This post is a continuation of the discussion on dissertation writing. In this post I will go over the tools and resources that I used to get started. Let’s open with pre-writing, which I deem to be getting the thoughts, ideas, and concepts on paper. There are a few methods; some better than others, left to one’s personal preference.
Freewriting is just what it says; just write whatever comes out of your head on the topic sort of like a “mind dump”. No need to worry about structure, punctuation, grammar, etc. Let the energy flow from your head to the paper and do this for about five to 10 minutes. Look at what has been written in terms of themes, patterns, and logic if any.
Brainstorming, which is very similar to freewriting,, still jotting down all the ideas as they come to you based on the topic but they are usually put in a list form, whereas freewriting is done basically in a paragraph form. The main goal of both is to get the ideas out and onto paper.
There is one more style that I looked into since I like to do things on the computer more or less is mind mapping. Since I like to stay organized in most of the things that I do, and I am a visual person, I found that mind mapping allowed me to do that with my ideas. Mind mapping to me is an artistic way of getting ideas in a graphic form. Mind mapping uses pictures, color, lines, etc. to organize the concepts and thoughts as one sees it in their head. It can be done freehand or software can be used.
Once this has taken place, thoughts sorted out, then one can begin to start the writing process. Make sure to take your time to use what was gathered, follow the patterns and put it together like a puzzle. There are a few books that I used as well, “The Literature Review” by Lawrence Machi & Brenda McEvoy, “The Courage To Write” by Ralph Keyes, “On Writing Well by William Zinsser, and “Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day” by Joan Bolker. Each of these books viewed dissertation writing from different angles and perspectives. These books were used as tools and references to assist with the mystique of writing especially if you are not familiar with particular terms, concepts, styles, and structures.
Now that you have these sources of information it’s time to start implementing them to the gathered information. I gathered and sorted my articles according to the themes that I wanted to write about. Now some may want to use End Notes, Zotero, RefWorks, etc. to create a running bibliography but I started out the old fashion way, printing articles. I then took those articles and put them in file folders, via labeled Pedaflex, subject matter order, and in crates (I know, terrible but it worked). If, I had to do it over again I would have kept everything on my laptop/iPad in folders, DropBox, Evernote, keeping it mobile and accessible at all times, but I did finish up this way.
Organization is a critical key to writing for you will want easy access to your materials for notes, references, and overall general information. If you start out organized it will make things easier as things become more time constrained and pressure driven. The last installment of dissertation writing will discuss how I put my articles and chapters together to form the actual dissertation. There is a pot of gold at the end of the writing rainbow so be ready to get on the roller coaster to get there. Until next time!!