05 August 2011

When things are hard

I blogged about throwing long the other day. In all the madness of my writing in July, I knew at the same time that whatever I produced could be quickly and easily rejected by my supervisors. My supervision yesterday confirmed some of these concerns and very quickly revealed problems in what I had done. Not big, unresolvable ones, but orientation and organisational ones. Basically, my second supervisor said it, 'It seems like you are working off of implicit research questions that you need to make explicit.' Yes, that's exactly the problem. The recursive nature of the PhD: you write your research questions, you do your analysis, you write up some findings, you write up your analysis, you come back to your literature review, you come back to your research questions. It all needs to be worked and reworked and reworked. Once I drill down, say explicitly what I am doing in my analysis, I can rearrange it to answer the questions explicitly.

The problem, I think, was that I thought I was further along than I was. I am still quite far along, I just have to go back and change my scope from a narrative about something big, to a narrow research question about something small, and demonstrate my ability as a researcher, not tell some huge story about YouTube drama. I was trying to cover 1 to 100 and I need to cover 1-10. Does that make sense?

But I felt a freedom in the way we formulated the research question. Really, I said, it can just be about the human garbage drama episode? I can use the dataset to justify what I am looking at? Of course. Of course, Stephen why hadn't you realised that like a year ago...

I want to complain about the process, about the way the conversation went, about inter-personal conflict, but I realised like a year ago that is a waste of time. I still do it. I almost cried yesterday--can I say that?--as I told Yoko about the meeting. Couldn't believe it, what the hell is wrong with me. I worked so hard, couldn't they see that? I said to Yoko, I want to ride my bike all the way back to Niigata.

The answer is, of course, it doesn't matter how hard you work. It doesn't matter if you have a new baby, if you pulled an all-nighter and you wrote until you were sick. All that matters is the words on the page. And to the extent that they aren't right, you need to go back and go back and go back.

Luckily, after 18 hours of simmering, of giving the girls a bath and doing some of my own marking, I can back to the thesis this morning and started cutting and pasting. Changing the wording here, the wording there. Yes, there is something implicit here: my conclusions at this point are tacked on, trying to go beyond what I have. I can just say what I have. That's enough. I'm demonstrating that I can review the literature, find a gap, theorise, collect data, prepare it for analysis, describe it, analyse it, and show my findings. That's it. Let's just do that well, okay?

Okay. Back to work.