Writing my Ph.D.

Quality not Quantity

Progress over the last five or six weeks has been superb, even though I’m still learning that there is quite a lot of work involved in writing the Ph.D. I’ve spoken before how I thought the process would be fairly straight forward once I had all the pieces, but actually getting the right layout and structure isn’t as easy as I thought it might be. However, I am learning a lot about myself, in terms of how to get motivated to write the different sections.

I find when I sit down to tackle something difficult, my mind likes to wander to anywhere but the page where I should be writing. By understanding this though, I’ve been able to change my behavior considerably by telling myself “the only reason you are on Reddit is because that bit you must write is difficult, so lets tackle it” and of course before long I’m in the flow of writing it up.

What I love about my Ph.D. at the moment is I am following that original design I had in my head from many years ago, and that means not writing it in the traditional way. I’m on the section of my Design, Build, and Evaluate design science phases, and I think I’ve adopted an interesting process. I first just wrote everything out, for every phase, in pigeon English, with tables everywhere, as can be seen in the image below (yes that is 77 tables). This resulted in a word document of 236 pages, and it was no longer able to correct spelling due to the size.

Table 77

Now I’m working on polishing each of these phases. This has resulted in me taking Phase 1 and trying to get the layout and structure as clean and readable as possible (This has obviously involved the removal of many tables). I have also taken Phase 2 and done the same, where 30 or so pages quickly gets reduced to 15 or so. Feedback from my supervisors on this has been positive, and they now want me to revisit specific sections, such as the rules of my framework, to get them as clean as possible. This work is represented in the image below:

Rules

Once I get these two sections perfected, it will be a case of applying the same layout and structure to the other four phases, so that work should be done quite quickly. Finally, in my previous post I showed the statistics of this document with my design science phases, and here are the updated ones:

Word Count

As ever, even though I haven’t updated it for awhile, here are the statistics for my overall Ph.D. document. For my next post, I will try update this document with all the work I’ve done in other documents:

PhD Word Count

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It’s been even longer than awhile…

When I wrote my last post on July 3rd I thought I was after turning a corner with this stuff and really on my way to get everything done by September – turns out that was a huge mistake. While I continued to have a good July and getting stuff written, my brothers one year anniversary fell on the 25th July and this seemed to spiral m work completely out of control. Rarely one for excuses but after that night, and for the month of August, work was a nightmare. I couldn’t sit down to write, or even try work out what I should be doing. What was more frustrating is I found myself giving my usual excuses to my supervisors, the “oh I’ll get that done by Wednesday so”, or “I’ve just come to the realisation that blah blah blah”.

I’ve decided to put August behind me and start a fresh in September and I’m after some good days. The bit I find hardest is when I’m starting a new section and haven’t a clue how I’m going to structure the chapter, so no idea of what content I need to write – his leads me to quickly click on my Reddit tab which can be unfortunate. I’m currently trying to do my design science cycles but had my first disagreement with my supervisors in the five years I’ve been doing this, over how I should structure the chapter. I’ve gone against there advice for the moment to try show them what I mean, but it can quickly be changed back if it doesn’t suit.

As the chapter itself has gotten way too big, I’ve devised a strategy where I take each section into a Google Doc and write in there like so:

Phase 2

and

Evaluation

There is something fresh about using Google Docs as its very clean, simple, and doesn’t show word counts or page numbers without you specifically looking for them – good for idea storming. After this I transfer the content into a section word document titles “Design, Build, and Evaluate” which is pretty much the bod of my PhD. This document has grown to be enormous at the moment as can be seen by these figures:

wordcount1

While these figures may look impressive to people, I’m more than aware that there is A LOT of proper writing, cutting, and adding, to be done to this document and all of this begins tomorrow. Hoping to get a decent effort in and sent to my supervisors so they can see there is method to my madness. Finally, as I agreed to do all those months ago, here is the word count of my proper PhD document which won’t have changed much at all as I’m working outside it:

wordcount2

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It’s been awhile…

I haven’t forgotten to post here, it’s just been awhile as I’ve been a bit embarrassed because I wasn’t making the strides that I had hoped to in the past few months (although this goes completely against why I started this). It’s very hard to explain, but sometimes I just find it difficult to sit down and write stuff for my PhD – this is a very strange thing to try understand (most people constantly just saying “why don’t you just write it”) but thankfully after some consultation with other PhD students in my position I find they have the same difficulties at times.

I’m after two great meetings with my supervisors, and something that has stuck in my head is what one of them said: “It’s difficult to do because its a change in behaviour that is needed, and this involves telling people “no” and possibly affecting relationships along the way”. This has just stuck with me, and I’ve been looking at the way I have been doing things during the weeks and it used to annoy me that while I wasn’t wasting my time drinking, I was wasting it by doing nothing most of the time and seeing the days pass by quickly.

Realising this need for a change in behaviour might sound obvious but until someone actually says it to you, it can be difficult to motivate yourself. I now question what I’m doing if I see time passing quickly and work not being done. I now punish myself if I don’t get the required work done for the week, i.e. can’t go to that cool event with my friends as the work hasn’t be done. Crucially I now say no to people (unless I have the work done).

While it may seem from all of that, that I have nothing written I am happy to say this is not the case. I have split my PhD document up into sections so I will give word counts for each of these and I will continue to give a total word count too even though that won’t start going up again until I start adding the separated parts in.

The sections are split up into Design Science, Social Media Characteristics, and Collaborative Learning Characteristics. I’m currently working on the Design Science section and starting to really enjoy it as I see a lot of potential, especially the model in the image below which I think could be a really nice paper if I develop it properly.

Design Science Framework

Design Science Word Count

Design Science Word Count

Collaborative Learning Characteristics Word Count

Collaborative Learning Word Count

Social Media Characteristics Word Count

Social Media Word Count

PhD Word Count

My PhD Wordcount

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Rules, Rules, Rules

Been awhile since I posted, but I have been trying to write out the rules for the framework that I have developed. This process has proven to be more difficult than I had thought it would be. I’ve managed to create the rules for almost 90% of the five iterations of my framework. The next major issue that I have encountered is how best to display them – for the moment they are in table format but I’m sure this will probably have to change to make them more appealing to the readers.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 15.48.50

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 15.49.31

Also starting to see a major increase in both the word count and page numbers. This is somewhat bloated with the amount of reuse of certain sections but still a fair reflection of the work done to date (should be much hight!!!).

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 15.49.46

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Back to the Drawing Board

Lately I have found everything around me to just be too much of a distraction – from my phone buzzing, to reddit making me procrastinate more than ever. I’ve tried working in new environments to help clear my mind, but every time I found these distractions still invaded my ability to think – that constant connection. So after a few dry weeks of writing, I felt it was necessary to try something different. After a discussion with a colleague, I decided to start leaving my phone at home, but reddit, and the rest of the internet was still there to distract. After a discussion with someone else, I decided to try something I hadn’t done in years – start writing my Ph.D. with pen and paper.

IMAG0748 IMAG0749

This has appeared to work rather brilliantly at the moment – I can go anywhere I want, without that constant connection, and just write down the thoughts in my head. The process allows me to write my sections out, and then when I go to type them up into my Word document, it allows me to rethink and rewrite the ideas I had written down. There is just something of a relief from the fear of writing in a Word document and not seeing the document filling out, to just blissfully writing in a copy book.

Alas, there is  still a chance for a word count as I managed to get some of the sections written up this evening.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 21.07.55

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The Table of Contents

After a discussion with my supervisors, it was necessary to try and add some shape to the document in the form of a rough “Table of Contents”. This is obviously going to be quite difficult in knowing exactly what chapters will be needed, but it gives me some boundaries to work within. In first image is the simple layout at the start.

Chapters 1

In the next image you can start to see some proper headings coming through.

Chapters 2

Eventually you get to see sub-headings of chapters.

Chapters 3

And this is what the final draft looks like.

Chapters 4

Chpater 5

 

And finally there are some words on the word counter.

Word Counter

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The Beginning

This is the start of my Ph.D. writing, and as you can see from the image below it is a completely blank canvas. Over the next day or two I will be putting together the chapter headings, and any subheadings I think will be necessary – these will definitely change a lot!!!

My PhD

Here is the first “Word Count” which is obviously completely blank (unfortunately for me).

Word Count 20-03-2014

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The Process

I’ve just been given the green light to write up my Ph.D. and thought it would be interesting to capture the process as it starts from the beginning and unfolds over the next few months. This will be achieved by writing a blog post at least once a week which captures the statistics of Microsoft Word’s “Word Count” which includes the number of pages, and number of words. Further to this I will provide other images of the document as it changes, and write about the experience.

PhD Comics

This should give an interesting insight into the process of writing a Ph.D., the amount of work required in doing so, and provide a document for myself and other’s to see a blank canvas turning into a finished piece of work.

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