All entries for Sunday 11 February 2018
February 11, 2018
All research projects consist of a series of major and mini milestones. Major milestones represent the formal completion of academic tasks such as successfully demonstrating progress per year, the completion of the Upgrade paper, the completion and passing of the first year research training assignments, and the completion of the thesis. Mini milestones are smaller, but nevertheless equally significant achievements that are personal to you and what you have set yourself to accomplish.
Most recently I have accomplished my first mini milestone of the thesis writing process: the completion of the first draft of the first section of the first literature review chapter! I am going to call each completed draft section a milestone; each time a section is drafted it’s going to be a milestone because each iteration shall demonstrate continuous progression of understanding, knowledge, awareness and comprehension of the subject matter, and further development of arguments and discussions. Each draft iteration, therefore, shall experience transitions, developments, progress and transformations in various ways. These mini milestones that you set yourself are important, because they are your means of observing and measuring progress and development as a writer, thinker, academic and researcher.
The word “completion” should not be taken in its literal sense, however, because any section that you complete for your thesis at any time in draft form will change. Completion in this sense therefore means that enough has been written so that you can progress onto writing the next section. Remember to relate each section in some way as you write them, as each section should build upon the previous section’s ideas, discussions, debates and arguments. Even in the early drafting stage you should be able to find connections and opportunities to build upon across each section.
The key idea of the first section drafts is to document your ideas and points of debates and discussions as quickly but as detailed as you can based on what you know at the time. Sometimes you might have to use some creativity and imagination when you are thinking about links between different ideas within the paragraphs (remembering to note that you have to explore these ideas further and reference accordingly) and that’s fine. Don’t discard anything out of your mind, just get things down on paper or on the computer.
Forming some sort of logical order and structure to your thoughts during the first draft is not too important. If you can form some logical order and structure as you progress (as I write I can visualise connections between ideas so I try to sort the order and structure out there and then relative to what I currently know, but that’s just a personal preference) that’s fine, but don’t be too worried about that at this time. What is important here is to get your points of debates, discussions, critiques and analysis down, and these shall guide you as you search to develop them further with each draft.
This is not to say, however, that no new points of debates, discussions, critiques and analysis shall emerge from further readings and thinking because they will emerge. As I was reading material for the second section of the chapter, I actually discovered ways that I might be able to develop existing arguments, etc. further and identified new potential points of discussions for the first section. These have been noted and I will come back to them as I write the second draft of the first section. In the meantime my attention is fixed on the next section of the chapter.
Additionally, not only do those arguments, critiques, etc. act as a guide for further reading, but can also inspire and encourage further insights and observations that you had not taken notice of before within the literature. Be creative and imaginative here and think carefully about everything that you read, and carefully relate to your previous discussions. But remember to always, therefore, ground your creative thoughts and imaginative ideas in existing, published debates and discussions or have very sound and logical reasons why your ideas logically build upon existing ideas.
Remember that the key idea of drafting is to continuously strengthen your arguments, debates, discussions, and analysis through engaging with existing literature, and to, as mentioned, think carefully about the literature and the formation and grounding of your further thoughts. As you write each section remember the key rule of building them up on what has been previously discussed. Each idea builds on a previous idea; each paragraph builds upon a previous paragraph in some way, and each section contributes to the overall picture or objective of a chapter.
A milestone is a milestone. Each of them in some way recognises a development in your work and your journey as a researcher and writer. Acknowledge them, reflect upon them, learn, and continue to progress!