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Dissertation Question

For those of you who have written one, or are writing one: Do (did) you ever feel that you could work on your dissertation for hours every day, for an entire academic year, and only get one chapter done (if that)? Just wondering.

A nod to Jenny's sagacity

It helped about a year ago, and it helps now:

I've been totally useless today. I just can't seem to get anything done. But I am looking at maybe finishing a draft of my second chapter by Monday. That's the good news. Of course, we'll see what the comments are like. No matter. I just keep writing. It might not be great--might not even be pretty good. Nevertheless, it is fifty pages of words with quotations and paragraphs and subheadings. If that ain't a chapter, then I don't know what is.

Method, artifacts, and other dissertation-related notes

It's been too long since I've done a dissertation post (one week and five days, according to the list of categories on my sidebar), and I'd like to remedy that. So, first, a progress report: Several days ago, I sent out interview questions. The questions were, as you might recall, intended to help contextualize the "where are the women" discussions. Response so far has been better than I expected; I was afraid that no one would be around given that it's summer. At least two people that I know of intend to post about my project (as in, post my questions and their responses). I expected that going into it, and I assumed that some people would post their responses without talking to me first, so I'm telling those who do check with me that it's fine. And it really is fine, to be sure. Of course I do worry a little bit that people with very high Google page ranks will rip my research to shreds and their posts will be right there at the top when folks Google me, but it's a necessary risk. It'll be interesting to see how such a public research process will go.

I've been thinking a lot about process lately. Right now my committee members want me to include, along with my chapters, at least three appendices: a weblog primer, one on my project's implications for composition pedagogy (they're not requiring this one, but they said the pedagogical implications could go in an appendix should I choose to write about them), and one that's a kind of reflexive essay about my doing this project as both a woman and a blogger.

It's that last one I keep getting hung up on. I think I have a chapter's worth of stuff to say about that topic. I hope that will be okay with my committee; my guess is it will. I envision it as a chapter that addresses several issues related to method:

  1. A review and critique of methods used in previous qualitative internet research (not all of it, mind you, just the work on gender and computer-mediated communication in which I'm situating my research)
  2. An explanation of new methodological challenges presented by studying blogging (e.g. expectations of privacy) and common methods scholars have used to study them so far
  3. A definition and justification of my methodological choices (this would include defining a "feminist rhetorical approach" and what I mean when I say "rhetorical criticism" (Cf. Warnick*) and explanation of my purpose in doing interviews
  4. An autoethnographic narrative about my experience with blogging (as it pertains to this project -- e.g. why I blog, what it's been like doing my research in public, etc. -- it would also entail writing a blurb about autoethnography)
  5. A reflexive examination of my roles as feminist woman, blogger, and researcher studying gender and blogging (this would include issues of situatedness, degree of advocacy, and research ethics).

Feedback is, as always, appreciated. Now for something fun, which will definitely be an appendix in my dissertation: all the little artifacts I'm collecting, like the representations I wrote about recently. Here are some more quiz images, which I haven't had time to write about yet but hope to soon:

Many more below the fold:

Dissertation Theme Song(s)

The Mountain Goats, "This Year." As if it could be any other song.

Okay, okay, it could also be MC Hammer's "Turn This Mutha Out."

Culling. How I love it.

Today I did something I'd been meaning to do for a while now: start the culling process for my dissertation. I knew when I first started the program here that I wanted my dissertation to be a feminist rhetorical analysis of blogging, so I wrote most of my seminar papers as well as a couple of my essays for my prelims with the intention that they'd be part of my dissertation.

As you might remember, I've been stressing about finishing on time, being ready to go on the market, and all that, but as of today I'm much less stressed. Just as an exercise, I pasted all the seminar papers and other essays I've written in preparation for my dissertation into one document, and it ended up being one hundred and eighty-five pages double-spaced. Of course not all that is usable, probably not even most of it, and I certainly have an enormous amount of research and writing still to do, but I do intend to use as much of the work I've already done as possible; after all, that the material would be in my dissertation was the whole point of my writing those papers. It just calms me down a lot to know that I'm not starting from nothing.

Edited to add: I forgot to mention that my next dissertation exercise is a document with two headings: "What my dissertation is..." and "What my dissertation is not...[.]" I plan to write about half a page or so under each heading. I hope it will help me clarify and crystallize the scope of my project to myself and to others. What I'm hearing from everyone I know who has finished a dissertation or who is almost finished with one is that I should keep the project small and not try to do too much.

Appendix ?: A Weblog Primer

It seems my dissertation has as many appendices as it has chapters. Well, not really, but my committee wants me to do three of them, one of which is a primer on weblogs. It was my idea to do a primer, as most people on my committee are just starting to learn the technology, and probably won't ever be heavy users of it; the idea is just to communicate the meanings and significance of certain aspects of the technology, especially the implications for writer-audience interaction. Derek's CCCC presentation might be useful here. I didn't know where I should put the primer, though, and my committee suggested that I include it as an appendix. Here's a list of terms I know I need to include; can you think of any others?

  • History of weblogs (can be moved to the intro later)
  • Weblog (for which I'd draw upon Jill Walker's canonical definition and Dave Winer's definition as well).
  • Significance of tools (I'd discuss how some tend to think of LiveJournal and Xanga sites as something other than weblogs, and my own opinion of that distinction, which is still in formation.)
  • Network literacy
  • Networked rhetoric(s)
  • Blogger stereotypes (Self-indulgent egomaniacs, plagiarists, etc. I have a great collection of a week's worth of Doonesbury cartoons that ran in Fall 2002 that illustrate these really well.)
  • Comment (what makes it different from a post, also comment spam)
  • Trackback
  • Referrers (If you link them, they will come.)
  • Sitemeter
  • Technorati (as a tool to find out who's linking to you)
  • Ranking tools (Technorati, Truth Laid Bear, etc.)
  • RSS
  • Blogroll
  • Timestamp
  • Permalink
  • Categories and searchability (indexing)
  • Content management system

By the way, the other appendices they want me to do include one on the implications of my research for composition pedagogy and one that's a reflexive essay on my methods and my location as a woman, a blogger, and a blog researcher. I already have a good bit to say on that one. Then there's also the miscellany; hopefully I can work some of the interesting things I find into the bodies of the chapters, to tell more of a story, but I want the miscellany to be in there somewhere, even if it's in an appendix.

Dissertation Fellowship Proposal

What follows is my fellowship application. I know a lot of you have been wanting me to post my prospectus here, and this is a short, readable version. I'm still working out the chapter outlines...and, well, plenty of other questions and puzzles about my dissertation, too.



In the last three years, blogging has gained recognition as a phenomenon in online communication, offering ordinary citizens a platform to publish their ideas and a space for deliberative political discourse. However, the majority of the most influential and widely-read political bloggers are men, and issues of concern to women are often not given equal attention, a disparity that has been discussed in the “Where are the women?” debates. I argue that these debates reveal disruptions of assumptions surrounding political discourse. Identifying these points can enrich our understanding of gendered rhetorical practices and the way they are constituted on weblogs.

Deadlines! Formatting! And other dissertation-related minutiae

Lately I've been freaking out about time. Am I going to be able to finish this thing? Will I have enough done to apply for jobs this fall? (A professor last fall told me to allow at least a month for writing job letters, assembling a dossier, and other attendant job-search tasks.) A couple of people I talk to daily are readying their defense copies, and they're finding the editing and formatting to their Graduate Schools' specifications far more time-consuming than they thought. I've already been advised by both parties to find out about and adhere to the formatting requirements and write even early drafts of chapters in compliance with them.

Okay, will do. I'm also researching all required forms and deadlines leading up to graduation. So let's say I want to defend on Tuesday, 2 May 2006. That means I have to submit my Final Oral Exam Scheduling Form and my Reviewers' Report Form by 25 April 2006. The Reviewers' Report Form is something all committee members have to sign; they rate the thesis "Acceptable for Defense," "Acceptable for Defense with Minor Revisions," or "Not Acceptable for Defense," and the candidate isn't allowed to defend if one or more readers check "Not Acceptable for Defense." Then the Graduate School specifies that the readers must be given at least two weeks to read the thesis.

That means I have to be, in effect, finished by 4 April 2006! And the anxiety rises again.

As an aside, I noticed a funny thing on the graduation checklist. One of the requirements is "The microfilm fee of $75 (check or money order only, payable to the University of Minnesota). If you wish to copyright the thesis, there is an additional fee of $45 (use one combined check for $120)." I wonder how many people don't know you don't have to register with the Copyright Office to have copyright? I bet there are a few. I remember when I chose to submit my master's thesis electronically. The electronic theses and dissertations are stored in a publicly-available collection, and several people advised me against submitting electronically because of this, suggesting that the copyright implications were dubious in some way. Some of these people might have wondered if the university would try to say they had copyright, but I'm pretty sure the old assumption that everything on the internet is public domain was in play too. My point is, a lot of people don't understand that as soon as you put content into a fixed medium (save a file, for example), it's copyright You for the rest of your life plus 70 years, unless you explicitly sign it over to some other party, or you do it as work for hire (hence a lot of confusion about professors' creating teaching materials for online courses. Is it work for hire? Or does it belong to the author?).

Anyway, part of me thinks it would be fun to pay the $30 (I guess UMN tacks the extra $15 on as...what: a finder's fee? Labor?), but try to get my dissertation licensed with the U.S. Copyright Office under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. Has anyone you know tried to do it before?

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