Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Completing the second draft

I arranged a meeting on 31 July to discuss the first draft of my thesis with my supervisor and the director of the centre where I’m based. True to form they offered some very helpful comments, especially in relation to the ordering of material and strengthening of argument. As a result I have essentially re-written the first two chapters; added a closing chapter; juggled some sections around; transferred some items to the appendices; and jettisoned a fair bit of material as well.

Although this involved a substantial amount of work, it was relatively straightforward given that I had a clear understanding of what I needed to do. The ‘collage’ is a useful metaphor for conveying the idea of sorting and assembling the thesis material in order to maximise its potential impact. As mentioned in previous postings, one of my greatest ‘problems’ has been an embarrassment of research riches. This has been mainly in relation to the amount of qualitative and quantitative data generated and the number of theories employed to inform the analysis and interpretation. Hence the importance of removing anything that distracted from my argument, no matter how intriguing that material might be.

There has also been a degree of tension for me around the implementation of the research process and the construction of the thesis. As a narrative researcher there is a compulsion to record what I did and how I did it, with a view to allowing the reader to identify critical incidents, influences, positionality and so on. As the author of a thesis, however, there is a need to guide the reader through an argument—rather than a research process. I have found the metaphor of ‘choreography’ very helpful in that regard. In their book Helping Doctoral Students Write, Kamler and Thomspon (2006) have a chapter on ‘choreographing the dissertation’. One of their key points is that “choreography conveys more than a set of moves strung together”, it also is about the way in which “the moves can be put together” (p.91).

At the risk of metaphorical mixing, my artistic piece has now been configured in its penultimate form. It is now in the hands of my supervisory panel and the Chief Investigators of the ARC project within which my research is embedded. It will be fascinating indeed to receive responses from six academic researchers who have been observing with my progress during the past three years or so. The response of the CIs will be particularly interesting given that I have moved beyond the doctoral experience as a primary construct. Given that my thesis begins by problematising ‘doctoral experience’, this may prove to be challenging for some of them. In the meantime, however, I need to attend some administrative matters, not the least of which is lodging my intention to submit.