17 May 2012

The Big Picture

About one month ago, I had a huge change of pace with my dissertation. Up until then, I was actually pulling myself to move forward, but dreading it, writing my chapters but really, not looking forward to sitting down in front of my laptop and typing my manuscript. However, somehow, sometime during the last month, things have changed, that I actually sat down one day, and within the space of one week, added 50-something pages to my manuscript, and felt like my brain is faster than my fingers.

So what happened?

Well, I saw the big picture. I finally have a clear idea what my disseration is about, from the larger and grander perspective.

Now, you might ask, But Jeruen, you've been dissertating for two years now. Didn't you know what you were doing before?

Well, to tell you the truth, I am not too good at the big picture perspective. Hence, the format of the dissertation is a little hard to negotiate. I usually proceed with research from a small picture perspective. I am a bottom-up guy, not a top-down one. Hence, I have a little research question, I try to answer that, and then I see how things can be extended, and so forth. Rarely do I have grandiose ideas and then proceed to deconstruct it and answer its little bits and pieces.

So, while not seeing the big picture, I wrote three chapters worth of experiments and results. I have given them to my adviser, and he has commented on it. Now, it is flawed, since when I wrote it, I didn't have the big picture yet, and they don't form a coherent whole.

However, once all of my experiments have finished, I saw what I wanted to say to the world, and thus a big picture emerged. I wrote Chapter 1 and 2. Chapter 1 defined and delineated the thesis problem, and covered what I am covering in the dissertation. Chapter 2 is a literature review, as well as a sketch of my theoretical model that tries to account for the phenomena that I am trying to explain. Together, Chapter 1 and 2 is my big picture, and now, I can revise the three subsequent chapters under the light of these two chapters.

So yeah, that's where I am, as of last month. The goal is to finish this dissertation and graduate this September.

(The Chinese Ceiling, from my Cathedral of Learning Series)


  1. Must feel good to see everything falling into place! I can relate, although I wouldn't have the patience to work on a dissertation for two years.

  2. Zhu,

    It definitely feels good, and yes, you're right. A dissertation takes a lot of patience to complete. It's definitely not for everyone.