A Guide to Writing a Thesis

This post was written by PhebeAnn Wolframe, PhD. She began her PhD studies in September 2009 and defended her thesis, Reading Through Madness: Counter-Psychiatric Epistemologies and the Biopolitics of (In)sanity in Post-World War II Anglo Atlantic Women’s Narratives , in December of 2013. PhebeAnn also tweets @scriptedskin.

Lisa asked me to write a bit about my dissertation writing process. What makes me qualified to advise on the matter?

1) I completed a dissertation

2) I did it in a timely manner (I finished researching and writing it under 2 years)

3) I often found myself frustrated (as I think many PhD students do) trying to figure out how, specifically, one writes a dissertation beyond the “just do it!” advice that is so common.

Having found a pretty successful method via trial and error, I might as well share it with others, who may find it helpful! That said, there is no one way to write a dissertation and what worked for me won’t work for everyone. You will still go through a process of trial and error in figuring out what works for you.

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Show & Tell

Two things I wanna share with you.

First, a colleague of mine, Jocelyn Sakal Froese, tells about her first-tutorial tactics here, on her blog Surviving Till Sunday. This is a TA who won the CUPE 3906 TA award in 2012 (for which she was nominated by her students). This is a TA who is constantly giving me new ideas and insights into teaching & learning. She is a thoughtful, reflective, and intentional teacher. As she half-jokingly puts it in her “First Day Jitters, Redux” post, she “advocate[s] for DOING A THING” in tutorials, because she wants “dynamic” activity and learning in her classrooms.

Second, delightfully snarky Katherine Firth writes a blog called Research Degree Voodoo. She has embarked upon a project she dubs “Writing the Article Series,” in which she live blogs the writing of an academic article. The first post of the series can be found here, but my favourite post so far is the one in which she sums up her “progress” mid-way through the process with:

So this series so far seems to be: and then I made a plan, and then the plan didn’t happen, and then I made a plan and then I did less work than I planned.

Ha! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?! I love Katherine’s blog for this scathing honesty, and for her incredible ability to write a “scholarly” blog in a non-scholarly style. She writes just as you imagine she might speak; her voice is conversational, witty, and a downright relief amidst all the academic “mumbo-jumbo”–the term she uses to describe academic-speak in her “About” page.

Reading to Write: Part I

StrathernTech&Kinship0112Teaching adult learners to write well means first teaching them to read well. “Reading to Write” is the first of two posts on how I’ve attempted to get students reading well in order that they might identify what they need to do to write well.


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