I’ve had this blog for about 4 months now and as of a few days ago hadn’t actually written anything for my dissertation. However, I can actually say that I have made progress on this front. This past week, I wrote ONE draft of ONE chapter–the literature review. A full 22 pages of both “old” work (from my proposal) and “new” work (readings that I wanted to add based on the new stuff I have read this month). A literature review, for those lucky enough to never have written one, is essentially where you outline the research that’s already been done on your topic (or parts of your topic) so that you can place your study somewhere in the mix. This means you need to read. A LOT. I have been essentially reading about my topic since February, so knowing what to read isn’t the issue. For me, it’s organizing what I’ve read in order to make a coherent analysis of what I’ve read. This needs to be more than “This person said…and then this person said…” I need to work on how to integrate everything I’ve read around the argument that my study belongs with all of these other great studies.

I feel pretty good about what I’ve written so far, but there’s always more to read, and therein lies the problem. It is possible to not know when to stop reading and start writing. This is the first year I have actually visited the MSU library to check out books, and there are just so many good ones up on the 4th floor East Wing that I keep finding. I also like their organizational system:

It makes me feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland for some reason to follow the lines on the floor to my destination and then at the end… books! (I am partial to the black line, which always leads me to the section where they hold all of the super old books about social studies instruction from the 1950s and 60s. I checked out a book the other day where the first “due date” stamp was from 1972!) You can also “recall” books. This is where you can request books that are checked out by other people and they have to return them so you can check them out. I always feel kind of bitchy doing that, but oh well– books!!

My goal though is to finish reading whatever library books I currently have in my possession, add their insights to my literature review draft, and then send it on to my advisor. Because no matter how much I write for a first draft, I am already preparing myself for many many many rewrites. I was talking to a first year doctoral student the other day who told me she hated rewriting–she just wanted to write something and be done with it. I wanted to just give her a hug and tell her the life of writing something and leaving it alone is long gone. If I handed in a first draft of my dissertation and called it good, then I could probably write the thing in a couple of weeks.

My life isn’t all small steps. October is Data Collection Month– I have begun to teach 5th grade social studies and collect data! This is a big step that is news for another blog post I’m sure. I am also submitting two job applications this week, which is a HUGE step. Wish me luck on all my steps, big and small.