10 December 2009

Counting Pots and Pans

I have a love-hate relationship with my dissertation. The thing is, the dissertation sometimes can be a painstaking exercise, and sometimes I think that it is pointless in writing one.

See, there are things that I hate about the dissertation. The dissertation can be the only research project that a scholar has to do that is top-down. By this I mean that this is the only research project that one has to do that has to be wide in coverage, and has to have an over-arching theme to it. In the early stages of my dissertation, I was asked what three things I want to argue for in my dissertation. Yes, my dissertation has an over-arching theme, but I have to tackle three things at least in order for it to become a dissertation.

So because of this, I had to think in a top-down fashion. This is not usually done in other aspects of research. Most of the time, a scholar finds something interesting and research-worthy, so he spends time working on it. Then he finds something of interest, and then publishes a paper out of it. The dissertation is a freaking book. And recently, I broke my dissertation down into three topics, three pots, as the metaphor that my adviser has deals it. My dissertation has three main topics, bundled into three different pots. Some pots are clearer than others. Pot 1 is especially very clear, while Pot 2 is still murky. Pot 3 is so-so at this point.

When this dissertation is over, I can clearly see revising these different pots into different research papers and publishing them separately.

If these pots weren't part of the dissertation, I would have just concentrated on one pot and polished it so that it shone really bright. However, that's just a paper, not a dissertation, and I need something bigger.

But, I also see the usefulness of the dissertation. This exercise will eventually prove that one can do research, and that one can be a specialist in something. One will eventually get a research program after completing a dissertation. The dissertation will eventually be the catalyst with respect to what the scholar will be known for. In my case, I hope that I will be known for the stuff that I am currently working on.

So, it all boils down to directionality of thinking, that I am somehow irked at. I don't like the top-down thinking that this dissertation needs. But, I suppose it is also a skill to be learned, and I am getting better at it.

(Spiral Staircase, from my DC Buildings Series)


  1. Do you truly like research? I'm just wondering, because as much as I like studying and academics, I think I have been lost in the "real" world for too long to appreciate research work.

    A bit sad actually.

  2. Zhu,

    Actually, I do. I like what I am doing. Now hopefully I can get employment where I actually use what I have been doing and learning so far.