Happy New Year: An Update on My Insane Trip Through Dissertation Land


I want to begin today’s post by acknowledging that I should be working on my proposal for my study right now rather than writing this post. Now that I got that out of the way, let me explain why I am actively avoiding finishing my literature review.

Because it’s really hard you guys!

Let me back up. The proposal I am writing is essentially the first three chapters of what will be my dissertation. It is a document that must be completed before I get approval from my committee members to conduct my study. The good news is I have completed drafts of chapter 1, which introduces my study, and chapter 3, which explains the methodology of my study (how I am going to do it–i.e. how I will collect data, why I am collecting that specific data, and how I will analyze that data). What I do not have yet is chapter 2–the literature review.

There is good news there too though. I am close to completing the draft. I have been struggling with its completion for well over two months. In my experience, the literature review is the most difficult task I have been asked to complete thus far in my journey to earning my Ed.D.. So why is it so difficult?

A literature review demands that a researcher take all the theory they ascribe to in their potential study and get those theories to speak to one another in a way that props up the researcher’s own study. Believe it or not, I actually think that is the easier part of the chapter. At least with the guidance of my committee, it is the portion of the chapter that has been easiest to assemble in a way that makes sense to me, and I feel genuinely props up the reason my study is worthwhile. The most difficult part of the chapter is finding other studies that in some way mirror my own study’s aspirations. For me, I am looking for studies that explore student identity and agency from sociocultural standpoint. I am also looking for studies that explore the theory of participatory culture where students may have more opportunities to bring their interests and strengths into the classroom even when those interests and strengths are not typically accepted or appreciated in the classroom. What makes this search so difficult is there is so much you can find. Even after you find potential studies to support your own, you must read through each carefully to be sure how those researchers define identity and participatory culture is the same as your own and does not conflict with what you are attempting to do.

Honestly, the work is exhausting.

But I am getting closer! One accomplishment I have under my belt in the last month is my IRB has been submitted. The IRB (Internal Review Board) of my institution must give me the greenlight in order to do my study. With my documentation in, the hope is I can be in position to start collecting data soon after my committee approves my proposal. Of course that will only be true if the IRB does not require any major changes to my study.

So that is where I am right now. There is much to do, so I am going to stop distracting myself and get back to this crazy literature review. Wish me luck!

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