Reflections On My First Dissertation Proposal Draft

Finally. I finished and sent in the first draft of my dissertation proposal. It was a lot of work, but I’m glad I’ve jumped that hurdle and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

Honestly, this is a hurdle I could hardly see myself jumping. It’s been so long since I passed my comps that it felt like I would be perpetually thinking about my dissertation and never actually writing it. But I did it. And I have a few reflections I’d like to talk about.

Reflections on a Proposal Draft

  • Literature reviews are tedious. You read a bunch of articles and books, and analyze them as they relate to your research. It’s not all that difficult, per se. But it’s a lot of work, and not always fun (though, tbh, if you’re as big a nerd as I am, they ARE sometimes fun). The articles you read can be extremely long and arduous to get through, and you likely read the whole thing to discuss it for at most a few sentences in your final review. A tad longer in some cases, but not much. Maybe that doesn’t sound too terrible, but my literature review is 30 pages long just at the proposal stage. The bulk of my writing time has been spent on that section.
  • Literature reviews are also fun. If you like your subject matter, that is. I’m writing, in part, about fat acceptance, which means I got to read so many things about the topic, and learn so much. It was an excuse to finally read some of the books I’ve been meaning to, so I could cite them, and to discover new voices. It also helps in internet arguments.
  • Working from home just doesn’t work for me. I wasted so many days when I should have been working because I just can’t focus at home. I finally decided that coworking was the way to go, and signed up for Croissant (affiliate link). It’s a service where you can work at any of several different places around the city. Since I don’t need a dedicated desk anywhere, it’s a great way to access these spaces at a lower cost.
  • You’ve got to push yourself to work. There’s no set schedule for getting this done, and my program doesn’t have a time limit. It would be very easy to keep putting things off. I have had to learn some self-motivation skills on the fly.
  • You can’t wait around for someone to hold your hand. I’ve had issues all summer getting a response from my main advisor. I could easily have sat still and waited until I heard back on every step and question, but then I’d be nowhere near where I am now. So I pushed forward, figured things out for myself, and kept writing. I can always edit things later if I need to make changes.
  • I need deadlines. And given the above two points, I had to set them for myself. Even if I was a little late on them (to the chagrin of my Lisa Simpson/Amy Santiago self), I had a goal. Generally I wasn’t more than a few days behind, though.

I know there’s a lot more work to do, and this is just the proposal, but it this is a huge step. I can’t wait to get more done.

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