than, the main ideas.  I believe that writing out these combined theories and models (and representing the data graphically) will take me (close) to the target of 100 pages. 

Once I have written the end of Chapter 4, then I will need to rewrite the introduction of Chapter 4 to better mirror the ending.  I believe that this will definitely take me to 100 pages if I haven't already reached that.

Why is 100 pages my target?  The model dissertation that I am following has a 95-page dissertation, and that dissertation is considered one of the longer dissertations in the recent history of my department.  I believe in the philosophy of writing more pages for the first draft than than the anticipated final draft because it is easier to remove than to add.  I had this same philosophy for writing Chapter 2, where I had 50 pages for the target for my first draft, then my co-chairs requested another section to be added, so I added 72 more pages for the second draft.  And in the final draft I ended cutting out whole chunks of sections to reduce the page limit to 47.  I hope that this pattern is not repeated for Chapter 4.

I am trying very hard to limit my writing so far in Chapter 4.  It is difficult to constrain myself when making a point because I want to provide evidence, and it's difficult for me to judge whether I'm providing my readers with too much or too little evidence.  I have purposely played with doing both at times to see where my co-chairs' preferences are.  At this point, I have no idea if my impression of too much or too little evidence is the same as theirs.  Reflecting upon the writing process so far, I feel as though I have practiced restraint for the most part.  In some instances the restraint feels effective in others it feels like I might be giving off the impression that I don't have enough evidence when I do.  That's one practical reason for chairs and dissertation committees, although I don't know how similar my dissertation committee is to a peer review panel of a research journal.

Anyway, the feeling today is satisfaction.  I am glad I'm producing a substantial amount of pages and getting my ideas out on "paper."  My organization is comprehensible but rough and I believe a second edit will provide a more coherent and cohesive presentation of my grounded theory.

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