Monthly Archives: June 2007

Contemplations on a Dissertation Pt 2: Throw it Away?

Speaking at a CCT conference session designed to provide advice on how to turn dissertations into publications Markus Geisler strode to the front of the room brandishing a copy of his dissertation before summarily dumping it into the trash. The first step, he said, is to “throw the dissertation away”. He recommended starting fresh with a few of the most important concepts from the dissertation, but not to be tied to the actual text.

I liked the idea so much that I decided to apply it. I wasn’t deterred by the fact that my dissertation wasn’t yet completed.

And, truth be told, I didn’t really throw anything away. However, in the time honored tradition of adapting things to one’s own purposes, I decided to “metaphorically” throw away what I had already written by pretending that it didn’t exist.

I did this because I had recently found myself lost in the maze of my own writing. I knew, in my head, before I sat down at the keyboard, what I wanted to talk about, but once I opened the document, I was sucked into what was already there. Being tied to what was already written limited my options. I was using the existing text as a reference for where I wanted to go next. I constantly felt the need to connect the next set of ideas with those previously expressed. I realize the importance of transitions and building bridges between related concepts, but without having all the essential ideas in place, I found myself building bridges to nowhere.
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