Writing a Dissertation Paper: Attempt 2

My Update

Many months since my last post and I have lost the rhythm of reading and writing academic journals. I know I enjoyed it in the past, and thus, I am convinced that the feeling will come back again in time. And seeing as I want to get back into the swing of things in order to finish off my Masters dissertation – the sooner I get back ‘the feeling’ the better.

Dissertation Distraction

So what have I been up to? Well, I’ve been somewhat entertained and distracted by working with an EdTech start-up. Designing mobile language learning experiences for Chinese learners of English, with a focus on developing spoken skills. Cool, huh? Very cool. But despite the uber-coolness I could not deny the giddy, giggly enjoyment I also derived from working on my first dissertation project: T-E-L-E-C-O-L-L-A-B-O-R-A-T-I-O-N. The word rolls of my tongue, bounces off my lips, makes me smile inside. Weird, huh? It’s not as simple as it sounds, unfortunately. Designing online collaborative exchanges are quite tricky things, indeed. You’ve got two groups of learners in different geographic locations, for a start. They probably have different timetables,  different academic goals, different rhythms. In sum, the benefits may be huge (improved communication & digital skills, and cultural awareness), but telecollaboration just ain’t for the faint-hearted. But I suppose that was always the attraction. That said, and with an enormous amount of work already put into the project, I reluctantly pulled the plug on that original idea, temporarily. Or at least until I can pitch it as a PhD project or a business idea or something. Instead, and intent on graduating sometime this century, I am now going for a project entirely more simpler. Something oh-so-relevant (to me), but something entirely more doable in a shorter space of time – building online community (in higher education).

Dissertation Writing: how to begin/get back into it again

And that’s where we are today, kids. Starting again with my dissertation, focusing on a brand new topic. And if I were to advise you now how to go about it, I would say it all begins with finding an area you are interested in, and choosing one academic paper written on the subject. Read it, analyse it, make some notes, draw parallels with your own practice and thoughts, find things you disagree with, highlight some of the references made. And then look up the academic papers those references came from, and start reading them too. Repeat the above until you have 10-20 readings under your belt and you should be becoming aware of a specific sub-area that has not been researched yet, or hasn’t been researched recently, or perhaps has not been researched thoroughly enough. And this could be the veritable gold dust that we can call the basis upon which you can start putting pen to paper for your dissertation.

Last time I did this I am sure I read 40+ papers and articles, so it is 100% likely that you will actually be reading even more as you write. So don’t be phased by this. It’s normal. It might feel intense. Go with it.

Oh, and another great tip is to start a nice, organised list of your readings, possibly already converted into Harvard or Oxford or Birmingham Polytechnic or whatever those funny little names are for referencing information sources you cite. Having this list written up or down, even in a half-organised way will reap dividends as you finish writing your dissertation paper and realise you need to go back and triple-check every single reference you have ever made. 🙂

Good luck!

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