111 days and counting until the PhD has to be written, formatted, bound and submitted and its fair to say that I am starting to panic more than a little bit.
With my deadline looming I have started re-reading my front-end theory chapters and turns out they are a bit of a shock! They were written about 20months ago and the latest draft of each about 15/18 months ago. Unsurprisingly, my writing style has developed and matured in the time since the creation of these chapters.
If I read them objectively (or try to), pretending they belong to a student of mine, I am less than impressed. They aren’t terrible but neither are they up to standard. I can cover them in copious amounts of red pen and feel good about myself for pointing out the flaws and the areas that need fixing. But…
…sat at my laptop with a blank screen ready to act on the red pen notes and rewrite the chapters, I am stuck. It’s easy just to change the way I have articulated points (and this does need doing in places) but by doing this I avoid actually rewriting the chapter. I think it stems from a worry of whether this next draft, especially this close to my deadline, will be good enough.
What if it isn’t good enough??
I could rewrite it again and again ,but what if it is never good enough? By this stage in my PhD career my work should be edited to a good standard and some of my more recently created chapters are – almost.
It is almost as if once I have written something one way, I then have a mental block on how to improve or re-write it. Quite a large part of the success or failure of my PhD will depend on my ability to hurdle this particular block.
The solution I am going to attempt to apply is to tackle each chapter separately, and each section within them in turn. To read through with red pen in hand and then write myself a new chapter plan with details for each section. I find that planning each point I want to cover, almost on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis has helped me to keep sections and chapters on track. Perhaps it will keep me from simply rewording these theory chapters.
I am faced with doubts about whether or not I actually know what I want to say about the theory, about what my theoretical stance actually is and how theory applies to and has influenced my thesis.
I know, on the whole, what I want my research to say and what it contributes to knowledge (or at least will do if I can do it justice). But I have been so involved with the minute of my results that switching to editing the broader theory chapters is proving more challenging than I thought it would be. Just as challenging is making sure the theoretical points I discuss are made relevant to the results of my research and my thesis as a whole otherwise the reader (and the examiners!) will find themselves thinking “Great, but SO WHAT!?”.
Research data is seen through a cloud of theory or so Johnson (2010, 106) tells us. Data and theory cannot be separated. So I must persevere and continue to theorise my way to a pair of successfully edited, and relevant, chapters.
There’s no escaping the fact that theory is academia and academia is theory.
Reference: Johnson, M. 2010 Archaeological Theory: An Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester)