Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Dissertation Disillusionment

You know what? I'm just not good at this dissertation stuff. All through my graduate career, I've had professors ask me if I am going to try to be a professor myself. Yes, I know I'm smart. Yes, I know that I am on the ball, and I generally "get it." I love teaching, and I'm told I'm really skilled in that area, too. But research? Keeping organized records of studies? Getting all the details taken care of? Oh man, I'm just terrible! I don't understand how I can be such an effective "proactive busybody" in so many areas, yet this research stuff... I just hate it. I really do. And my particular dislike is for writing literature reviews. Every time I've had to do it, I've become miserable.

Here's what happens. I go on a search for literature. I get very obsessed with ways to organize it with the hopes that if I've organized it well, I will be able to use it well. I read what other people have written, and in my mind, my understanding is revised. I tend to keep only as much information in my head as I can use at once. So although I've learned more and more about homework in the time I've worked on this project, I can't tell you AT ALL who added to which information. You've heard of revisionist history? Well, I have a revisionist mind. One of the things about ADD is that I have a very short working memory. I can't hold very much in mind at one time. I need to put it down in a visual format, or take lots of notes. I can't put all of that stuff in my head, put it in order, then put it into writing. I don't think in a linear way. I have intelligent thoughts, but they aren't as linear as they may be for some people. I have a lot of that "A-hah!" understanding where I just suddenly know the answer, but I don't know what steps happened internally to get there.

What this means is that, while I'm great at individual sentences, I'm terrible at putting sentences in order within a paragraph. I don't know in what order paragraphs should be. I can't step back and look at the whole thing at once in my head. I never remember to write transitions, no matter how many times I'm told I need to. If you've spent any time with me, you may have noticed that I don't exactly "bring people with me" from thought to thought. Amazingly, I'm really good at teaching students and working with clients. Most of the time, I don't lose them on my mental wild goose chases. I have no idea why I can do it when I'm talking professionally but not when I'm writing.

So I'm clearly here in the library yet again, trying to make sense of this lit review. Although I have spent a ton of time trying to get all of this organized from the beginning, I find myself redoing things I know I've done over and over. I don't remember what I've done or where I've put it. And here I am again, revisiting sections I first wrote a few years ago, back at the beginning, trying to remember articles that I just don't remember at all now. I'm wondering where I put the article with my markings, sure I either threw it out in an attempt to simplify and make the world less complicated, or else I'm using Edit/Find yet again in attempt to hunt, rather than reread whole articles over again. My attention span for reading is limited, and so I try and do whatever I can to use what attention I have to the greatest end.

Thank you EVERYONE who has proofed my work and supported me in different ways. Sometimes I just need someone to "talk at" until I know what it is I'm trying to say. "Talking at" gives me focus, literal focus. I know I am smart, but I feel way over my head here. It's like I'm this really good baseball player, and as the final test of my PhD in baseball, I have to do gymnastics. And once I just finish this gymnastics test, I will get my PhD in Baseball. Man, I can't wait until I'm done.