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At first, the plan was end-May to early-June. Three members of my committee were okay with that. Then the 4th came back to say that s/he was not available then, and suggested up-to-mid-May or after-mid-June.
So on Friday, I sent out an email asking for the two weeks leading up to mid-May.
So far, two of the committee members have agreed. It being the weekend, I'm not going to push the other two. But if they agree, then I'll be defending in less than 3 weeks.
LESS THAN 3 WEEKS!!!
I'm not sure which is more anxiety provoking: not being able to set the date or being able to set the date!
Sunday, April 18, late into the night. The Lonely Dissertator sent in the final, final i's-dotted-tees-crossed version of his dissertation to his committee.
Monday, April 19. With very little sleep, the Lonely Dissertator entered into the office to fully assume his new role as the Reflective Director of a Center of Excellence at Local University.
Tuesday, April 20, 5:30am. With little sleep again, the Reflective Director woke up to all kinds of dreams and thoughts associated with his new job, and wonders to himself: "I thought things were going to get easier post-dissertation."
In the meantime, the Lonely Dissertator awaits the the reading of his dissertation by Committee Members before setting up a defense date. Adviser has informally agreed that his dissertation is ready for defense.
You know you are geek when you happen upon a scholarly journal article, utter a little bow-tie exclamation to your illustrious self, "oh my! I wonder what this article has to say?" and then print it out just for reading.
Yes, just for reading.
Not reading to write a paper; not reading to teach a class; not reading to publish another article.
J u s t f o r r e a d i n g.
- g e e k -
(I really ought to invest in looking geeky so that there is more congruence between how I think and how I look.)
On Friday, I sent in the full draft of my dissertation write-up to Adviser.
In other words, I am, practically, done.
There is still the references I have to put in, a couple of minor figures and appendices, and I have to figure out the formating for the front matter. But the write-up is complete. And it's been through a few rounds of editing as well.
I had imagined different kinds of feelings I would have at this stage. Euphoria, a sense of lightness, a big smile of accomplishment... all those positive feelings. But I never imagined this: blah.
Yeah, I feel kind of blah.
Maybe its because I still have about 4-6 more hours of work to do on it (all the references and front/back matter)?
Maybe its because I am not sure if Bigshot Outside Committee Member will be okay with my dissertation?
Maybe its because I have yet to defend and pass?
Maybe its because I have a ton of work to do at the office?
Someone's downstairs. I think I'll take that as an excuse to go get a bottle of red wine and chill out for the rest of the night. Tomorrow begins a very busy week at work.
Adviser wrote back that s/he read my theory chapter (chapter 5).
Adviser is normally quite subdued in hir emails, often with an air of professional encouragement.
But this time, s/he used CAPS and !!!!!!!!!!!! to tell me just how much s/he like my theory chapter.
My THEORY chapter! That's the meat, and s/he really liked it!
I wrote hir back saying that lit background (chapter 2) is pretty solid too.
Yep, it is pretty solid.
After reading through over 50 journal articles and book chapters, a critical review of each, and then combining them into a table with analysis of "research area," "type of article," "findings," "regional specificity," etc,. I feel like I can finally say, "I know this field, and I have something new and exciting to contribute."
This is what they told me Ph.D.s are supposed to be all about. Contributing to new knowledge.
I'm glad I'm feeling this way about my dissertation. It was not a mistake to change advisers two years ago and go towards an area that I knew I would not get sick of. I'm already thinking of all kinds of follow-up research and publications I can do.
Nope, I'm definitely not sick of this work!
(Okay, okay, so I was sick of it for a couple of months in Jan and Feb. Okay, most of March too. But I knew I would feel better about it after.)
I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and I think I need sunglasses. B-)
One of the things to do in order to legitimize one's classic GT in the academic world is to "retrofit" your theory to the existing literature. Most GT scholars are irreverent about doing this. They are more interested in how the theory has fit and grab for the participants than they are in how it fits in which the trail of academic research that preceded.
Well, I am very much in academia, and so I need to know the rules and play by them (as SW put it: be in the game but not of it.)
Well, lo and behold, my theory is pretty "big" (I don't have the mind for a more apt word, after writing for over 12 hours), so my literature review has taken over 3 weeks to do. This is not literature that is completely new to me as I was already fairly familiar with the field. But when you have a theory to "retrofit," the literature you read take on a new lens. You start to look for and see things you did not see before. And of course, with each new search, another piece of literature pops up.
It's exciting. But it's also exhausting.
This dissertation has got to be done, and soon! The literature background section has taken me three days to write (after 3 weeks of reading and re-reading), and I am still not done. Sure, the chapter is brilliant--it really is, IMHO--but I'm fed up with the work. As they say in Caprica, this is taking too fracking long.
On Resurrection Sunday, I will wake up and not go to church. Instead, I will hit my computer with my fingers to finish up chapter 2. And when chapter 2 is done, I will re-read it together with chapter 3, 4, and 5, and edit. After that, Monday will come, and I will begin writing my conclusion and discussion chapter, 6. It should be a significantly easier chapter to write. Hopefully, I can finish it in one day. And finally, after that is done, I will pull it all together by writing chapter 1.
The kids' Easter break will be over next weekend. I owe them big time--about 7 years of absence. I will send off the entire draft of the dissertation to my adviser by Thursday, and then, take a long weekend off to some beach hotel and just relax for the entire weekend.
Now, that would be a holyday [sic]--spending real connecting time with family.
Peggy asked for more on my previous post. Sorry Peggy, I'm writing this because I'm feeling bored and frankly, a little negative. So here's a barrage of thoughts.
To do full justice to what I wrote in my last post, I would have to offer some quotes from Barney himself. But I am too tired at this point to make my post into another academically-sound piece of writing. In fact, I don't even know if "vested social interests" is what Barney called it. But I do remember that it pertained to the understanding that academics are more interested in their own work, their own theories, their own language, and the advancement of their own careers than they are in the pure pursuit of knowledge. To protect their interests, they create a culture where in order for you to "advance" in academia, you have to play by their rules. If you don't, you are ostracized.
I came to this stark realization after having some really good and deep conversations with a visiting professor. After getting to know hir well, s/he told me the "secrets" to scholarly achievement. Scholars playing the game, so to speak, will only pay heed to another scholar if the other scholar has credentials behind hir name. And to get those credentials, you need to abide by the rules of the game: publish in the right journals, cite the right people, be cited by the right people. For many scholars (perhaps American ones in particular), what you have to say is less important than how well you've played the game. You could say something brilliant, but if you don't have the right credentials, it doesn't really count. It's as if you're not in the club, so your opinion doesn't matter.
I saw this "in action" last week with my own eyes. The speaker was saying some really brilliant things, but because s/he did not play the academic game, scholars in the club discredited hir. "We would have to know who s/he was first before we'd be willing to hear what s/he has to say."
Excuse me? Should not the content speak for itself?
I like academia, and I still think there is much good--and many good scholars--in it. Especially those who are older, accomplished, and really bored with the game people in academia play. I greatly admire true thinkers. The rest of those [us?] career-vested academics are, I'm afraid to say, fooling themselves (and those who are wow'ed by anything PhD) to think that they are really contributing to knowledge in any significant way.
I am thankful for people like Barney who have taught me not to be so small minded as to limit the periphery of my vision to see only what I have been socialized to see.
I will end this post with The Professor Song which I made up one day when listening to my children's Flea Fly Song (sung to the tune of the Battle Hymn of the Republic):
One professor published behind a second professor's back
The second professor published behind a third professor's back
The third professor published behind a fourth professor's back
The fourth professor published behind a fifth professor's back
They were only playing te_____nure
They were only playing te_____nure
They were only playing te_____nure
When the one professor published behind another professor's back!
The moral of the story? Learn to play the game, but don't get your mind muddled in the muck.
To me, a genius is not a person completely untouchable by common folk. A genius is simply someone who really stands out from the crowd in terms of ideas and insights. Like the Beatles. We can all sing their songs, and yet they have been hailed as geniuses.
So, why exactly is Barney a genius? Because he can cut through the crap. And his methodology cuts through the crap.
I say crap, but I don't mean it as if I am above crap. This crap that I'm talking about is vested social interests that shape and form knowledge, otherwise known as academia.
It's a club. And it is so cleverly done that those who are not in it, gawk with awe at it, give it a good deal of worship, and really have no way of knowing whether it is as valuable as it is perceived. Because academic parlance, if you will, completely masquerades itself through jargons. When you are well-masqueraded enough--like Madonna--a mystique starts to develop around you.
Barney knows that, talked about that, talks about that, and teaches us to see it.
That's all for tonight. I won't elaborate further. If you want to know more, leave a comment.
I've gone back through all of my coded data, saturated my sub-categories, and made conceptual ties to portions that were previously more descriptive. My intuition was mostly correct as I only had to reword a couple of my sub-categories.
Of course, I moaned and groaned and considered giving up over the past 5 days of doing this, but the effort has proven worthwhile.
What is even MORE exciting is that tonight, I read a booklet written by a practitioner in the field that I am studying. This is DATA! And guess what?
My theory completely explains his perspectives!!!
Not only that, the data from him represents a group of people from which I had difficulty obtaining interviews. So I can quote him!!!
And best of all... well, not best best of all, but pretty close to best best... I sent that data with my theoretical scribbles in the margins to Adviser and sh'he wrote back saying that sh'he can't wait to read my theory!!!
The best best of all is this: I believe I have a really good theory on my hands!
No, I don't believe it, I know it!
I know it! I know it! I know it!
(Okay, did I overdo the exclamation marks?)
And now it's 5:40am and I refuse to go to sleep even after working 7 hours straight. I am writing out my theory now, and boy, am I ever excited!
One of the things I did to develop Theory D was to write an abstract for Conference In Resort City. In my rush to get out my abstract, I had to rely somewhat on my intuition to come up with several of the sub-categories for my theory. From the recent feedback I received at the workshop in Oldest Varsity, I came to understand that there is more work to be done to develop a Full-Package grounded theory.
And so, I am back to the drawing board, so to speak, and going through my data once again to ensure that all of my categories have a good audit trail to them. In other words, I am having to reground my intuition.
It's good. It's good. Rigorous detailed work it is, but necessary.
I'm 100 per cent sure the data is there and that the sub-categories come from the data. But what I understand now, especially after reading through Perspectives III: Theoretical Coding (Glaser, 2005), is that having well-saturated categories, a good stack of memos, and going through a diligent and creative hand-sorting process of memos with theoretical codes in mind will yield a much more conceptual theory.
The GT process has been well laid-out. I just need to follow it.
I can't wait to do another GT study after this dissertation is done. The next time, I will follow the process to a T . . . or to a GT . . . Bad pun. Never mind.
Note: I know many dissertators who don't put in this much effort (and expense) to perfect their craft. Yet those dissertators tend to become ex-dissertators in good time. Oh, to be an ex-dissertator!
1. The conference organizers gave really positive feedback on my abstract and poster; 2. The GT workshop leaders felt that I needed more saturation and conceptualization -- move from conceptual description towards theoretical conceptualization; 3. Adviser expressed surprise that I had not waited until I had completed my dissertation and submitted it to graduate school before sending my work to the conference.
I am very excited about #1, happy to learn #2, and completely perplexed by #3.
#3. I never knew that it would be a problem to submit works-in-progress to conferences.
First, the organizers contacted me and encouraged me to submit the application back in December when I had failed to submit on the deadline, and accepted the application even though I had clearly expressed that it was work-in-progress and that in line with Classic Grounded Theory, the emergent theory may change from what I had submitted.
Second, I know many friends who send in portions of their dissertations into conferences for presentation. In fact, it is a common practice to do so for our Computer Science department. As one friend told me, the doctoral dissertations in their department are made up of a compilation of chapters which they are encouraged to publish in journals before the entire dissertation is completed.
Third, sh'he knew that I was submitting an abstract to the Conference, so why did sh'he not inform me of this earlier?
I don't feel upset at Adviser, who has been really supportive all along, even when sh'he expressed #3 above. Perhaps hir illness has affected hir more than sh'he realized. I have been so careful all along to adhere to the highest ethical standards in my research, but now, I am concerned that my reputation--and worse, my dissertation--may be negatively affected because of this.
I have written back to Adviser (even tried to call her on the phone) to seek clarification, but have not yet heard back from hirm.
The life of a dissertator is fraught with mixed emotions!
Attending seminar at Oldest Varsity has been incredibly validating. Not only am I getting a real hang of learning classic grounded theory, I am feeling supported, understood, and excited about my dissertation more than ever before. Being in an environment where people understand what I am doing and can furthermore guide me towards the next steps in incredibly reassuring.
I am, indeed, feeling much less lonely.
I have also noticed that my brain is overflowing with ideas on classic grounded theory since attending this seminar. I am wondering if I should start a new blog focused just on "Classic Grounded Theory?" So many of my posts in the recent past has been about grounded theory.
Do I have enough to say about "lonely dissertating" to justify a separate blog? I don't know. Well, for now, I think I'll just keep writing here and label the grounded theory posts as such (see "labels" on the right panel).
I presented my emerging theory today and received a lot of helpful feedback. I want to blog about two key ideas: Staying Conceptual, and Entering An Area of Interest.
1. Staying Conceptual
Staying conceptual is something that I had understood was important, but until now, hadn't quite got the bearings of how to do it. Doing grounded theory requires going back and forth between conceptualizing and theoretically sampling data that is often descriptive in nature. I have a tendency to get caught up in the description such that I lose sight of the concepts. The notion of "conceptual description" is very helpful. Many so-called grounded theory studies describe concepts rather than tie them together through Theoretical Codes.
Theoretical codes integrate the theory by weaving the fractured concepts into hypotheses that work together in a theory explaining the main concern of the participants. Theoretical coding means that the researcher applies a theoretical model to the data.
Two of my friends had defended their dissertations using grounded theory. One used Charmaz and the other used Strauss & Corbin. In both cases, what they had presented were really "conceptual descriptions." The first one using Charmaz just had a list of themes -- I am not even sure if s'he even had concepts come to think of it. The second one using Strauss & Corbin had concepts but s'he did not have a Core Category nor did s'he tie the concepts together through theoretical codes. Classic grounded theory emphasizes the importance of a core category as well as theoretical codes to bring the fractured concepts together.
This is theorizing!
And the theoretical codes, like the concepts (also known as substantive codes), need to emerge from the data, and not be forced onto the data.
The good news is, even with just a core category and a list of conceptual descriptions that have emerged from data (without tying them together with theoretical codes), one can have a brilliant, respectable piece of work. Such is the power of classic grounded theory.
2. Entering An Area of Interest
Many grounded theories that I have read have pertained to a specified population or a group of people. That was how I understood the word "substantive theory": that is applies to a particular group of people, e.g. the homeless, cancer patients, etc. I was not sure how one could enter into an area of interest where it applies to an action, say, "nagging."
However, in talking with Barney Glaser today, he clarified that what is more important is to have an area of interest, and just jump into the area and begin to collect data. You never know where it is going to lead you. He gave the example of one study which looked at Greek Dancing. This study came up with the a main concern or core category that pertained to something having to do with the rigorous exchange of partners, and having to manage that. Barney also cited his grounded theory of inheritance as another example.
So one could study nagging by simply jumping into data collection and follow the analysis where it leads, using the classic GT questions.
- - -
That's it. No clever post today. Just a little movement towards better understanding of classic grounded theory at Oldest Varsity.
I've been working hard to piece together the elements of my theory.
Boy! Is it ever hard work!
What is harder about it is that when I go in to the literature now to fill in some data-gaps, I find that people have been writing about what I have discovered through theoretical sampling and constant comparison.
Yes, there has been a great deal of uncertainty on my part as to whether I really have anything new or useful to say, but aside from that--which I have come to accept as a natural part of the process of writing up theory--what I am discovering is a true WOW factor. Not wow for myself, but wow for some of these scholars.
It is HARD to come up with original theory. So, I have brand new respect for these awesome award winning, chaired professor scholars. Their work (just good scholarly research, not necessarily grounded theory) have captured so succinctly and so well the things I have been struggling to put into words the last couple of weeks. Truly, theirs is work worth commending. Now I can begin to really tell the difference between amazing scholars and so-so scholars in my field. What's exciting is that my field is so young that many of these folks are still alive, and I'll get to meet them and hopefully not fumble my words when I open my mouth.
And here is also a new kind of respect I have for classic grounded theory: only by doing grounded theorizing have I been able to come to appreciate truly amazing scholarship. I would not have appreciated just how brilliant and hardworking these folks are had I stuck to the verification of variables in some quantitative way (even though I would have finished my Ph.D. a year ago). In my many years of study, I have been taught to critique theories but never to craft them. As good as I have been with theories, the act of crafting a theory has given me a level understanding about theories that critiquing and applying theories alone could never give.
I believe that developing a grounded theory would be an excellent exercise for an upper undergraduate or beginning masters research methodology class--to give students a chance to grapple with the challenge of theorizing and appreciate the value of a really well-crafted theory.
I have only 2 weeks to get my theory ship-shape. On 20th, I have to submit my 5-page abstract for RCA, and then fly off to Oldest Varsity to present my theory. Then I have a week and a half to complete a FULL draft of my dissertation to Adviser. If I don't get the full draft OK'ed by her by first week of March, then I will not be able to attend my commencement in May.
I'm sitting on my desk cutting up memos into strips for comparing and sorting. And I feel great.
[ Rewind story to the beginning ]
The past couple of days have been filled with stress -- work stress, that is. I thought to myself that I certainly would not have the energy to be able to dissertate after spending all day attending to work matters having to do with politics and negotiations. But I was wrong.
Professor Whitehair, whom I have always respected, encouraged me concerning my feelings of loneliness in research. He shared with me that the short time spans that he does get to spend on research are far and few in-between that when he has them, they are extremely precious to him.
I am liking my paper-cutting time right now, even though it is 7pm and I am still at the office. Not only does it relax me from the irritating and mundane work-life, the act of physically cutting paper gives my brain a whole different way to think of my data.
I feel rejuvenated in this tranquility. I will begin to see my times dissertating not as lonely, but as tranquil.
I am feeling uncertain about a possible core category which I am calling, "D". I feel uncertain about this core category not because the data does not point towards it, but no other scholar in the field has called it that.
But everything in my data says: "D is it!"
In fact, when I talked to a respondent yesterday, he too, said "D? That's EXACTLY it."
So, why do I feel so nervous about this core category?
Because I may very well be leading a new movement in the field. And I have a feeling that other scholars in the field will attack me for it -- because they are so attached to the established perspectives, particularly, they like to call the phenomenon "S." Twenty-over years of research calling something "S," and with grounded theory emergence, I am seeing "D" instead. Dare I challenge the field with a new movement? Do I really know what I am talking about? Aren't I just a small, little doctoral student?
What I need to do now is to do more theoretical sampling and test out potential core category "D." See if I get more similar responses than the one I got yesterday.
"Today, while the blossom still clings onto the vine..."
That's the first line to a song. You know, following from yesterday's post, Tomorrow?
Today's ToDo does not look very enticing. I've decided that since I have no meetings, I will go into the office, spend a few hours doing work-work, then have lunch, and then stay in the office to dissertate.
I have never done that before.
I'm used it dissertating at home, around the dining room, in the living room, even in the tea/coffee shops around.
I don't know why I'm doing it. Probably because I need a change in environment. Probably because I'm trying to "integrate" research into my "daily work" life.
Since my last post, almost an entire week wheezed by, occupied by other activities.
I finally found some time today and forced myself to attend to my variables and memos. Despite my best effort, I was only able to put in three hours of work. Compared to seven hours, three seems like a drop in the bucket, but it's actually pretty good. Still I'm not happy with the output because The Rush is on!
I could force myself to keep working, or I could stop...
I think I will stop. Not because I can't push myself, but because comparing and sorting of memos requires another kind of mind -- a clear mind. After 3 hours of reading and thinking, the brain feels like mush, so any additional time spent will probably be non-productive.
For every 10 minutes of focused work that I do, I make a tick on my virtual MacBook sticky pad. Like this: \
Each hour consists of 5 x 10 minutes, giving myself a 10 minute break, adding to a full hour's work.
How many hour's work did I do? Yes, you counted that right. SEVEN hours of effective work done.
Remember how unmotivated I was yesterday? And how I didn't force the issue, but decided to come back with more motivation today?
When I came back and told my wife, she shared that a friend and her prayed specifically this morning that I would be very focused in my work. Prayer works!
All collected data has been coded!!! Now, to print out every single one of my coded "variables" and do some serious comparing and contrasting (which I have already been doing, because I have tons of memos). Then, I can zoom in on some variable, even consider them to be codes, and do targeted theoretical sampling.
I'm reaching a very exciting phase of my grounded theory: emergence!
This post is "alive" and will be updated over the rest of the day.
Why? Because I have not been able to do any dissertation work the past two days, and there is a great deal of anxiety within. This post will keep me accountable to reporting to... the world(!) about my progress for the day.
8:49am. Going to exercise followed by some quiet reflection time. The recent bad news in Home Country has taken up a lot of my attention, especially since it hit a sanctuary where many friends call home.
12:15pm. Sitting at the coffee shop having a croissant and coffee after having done the morning routine as well as some Officework. -_- Yes, officework on a Saturday.
1:45pm. Dissertating has not begun at all! Coffee shop's fast internet access is not helping. I'm going to find another place where there is no internet access.
4:20pm. Two coffees and 1+ hour of work later, I'm feeling tired and woozy. The challenge with CGT is that you really have to think through your analysis. It's definitely not plug-n-play.
6:10pm. Dozed off for an hour. Then got news that I got into the Seminar at Oldest Varsity! Of course, I had to do the necessaries such as looking into flights, booking accommodation, etc. right away. I have never been to Oldest Varsity, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what it looks like compared to my alma mater, Second Oldest Varsity.
I have only six more weeks before I need to finish off all my codes and tie them together. This gives me NEW MOTIVATION! The count-down is on!