Week Zero: Update #1

I told myself I was going to get started on my research next week. I made a huge deal about taking some time for myself this week. It turns out I am incapable of getting started later when I can get started now. As I stare at my research log on my Google Drive folder labelled “thesis,” I notice that I am seventy four items deep. I had intended to do my research next week from the comfort of my home, but I found that a couple slow days at work have given me an opportunity to trudge through some databases and Google searches to start putting  some potential readings together for the coming weeks.

Lo and behold, I now have seventy-plus things that I can start working on next week. That gives me a pretty good head start, and I found several commonalities between sources as I moved from article to article. I’ll talk a little bit more about these things at another time as they are quite deserving of their own discussions.

As far as constructing my reading schedule, I have my “stylistic” reading list that I have put together, which basically consists of texts that I feel are key influences to my own creative thesis (which I will list in another entry), and my “theory” readings. These readings are the academic sort… mostly. There are some less “scholarly” sources that I am justifying as part of my research. But for the most part these are database articles that relate to the nature of my thesis. With that being said, if you begin your research for any sort of academic-writing, I urge the following:

  • Build a reading list with citations (if you can export them easily) and hyperlinks. If the database has an easy citation button, use it. It saves you time by doing most of the citation work for you. You may have to make sure that the citation is correct later, but on the off chance the database exports the citation perfectly, that is one less citation you need to do in the long run. You’ll want to place the hyperlink to each article in your reading list as well, for easy access to the source when it is time to do a close reading. Google Docs are a great way to build this ever expanding list.
  • Read the abstracts. Titles alone often seem promising, but when you read the abstract you’ll discover possible deception. It’ll save you from reading and article and growing very confused as to why you put that article on your reading list in the first place.
  • Check your subject and category tags. If you find an article in a database that seems exactly like what you need, you need to check the categories and subjects that article is tagged under in the database itself. It helps you figure out potential search terms, but it also allows you to find related articles far more easily. It also helps you start figuring out important terminology. Often times we go into our research somewhat blind to terminology that will help us because we only have the vaguest sense of our subject. That’s fine, this is why we research. So once again, for emphasis, use the subject and category tags to build your search terminology.
  • See one text referenced by several articles in their abstracts? Grab that text. If several of your articles are listing another article within their abstracts, then you need to grab that source and include it in you reading list. You should be looking for commonalities when you begin your close readings anyway. However, seeing the same author or text popping up in the abstract of several other texts signifies that the mentioned author/text is vital to the subject you are researching.

I won’t share my research log just yet, as it is horrifically ugly, but if you need to construct one, I suggest simply doing a bullet-list that features the citation (if you have it) and the URL for easy access, as a hyperlink.

Anyway, starting next week I will begin to comb through this reading list and annotate and finalize the citations of my sources. I also intend to toss out any that are too tangential or just not useful to me. My goal is to read and annotate five articles a week; generally doing one a day, Monday through Friday.

I admit I am probably overdoing it with the research for a creative thesis, but I want to make sure that, due to the unusual nature of my thesis, that I am justifying the risk I am taking. However, based on my current reading list, I feel I am in pretty good shape in that regard.

Weekly Update

Not much to add here since the previous post.

  • I will be posting my annotated citations as entries on the blog. I am trying to decide if I’ll treat each one as a post, or post the five or so done a week as a single post. Any feedback there?
  • I want to record the first episode of the podcast this weekend. The podcasts won’t be long, particularly this first installment. I’d expect on average  to do some 15 to 20 minute episodes on whatever that week’s major topic is.
  • Anything you want me to cover on this blog relating to writing a thesis as a grad student?
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