Wednesday, January 31, 2007

That Special Dissertation

When I was little, and pictured myself writing my dissertation, I somehow had this image of the experience as being special, somehow. Like, I would have an office where I would have all my notes and books set up. And maybe a bulletin board where I would pin up index cards to organize things. Because I would have spent years doing research that would be carefully catalogued away in file cabinets. It certainly wouldn't be like writing a seminar paper, where you do just enough research to get by and hash out a few thousand words on some random subject by the seat of your pants.

Well, you know what? Writing a dissertation is not special. An office? Who was I kidding, graduate students don't have offices! I write at my desk crowded next to my bed at home, the same spot where I have written dozens of seminar papers, exam answers, and blog posts. And carefully assembling research and organizing it all beautifully? Hah! I'm just sitting down and typing it all out the best I can. Granted I've done a lot more research on this topic than on anything else I've ever written on, but still, I feel like at any moment my brain is going to get tired of holding all this information, and stop working.

So, to summarize: writing a dissertation? Not that special. Not unpleasant, but not special.


Jewel Dakini said...

:) Well, some things are _special_. Like getting your committee members to like each other, or trying to squeeze ten minutes out of their schedules. Now, those are definitely _special_.

Julep said...

Thanks for the post. I am like you, I totally romanticized the whole dissertation process. I thought I would have it all together by this point. But lo and behold, I have found that writing this one paper is just the same as writing all the others that got me here in the first place.

Anonymous said...

i am not at the process of dissertation writing yet. in fact, i am just beginning my master's thesis, which i envision as mainly preparatory toward that book i know is inside. but i think you're candid assessment of the not-so-special dissertation reflects an overall ideal-shattering truth i am coming to about academia in general. i have heard it stated before that every phd is unbearably naive. as i continue to aspire toward this career i cannot help but agree. what else could push me toward the sort of schedule and workload and egoism invovled in academic life but a naivete that shuns the harsh reality that many will never make it. professorship is very childlike, in a way.