Sunday, May 19, 2013

Curiosity Killed the Dissertation

By the time you get to the dissertation stage of a doctoral program it’s probably safe to say that you love research and discovering new knowledge.  You develop a wonderful curiosity that causes you to want to know more about the details and intricacies of a particular subject matter.  It’s a beautiful thing that gets you through your doctoral program, but….that same curiosity is what can kill the dissertation.  

This is what it looks like: in good faith you sit down to read one of your landmark articles that seems to specifically address the big issues of your topic.  While you’re reading, the author references another author who brought up an even more interesting point.  Now you can’t let that resource get away!  So what do you do?  You open up your web browser on your computer and go to your library page to find that article so that you can “save it for later.”  

But no.  That is not to be. 

You get away from your original article and move to the next one that looks so much more intriguing.  Then while you read that one, the author references yet another thought-provoking, and of course, relevant article referenced (oh no!) who has an even more compelling point to share about your topic. 

Sigh…2 hours later…you just added another 10 articles to your reference list and never got through the first article that you sat down to read.  That’s a shame because guess what?  Your time’s up and you are now disappointed with yourself  because you know you have to get to your nephew’s 2 hour music recital where you better not even think about pulling out your laptop or iPad to try to read that article.   You can’t do that because you would imagine my mother saying "no sea mal educada" - translation, "don't be rude."

So you realize what you did – or didn’t do. You did not get to jot down those quotable notes you were hoping to incorporate into your dissertation.  And the cycle of self-loathing and frustration starts creeping up.  But how do you stop it? Is there a way?  I say yes!

Okay.  This is what I had to do to stop my curiosity from spiraling out of control.  I went to old fashioned pen and paper and SHUT DOWN THE COMPUTER!!!  It had to be done.  My curious nature cannot be trusted and I knew she would sabotage my tidy plan to read and analyze just that one or two articles that I projected would take 1 to 2 hours.   

Sometimes extreme measures need to be taken and you need discipline – not the fun kind like in 50 Shades of Grey, but the kind that needs to be self-inflicted to save that reading (and writing) time. The key is to find ways to stay focused even if you feel like a child being self-disciplined. Hey, you have to do whatever gets you PHINISHED!

Please feel free to comment and share any other ideas you have for developing good dissertation reading and writing discipline.