Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat Blog

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Welcome to your virtual Dissertation House and Writing Retreat

Congratulations on making it to the Dissertation Writing Retreat (DWR).

In the era of Covid 19 where we are all at home possibly sheltering in place, we
still have goals that we want to accomplish. With the COVID-19 coronavirus
wreaking havoc across the world, for instance PhD completion provides
universities with the opportunity to participate in a virtual Dissertation Writing
Retreat. As part of Dr. Carter’s Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished (TADA!)
program and the Dissertation House at University of Maryland, Baltimore
County (UMBC), we have always had an online component for graduate students across the
globe who could not participate face to face.

The focus is the same: The Dissertation Writing Retreat activities focus on
places where students typically have problems: conceptualizing a topic,
developing a pre-proposal, writing a literature review, writing a proposal,
analyzing data, writing the last chapter, and editing.


The purpose is the same: The program is designed for doctoral students who
are writing their dissertation proposals, first dissertation chapters, or who have
found their writing progress stalled, or who desire expert guidance and the
opportunity to join a community of dissertation writers.


The commitment is the same: Students accepted to the Dissertation Writing
Retreat will commit to attending a writing session from 8 a.m.-6:00 p.m.,
Monday-Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday. See below for detailed daily
agenda.

To participate, you will be asks to blog twice daily at the start of the day and the end of the day. On the first day you will be asked to posts answers to the following questions:

  1. What will you work on?
  2. How much time will you spend daily working on it?
  3. Tell us how much progress you are making, or problems you are having.
  4. At the end of everyday plan what you want to accomplish the following day

Ready, Set, Go… You can tweet your participation with #phdcompletion

440 thoughts on “Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat Blog

  1. Happy first day of the Dissertation Writing Retreat!
    This week I will be working on finalizing the introduction (ch. 1) of my proposal. I will spend the morning between our first sessions and lunch on completing the chapter and the afternoons on editing. I look forward to my second 1:1 with Dr. Carter-Veale and starting an outline for the literature review (ch. 2).

    Like

  2. Jessica P Montoro May 10, 2021 — 9:07 pm

    Hello,
    Just wrapping up my first day! So far I drafted my proposal table of contents, read, and summarized four articles (1 left for this evening). Feeling good so far and tempted to work through the evening, but will try to pace myself for the rest of the week!

    -Jessica

    Like

  3. Bernardette Pinetta May 10, 2021 — 9:09 pm

    My name is Bernardette Pinetta. My goals for the workshop are to: finalize the table of contents, draft the methods and literature review of my second paper, and outlining the third paper of my dissertation. Today I was able to complete my table of contents and finish 2/3rds of my literature review for the second paper of my dissertation. I will continue working on my literature review. So that tomorrow I can focus on my methods paper.

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    1. Great progress Bernardette. Welcome to day one of the DWR. You are definitely in the right spot. Tomorrow I will present the Literature review so that should help you move forward faster bigger better.

      Like

  4. Good evening everyone,

    My goals for the day were to read through two articles and write two summaries, and I was able to get through two articles and have written 1 summary so far. I plan to write the second later this evening.

    -Viola

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    1. Hello Vi
      Congrats on getting 2 articles read and 1 summarized. Perhaps you can get 3 done tomorrow and 2 summarized now that you know what you are looking for. Welcome to Day 1.

      Like

  5. I am working on my methodology section today. Made contacts for data acquisition and updated a section of the Methods section.

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    1. Hello, ONeal Welcome to Day 1 of the DWR. Where to next. Will you continue on the same section tomorrow? Will you complete the methods on Day 2 of the DWR? Progress, not perfection=PhD. Good for you on making some progress today.

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  6. Hello, I am a final year dual PhD student cross-listed between the School of Public Health and the College of Engineering. I am working on my dissertation during this retreat. I am a couple paragraphs away from finishing the methods section for both chapters 2 and chapter 3. Additionally, I plan to fill in my Table of Contents using the UM template. Thank you so much for being here with us and pushing us all to finish! I will start at 8am and finish at 5:15pm each day. Tomorrow, I will focus more on writing up the results for chapters 3 & 4, and will try to make sure my ‘zombie’ task list is complete.

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    1. Hello Chanese, Welcome today! 52 more days to go. If your summer is going to suck, make sure you get it done. Your mantra for the summer will be “A good dissertation is a done dissertation.” Get’er done

      Like

  7. Hi everyone! Today was a productive day that helped me reorient my approach and thinking toward my dissertation. I realized that I was feeling a bit scattered with my overall approach, and needed some greater organization (especially with my problem statement!). Thinking about my ToC helped me organize the “why” of my dissertation. My goal before tomorrow is to write a clear problem statement (will send to you!) & re-conceptualize and organize my ToC.

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    1. Welcome to the DWR SMS, I am looking forward to reading the Problem Statement it is the foundation of everything else in the dissertation.

      Like

  8. My meeting with Dr. Carter-Veale today was incredibly helpful! Speaking with her made me realize I have a clearer idea of how to organize the chapter I am working on than I’d thought. Going over my notes and some readings, I also realized that I knew how to start the chapter. Today I will finish up this introduction with a paragraph or two mapping out the rest of the chapter.

    Tomorrow, I want to focus more on discussing fans of Japanese media and figuring out some coherent way to discuss affect theory. This will further go toward finishing my current chapter on video game fans.

    Like

    1. Amy Welcome to day 1 of the DWR. Glad that I could help and Tick tock….A new chapter every 10 days. Thank you for finding the time to post.

      Like

  9. Hi Everyone,

    I am a PhD student and working on proposal. Today I worked on the outline of my proposal and edits on chapter one. Tomorrow I will continue working on edits in chapter 2.

    Thank you

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    1. MNM Welcome to Day 1 of the DWR. Thank you for your participation. I hope that you have finished Chapter 1 to 90 % before you are moving on to Chapter 2.

      Like

  10. Hi everybody, this is Jared!

    Today I drafted a table of contents for my dissertation and began finalizing my prospectus. I will finish with this and then switch gears and look at the literature surrounding my first research project. My first discussion has provided a lot of clarity! I appreciate the focused environment this retreat provides and I hope to do more personal work on optimizing the best conditions for my “non-Zombie” work!

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    1. Sounds like a great plan. Welcome to Day of the DWR and a day of clarity it was a pleasure speaking with you today.

      Like

  11. Carmen Varela May 10, 2021 — 9:23 pm

    Hi everyone,
    My name is Carmen Varela. I am a third-year Neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at U of M. Today I made a table of contents for my dissertation and outlined my intro/background section that will serve as my Chapter 1. I also changed the wording in my dissertation proposal to past tense as suggested. Tomorrow I plan on expanding on at least one of the subsections of my Intro/Background and gather relevant literature for that section.

    Like

    1. Hello, Carmen Welcome to day 1. It was a pleasure speaking with you this evening. I hope you read this post and hit the ground running in the morning.

      Like

  12. Today I outlined my dissertation and decided on the format for it and each chapter. I will finish a few summaries from papers I read tonight. Tomorrow I plan to start importing text and figures to identify what I’m lacking for each chapter and start to fill out a proper outline for chapter 4 which I have done the least amount of work for.

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    1. JVG Welcome to the DWR and thank you for your participation. Sounds like you have a clear plan for tomorrow. See you in the morning.

      Like

  13. Working on data collection and methodology today.

    Like

  14. Good morning everyone,
    Today I plan on organizing and reviewing literature for at least one subsection of my Chapter 1 and develop a rough draft for that section.

    Like

  15. Sandra Daisy Espinoza Montes May 11, 2021 — 11:58 am

    Hello everyone,
    Today, my goal is to read 10 articles and summarize them.
    -Sandra

    Like

  16. Jessica P Montoro May 11, 2021 — 12:09 pm

    Hi everyone,

    My goal today is to outline the literature review for Chapter 2. I’d also like to finish editing the Research Questions for Chapter 1 and Theoretical Frameworks of Chapter 2.

    -Jess

    Like

    1. Jessica P Montoro May 11, 2021 — 9:16 pm

      Today I outlined the literature review for Chapter 2 and finished editing the Research Questions for Chapter 1 and I am almost done tweaking the theoretical frameworks for Chapter 2 (evening task!).

      My goals for tomorrow are: Write 2 pages on ERI section (one of my constructs) of Chapter 2. Write 1 page of SCI section (another one of my constructs) of Chapter 2.

      have a great, restful evening everyone!

      Like

  17. Bernardette Josee Pinetta May 11, 2021 — 12:10 pm

    For day 2: My focus is to finish my literature review for Paper 2 by this afternoon. My goal is to start my methods section this evening.

    Like

  18. Merrilyn Yeboah May 11, 2021 — 12:11 pm

    Hello, everyone!

    After reorienting myself yesterday, I plan to complete my ToC and Methodology today.

    – Merrilyn Yeboah

    Like

    1. Merrilyn Yeboah May 12, 2021 — 1:41 am

      I was able to complete my ToC, create an outline of my proposal, and flesh out my methodology. I will put final touches to my methodology tomorrow, identifying areas I need my advisor’s input in order to finalize.
      My meeting with Dr. CV was super helpful so I plan to start working on my lit review tomorrow. I plan to create an outline and start identifying articles.

      Like

  19. Moving PhorwarD May 11, 2021 — 12:27 pm

    I completed organizing my codes yesterday and almost finished my codebook. 🙂 It will be finished by this morning and send to my coding partner. After that I will work on Chapter 3 including a chart and summary of my participants and changing tenses. I can accomplish those things by the end of Tuesday. If I have time I will look up new articles for the new section of my chapter 1 so I can beginning writing the new section tomorrow. This has been great to have drill sergeants to keep me focused and on task (and slightly scared) into being productive each day 🙂 Thank you!!

    Like

  20. I spent last night working through the introduction of my chapter about video game fans. Today, I aim to finish the introduction, and most importantly end the section with a map of the chapter overall. The next section I plan to write today will discuss affect theory and the significance of affect to media consumption, especially video games. I will then prepare to write the following section about fans that will inform the analysis of my case study later in the chapter.

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  21. Yesterday, I finished both methods sections (Chapter 3 & 4). I also wrote a good portion of my results for Chapter 3. So today, I want to complete the results sections for Chapters 3 &4, and to start my literature review sheet with at least 3 articles.

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  22. Morning, all! Now that my Problem Statement and (revised) ToC are drafted, today, I plan to turn my attention to developing a plan for my literature review, specifically for my third RQ. In order to do this, I’ll organize my articles using the Excel format we discussed this morning and find 5 new articles to add to the Excel sheet. I’ve recognized that the majority of the articles I have to date support my research question, so today, I’ll be purposeful in seeking out evidence that presents counterarguments for my RQ to have a full argument.

    Like

  23. Good morning,

    My goal is to get through 3 additional articles today and summarize 2 out of the 3 articles. I’m also planning on putting together a table of contents this morning.

    -Vi

    Like

  24. Today, my goal is to finish the introduction in the morning session and begin editing in the afternoon session. Yesterday, I created a table of contents and made steady progress on the introduction.

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    1. Raul, thanks for sending me the Statement of the Problem. I have not found an opportunity to read it yet but I will.

      Like

  25. Today my plan is still to start importing text and figures to identify what I’m lacking for each chapter and start to fill out a proper outline for chapter 4. I also plan to set up a lit review spreadsheet to help inform my chapter one and intros for subsequent chapters.

    Like

    1. Great tips this morning on approaching the Literature Review. Many students struggle with ways to present the literature that graphic

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      1. Opps… that graphic was very helpful.

        Like

  26. Great tips this morning on approaching the Literature Review. Many students struggle with ways to present the literature that graphic

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing that feedback about this morning’s presentation.

      Like

  27. Hello,
    Today I plan to finish my prospectus and then work on a literature review for my first project. I would like to have that halfway done by the end of my workday.

    Like

    1. Sounds like a plan; so how did it go Jared. Is the prospectus done?

      Like

  28. Today I planned on working on a specific subsection of my lit review by gathering and organizing relevant literature and drafting up some semblance of paragraphs for this section. Unfortunately, organizing and gathering my references and noting key findings of each took much longer than I expected, so I didn’t get complete sentences on paper today :(. BUT, I did use a modified version of Dr. C-V’s lit rev excel sheet to organize and summarize the key info from each reference. While I was skeptical at first that this would take up extra time, it really made a HUGE difference for me in helping me organize my thoughts and figure out where each paper fit into the big picture :). Thank you so much for that resource, and thanks to Dr. Pope for his smashing endorsement of the excel sheet because it convinced me to give it a try ;)! I will continue to use it moving forward.

    Like

    1. Wow….Thanks Dr. Pope… This morning I said prior to presenting the Lit Review exercise that trust and believe even if you don’t understand that some things will reveal themselves. So glad you gave it a try.

      Like

  29. Today, I accomplished writing up my chapter 4 results. Editing both Methods sections and sifting through my previously created literature review/outlining to make sure I know which articles I need to search. I am hoping to get those 3 articles done this evening, so fingers crossed! If all goes well tomorrow, I can focus on collecting and categorizing articles, but I will have to think about the number of articles I want to categorize tomorrow.

    Oh! I’m pumped for maybe getting some of these introductions out of the way! Fingers crossed.

    Like

  30. Hello,

    This is James. My goal is to some investigation on an article and complete an outline based on that article.

    James

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  31. Today, I wrote more of the introduction of the fifth chapter. I had a brief discussion with my advisor, which helped me make sure I was not just going off on a tangent in this chapter. The discussion has helped me refocus and direct my introduction to make sure that it is on topic. I aim to redo my outline for the chapter to reflect some of the changes I have made.

    I also plan to write a rough outline of my Chapter 4 for my meeting tomorrow. This chapter has been the most difficult for me to plan out because there is not much literature about video game journalism out there.

    Like

  32. Second day of the retreat, had a good meeting with Dr. C-V where we discussed strategies for working with and around my advisor and his priorities. Looking forward to working on adding to my literature review in the morning.

    Like

    1. I would call it managing the advisor you have not the one you “wish” you had.

      Like

  33. Today, I finished a full draft of Chapter 1 and read through/edited the first part. My goal for tomorrow is to finish editing in the morning time and begin to outline Ch. 2: Literature Review in the afternoon.
    –RG

    Like

  34. Sandra Daisy Espinoza Montes May 11, 2021 — 9:17 pm

    I was able to read some articles, but not all 10. The day is not over though, so I am going to continue!

    Like

    1. Good for you I hope you know what you are looking for in these journal articles. That should make the process go faster.

      Like

  35. Today I worked on literature review, looked at my methodology to ensure what I am trying to research indeed can be done in terms of data analysis and results. Tomorrow I will continue looking at the methodology.

    Like

    1. Keep moving forward because baby steps are still steps.

      Like

  36. Today I had my meeting with Dr. Carter-Veale, and it was very helpful! After speaking with her about my dissertation topic, table of contents, and proposal, I have a better idea about how this process may go for me. As a result of the conversation, I’ll be working on a statement of the problem tomorrow for my proposal.

    Like

    1. Looking forward to reading the Statement of the Problem. Keep up the good work.

      Like

  37. Bernardette Josee Pinetta May 11, 2021 — 9:21 pm

    Today my goal was to finish my literature review, that did not happen. However, I am still progressing on my dissertation proposal. I also realized I left out a goal of mine which was to finish a run-through of the initial coding protocol (although this will be worked on throughout the week). It is a 4 stage process and I’m currently on Phase 2. In terms of the literature review, I completed another section, but got stumped towards the end. But I tried to work through it by just focusing on getting words to the page and not being worried about whether or not it was great. I also did zombie tasks (like focusing on the references) to keep myself progressing.

    Like

    1. Happy Birthday, who can really focus on your birthday. Good for you for pushing through. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

      Like

  38. Hi, all! Today, I worked on organizing my literature into the Excel format we discussed earlier in the day. I also specifically focused on finding articles counter to my argument for chapter 3, which seem to be less common. Looking through the article organization, I do recognize more gaps in the literature in general (types of tutoring and domains of tutoring) that can contribute to a more robust and well-rounded argument for my literature review. Next steps: to organize these into a narrative outline for my lit review (by revising what I had) and fill in sentence structure so the lit review just flows.

    Like

    1. SMS seems like you are making great progress. Welcome to day 2 of the DWR. I have read your statement of the Problem and with a few tweaks it will be done.

      Like

  39. Today I imported text and restructured my chapters. (I also wrote an abstract and sent my 1st author manuscript draft to coauthors for review). I’m working on the spreadsheet for lit review now/tonight. Tomorrow I want to finish the spreadsheet and designate the papers I have to chapter one and/or intros corresponding to chapters 2-4 to identify where I need more papers.

    Like

    1. Sounds like a good plan. Congrats on sending your plan to your coauthors. Looks like you are making progress.

      Like

  40. Take aways from Day 2
    Dr. Mustafaa shared
    Continue to dream big, but a “good dissertation is a done dissertation”. It’s okay to change course. (In conversation with your chair(s) of course.)
    Explore what editors actually can do for you, even if you decide not to use one. Get a few references in advance in case you decide to use one later.
    Also, ask for resources to cover costs—you might be surprised what you can get. Lean on your faith, family, and friends.

    Great advice.

    Like

  41. Sandra Daisy Espinoza Montes May 12, 2021 — 1:03 pm

    Today, my goal is to write!

    Like

  42. Jessica P Montoro May 12, 2021 — 1:04 pm

    Day 2 goals: Write 2 pages on ERI section of Chapter 2. Write 1 page of SCI section of Chapter 2. Apply Dr. Carter’s edits from yesterday’s 1:1. Happy Wednesday everyone!

    Like

  43. The past two days have been incredibly productive! Yesterday, I completed an outline for chapter 1, the results for chapter 4, and set up my literature database. Today, I hope to begin filling in the database with articles so hopefully, I can complete at least one introduction to chapter 3 or 4 tomorrow.

    Like

  44. Yesterday, my goal was to finish plugging the ‘holes’ in my chapter 3. I didn’t not do that, so it’s become my goal for today. If I have time to spare, I’ll work on trimming down my chapter 2 components by assessing which content is most salient to my study.

    Like

  45. Merrilyn Yeboah May 12, 2021 — 1:08 pm

    Today, I plan to begin outlining my lit review and identifying relevant articles. I will also work on creating my SME scripts. I think it would be great to create a visual representation of my methodology so that I quickly recognize the entire procedure as I move forward with writing. I will work on that as well.

    Like

  46. Good morning everyone,

    My goal for today is to write a statement of the problem and submit it to Dr. Carter-Veale be the end of today. If I have time, I’m going to properly identify the bodies of literature that relate to my dissertation project (e.g., race and policing, gender and women studies, and race and ethnic studies), to better direct my search for literature. Once I’ve done that, I’ll begin to look for more articles in those specific areas.

    -Vi

    Like

  47. Good morning, all! I’m looking forward to another productive day (realizing we’re already halfway through the retreat, I’m eager to continue making more progress!). Goals for today: continue organizing the narrative for my literature review based on the Excel document I’ve established. I’m looking forward to discussing my problem statement with Dr. CV to ensure that the lit review maps onto the problem statement and has a cohesive argument that is well-articulated. Will blog out later today with updates and progress!

    Like

  48. My plan for today is to finally incorporate affect theory into my chapter draft. Getting a better understanding of this theory has been like going down a rabbit hole. I have a good idea of which version of the theory I will be drawing on.

    Establishing this theory will help me structure the rest of my chapter. I then plan to write the next section after the introduction that draws on affect theory to discuss media fans and how they take advantage of digital technology to further engage with media with which they have formed an emotional attachment.

    Like

  49. Moving PhorwarD May 12, 2021 — 1:12 pm

    I finished organizing my codes, creating a codebook, sending a 2 page summary of the project and send it to my coding partner. She confirmed. I organized my transcripts and internal (my use) participant table yesterday (and found out I’m missing 1 transcript. Annoying!).

    Today I’m working on chapter 3 by: creating a formatted participant table that describes each participant and characteristics. I’m also creating demographic tables for the sample. I’m also changing the tenses in the chapter. I will then look at the feedback for chapter 3 from my committee and make any edits. I hope to be finished with chapter 3 by the end of the day today. If I have time, I will begin searching for newer articles from 2020/2021 along with articles for a new section I need for chapter 1.

    This has been the most productive three days I’ve had in 5 months!

    Like

  50. Day 3: Today, I am finishing edits for Ch. 1 and draft an outline for the literature review. Having a structure for writing has been very helpful this week.

    Like

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