I spent some time reading through documents I’d found in the archives, which seemed unrelated to my project but which I found interesting enough to photograph and store away for the future.
I started noticing a pattern among these miscellaneous documents and “someday” projects.
Last quarter, after surviving coursework, qualifying exams, and the dissertation proposal, at long last, I arrived at the glorious land of being ABD.
Along the way, I’ve taken advantage of many of the strategies suggested here on Grad Hacker, and have found the archive of advice and reflections very helpful.
I took advantage of required literature reviews to get acquainted with relevant scholarship, and research papers to try out a couple of archival documents at a time.
But in addition to allowing me to familiarize myself with relevant scholarship and materials, these miniature assignments are what helped me to realize that my initial research question wasn’t quite right for me.Learning to pitch my new research idea, hypothesis, and methodology in writing, within the parameters of just a few pages, was challenging but incredibly useful.Thinking about why someone might find my dissertation compelling enough to fund it forced me to be really clear with myself about my contributions to existing scholarship, and explicit about which archival sources I needed and how I planned to use them.It proved such a valuable opportunity, though, because it forced me to step back from my research and reevaluate what seemed most interesting and important about it. Writing the prospectus can feel a little bit like performing surgery on your ideas.During the process of reevaluating my project, I found that breaking it apart into smaller research questions was helpful.Throughout the dissertation process, you are required to do more than just present research.You are required to evaluate critically and synthesize literature; identify a research problem, including the purpose of the study; craft arguments regarding the importance of your study; and describe the background of your topic and the research problem.Further, you are required to identify a theoretical framework; develop research questions; describe the nature of the study in terms of the research design and methodology; describe ethical research; and identify possible types and sources of information or data.Finally, you are required to identify possible analytical strategies and explain the significance of the potential study and implications for positive social change.(Disclaimer: I’m an historian, so some pieces of this list might prove less helpful to grad students in other disciplines.) 1. I came into my graduate program with a clear idea of what I wanted to research.I had identified a primary research question and potential archives, as well as the body of secondary literature into which I hoped to write.