In November I'm working on the second chapter of my thesis. I've got a decent draft of the introduction (basically, the paper I wrote for the AAWP conference last November), and a 3/4 finished draft of my first chapter (I need to add in some Icelandic Flash analysis, for which I picked up some anthologies while I was in Iceland in August and September). So, now I'm onto the second chapter.
Before I left the country in August I was working on an outline for chapter two. I was struggling a bit with it, and so it was good to set it aside for a while. When I got back I spent about six weeks writing a whole bunch of flashes. As you all know, the creative writing well had pretty much run dry by the end of last month and I was excited about getting stuck into chapter two again. This is how it is with a PhD, you work intensely on one part until you, quite literally, feel ill at the sight of it on your computer screen. Then you move onto something else. For conventional theses, there are several parts to the document, including a literature review, a chapter on methodology, and then the introduction, chapter, results, and conclusion. For mine, being a creative article plus an exegesis, there really are only two parts. The creative article (in my case a single author anthology of flash), and an exegesis (which basically sets out my contention for the creative work and arguments supporting that contention).
I'm more or less working my way through the exegesis chronologically. So, I'm doing the introduction and the chapters in turn, and then the conclusion. However, I'm writing the creative work along the way. A lot of candidates doing my kind of PhD write or create (in the case of visual and auditory art) the article first, and then write the exegesis afterwards. What those candidates risk is the creative article not being informed by the research that went into the exegesis.
For example, had I written my creative article all up front, it would probably have consisted only of family based stories, but as I've kept researching, I've found that other kinds of stories will also bring variety, as well as, illuminate some of the arguments I have about ambiguity (through fragmentation), and modern Icelandic flash being an extension of old Icelandic saga writing, and also of identity, which is also fragmented (see how that all jigsaws together? Neat, hey?).
So, back to the thesis writing.
It can get a bit messy. For example, as I said, I have the introduction in fine draft form, but I don't have all of chapter one, I'm still working on the outline and the arguments for chapter two, and of course, chapter three and the conclusion are not even outlined yet, though I have written a preliminary outline for chapter three. I also have to remember things like finding appropriate Icelandic flash to fit my arguments, and keeping track of the reference lists for each segment of the exegesis. And I have to make sure I've written enough flashes to cover the segments of the creative article I want to do.
So, how to keep this all straight in my head?
Well, being a visual person, I was rather attracted by the system set up by the candidate mentioned in this blog post over at Patter: Buffering your thesis.
I'm going to go to Officeworks today and get some index cards and set this up tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about it - it requires some rearranging of furniture in the office though... I'll update again once it's set up and show you all.
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