Michigan’s Dissertation Writing Retreat Blog

Kellog

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. Day 3: My plan for today is to flesh out my new lit review spreadsheet with general papers for chapter 1 and specific parameters for the papers that will be relevant for subsequent chapters. Chapter 4 has the least amount of work done so I will focus on fleshing that out more today. This will include deciding on sub sections for results and determining if any experiments need to be completed before making this chapter “complete”. definitely not aiming for perfect but shooting for enough to defend in less than 51 days!

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  2. Carmen Varela May 12, 2021 — 1:44 pm

    Last night I finished up entering in my references for the lit rev section that I am working on into the excel sheet. Today I plan on getting a rough draft written for that section and maybe start on organizing my references for the next section. Fingers crossed!!

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  3. Restructuring the methods to meet the needs of potential data.
    Tomorrow Meeting with IR and Advisor. Continue restructuring methods after data possibilities are discussed.

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  4. Jessica P Montoro May 12, 2021 — 9:06 pm

    Finished theoretical framework for papers 2 and 3, still working on the writing 1 page of ERI and 1 page of SCI for chapter 2. Looking forward to a productive evening!

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  5. I found it difficult to concentrate today. I have managed to narrow down my references for affect theory. The theory itself is connected to a debate in the humanities because it draws from neuroscience and related sciences. I didn’t want to get bogged down in this discussion but didn’t want to ignore it, either. This theory is fundamental to this chapter, so making sure I know what I’m writing about is essential.

    After establishing this, I plan to write a few paragraphs about recent research into fan communities and then transition into talking about the specific context of the fan community I am examining for this chapter.

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  6. Good afternoon,

    I’ve been working on my statement of the problem today. I’m happy with the progress I’ve made today as I am almost done with the document. I plan to send it off tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll begin working on my literature review.

    -Vi

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  7. Third day of the retreat, I really got into some of heavier and more mathematically abstract papers and articles that I’ll be adding to my literature review. These took longer to chew through than I had anticipated, a minor setback. I forge onward nonetheless.

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  8. I was able to brainstorm ideas on what theories to use for one of my variables and I created a system to organize my literature review.

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  9. Today, I reviewed the literature and retrieved 16 articles and thus far have summarized 10 of them. I plan to search more articles and wrap up my search for articles today. Hopefully tomorrow, I can get all of them summarized in the early morning, and complete the introductions to Chapters 3 & 4 most of the day. I can then outline my discussions and fill in the outline for chapter 1 with articles tomorrow evening.

    Thank you again for the insightful guest speakers and the frank candor of their experiences and the willingness to speak to us about not only personal but also professional experiences.

    Warm regards and have a lovely night, everyone!

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    1. PS- I will of course also start summarizing tonight as much as possible but I want to focus on my search for now.

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  10. After meeting with Dr. Carter-Veale, I slightly adjusted my goals for today. I restructured a section of the introduction and read 2 articles. Though I did not get to outlining the literature review, it still feels like a productive day. Progress is progress, no matter how small it is!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Baby steps are still step as long as you are moving forward.

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  11. Hello, everyone! Today I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. C-V for the second time and get some very helpful feedback on my writing. Prior to the meeting, I worked on revising my ToC & Problem Statement, and gathering and organizing literature. The feedback I received helped me develop an action plan to create a living outline for my work as I progress forward. I plan to add organized bullet points into my ToC (that I’m transforming into a working outline) to organize my literature review. This will help me ensure that my paragraphs *stay on topic* and contribute to my overall argument. Thanks for the support, feedback, and guidance today (and all week)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Day 4 starts tomorrow I look forward to seeing implement some to the tips, tools and strategies.

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  12. Carmen Varela May 12, 2021 — 9:37 pm

    Today I planned on getting a rough draft made for one of the sections of my lit review. While I got a few sentences down, it wasn’t anywhere near what I had hoped to accomplish. I realized (after talking with Dr. C-V) that I had spent a lot of time today doing zombie activities that I could’ve reserved for when I was tired. As someone who struggles with putting my ideas into writing the traditional way, Dr. C-V gave me some great advice and showed me some tricks and alternative ways that I could get words on paper. I plan on trying out some of these new methods tonight and see if I can make further progress in my writing. Tomorrow I will focus more on actually getting words (and paragraphs :P) written.

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    1. Carmen good for you for working late and coming up with an alternative plan tomorrow.

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  13. Moving PhorwarD May 12, 2021 — 10:11 pm

    I completed the edits for chapter 3, including additional descriptive tables. I have started a list of questions to ask my methodologist regarding some of the tables (what order he would like variables in, etc.). I also had to order the transcription of an audio file that I never got transcribed. This evening I will work on a timeline for how I can continue this momentum over the next ~50 days, so tomorrow I can spend with deeper edits to chapter 1.

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    1. Sounds like a plan and sounds like you are becoming the project manager of your dissertation.

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  14. Today was power packed. This morning Dr. Carter-Veale reviewed preparing for and doing your dissertation defense. Everyone please remember when the committee is discussing (arguing) over any point you do not and should not respond unless and until called upon to respond. Also please read your dissertation before the defense let it be fresh in your memory.

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  15. After meeting with Dr. CV again I adjusted my goals to prioritize making a list of zombie tasks (rather than keeping them in my head), making a timeline for my 13 days/chapter goal && finding ways that work for me to finish this work once the retreat is over. We got this!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear it. Tick tock 50 more days starts tomorrow.

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  16. The Two Minute Elevator Pitch:
    John Maxwell talks and writes about connecting with others. That two minute speech should not just communicate but connect with the listener. When you connect with the listener they remember and are more likely to respond to a call to action. So decide who you are and how you want your research to be received. In other words why is your research important/relevant to the listener. How does it impact their life or the life of someone they may know. What is the value in it for them. Know what you need related to your research and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
    Write out your research pitch and be comfortable with it.

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  17. Day 4: I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience thus far. I was able to essentially set up my literature database and have put a pin in searching for now. Today I will focus on summarizing in the morning session and then to drafting 1) chapter 3 introduction, 2) chapter 4 introduction, and then ch. 3 and 4’s discussions tonight. I think it would be super cool to say I finished 2 chapters of the entire dissertation during the retreat, but I will merely aim on summarizing and then ticking off that list.

    Let’s kick butt this last day!

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  18. Moving PhorwarD May 13, 2021 — 12:45 pm

    Today I’m going to spend time making a few more edits on Chapter 3 before I send to a friend to do some more fine-grained editing. I then will start on some more heavy edits to chapter 1 by looking at my advisors/committee feedback and creating a plan for that by looking up some more articles and some reorganization. Lastly, before the end of the day, I want to create a timeline and plan for how I can keep up this momentum after the retreat.

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  19. Today, I will further work on my introductory section that fleshes out the theoretical background of the chapter. This means transitioning from affect theory to discussing how fans form emotional connections with the media that they consume. I’m using examples from anime fans, who have been researched more than video game fans (who are interested in Japanese media). There are some parallels between the two groups as well as important differences that I am excited to explore.

    I’m also trying to contextualize the specific fandom I am analyzing in existing scholarship discussing fans and Web 2.0. I want to make it clear that my research can contribute to our understanding of how media fans take advantage of digital technology to engage more deeply with media they with which they have become emotionally attached.

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  20. Good morning, all! This week has flown by and been filled with productivity and lots of new approaches to writing. Goals for today: continue filling in my working outline to move toward prospectus, proposal, and eventually my dissertation! Specifically today, I want to add references for at least 5 of the sub-sections of my lit review. Hoping for more, but any progress will be better than where I started!

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  21. Good morning everyone!

    As we enter the home stretch of this writing retreat, I can say that I’m pleased with the progress that I’ve made. I’ve definitely departed from the goals that I identified at the beginning of this week, but I’ve gained greater clarity around what it is that I’m researching; what I’m looking for in the literature; and I’ve even drafted a problem statement. My goals for today are to attend to Dr. Carter-Veale’s comments on my problem statement, and continue looking for literature for my lit review.

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  22. Carmen Varela May 13, 2021 — 2:17 pm

    Good morning!
    Yesterday I had a good meeting with Dr. C-V and she gave me alternative ways to write, like recording your voice and then transcribing it into words, or using speech-to-text options. I gave the speech-to-text a try and OMG! It made a huge difference! I was able to get a whole page of my lit review written in under an hour (That’s HUGE for me as previously it could take me an entire day just to get one page written). I also discovered that the Notes app on my phone has a voice-to-text feature and I can upload the text document to my google drive to edit on my computer later. This is game-changing for me because it means that I can literally write my methods section of my dissertation in real-time as I am doing the experiments simply by narrating what I am doing into my phone. I don’t know why I didn’t put two and two together before, but I’m glad that Dr. C-V showed me the way. I feel like she hit me on the head with a magic wand and said “You get a new life!” 🙂 I’m so grateful for this opportunity and for all of Dr. C-V’s advice. I’m also very encouraged that I now don’t have to get fat(er) while I write my dissertation lol. Today I plan on keeping up this momentum and use these newfound methods to crank some more of my lit review out. Good luck everyone!

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  23. OMG!! This is the last day, students typically say just as I was settling in it was over. Yesterday the guest speaker was trying to get a spot with Dr. Carter-Veale. Get all you can in the next few hours. We have the mini lectures after lunch and the close off at 5:00. Get your questions answered. Make it ALL ABOUT YOU with no apologies.

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  24. Moving PhorwarD May 13, 2021 — 8:55 pm

    This afternoon I crated a sustainability plan including connecting with people who are on a similar timeline, creating a community of people to study with weekly, and a calendar of what I would need to do and when – in order to graduate when I want (which is looking tough – very little room for error). I also went back and looked at feedback Dr. CV gave me on my chapter 3 (and found a few more places to improve myself). It is much closer to being able to send to my advisors for review. I also sent my advisors an email letting them know about my progress and requesting feedback on my proposed timeline based on their availability this summer. This has been a really, really helpful experience for me and I am hoping I can keep this momentum up (!!!!!).

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  25. I am so thankful for this opportunity!
    I am so close to having 2 complete first drafts of my 3rd and 4th chapters to share with my PI. I genuinely had no idea that I could complete two whole chapters so quickly. I anticipate I will have plenty of edits (fingers crossed only in the double digits- haha). I am so happy that I was able to take this opportunity, meet with Dr. Carter-Veale, and make what I hope are some lasting connections!

    We got through the retreat and we are all going to get through our dissertations! Let’s get #PhDone 🙂

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  26. These four days were very productive. Blocking 4 days for writing was very helpful. I look forward to continuing with the structure so I can push forward and finish the proposal. I was able to accomplish my goals these four days. I created a table of contents, finalized Ch. 1, read a few articles, and started outlining Ch. 2.

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  27. Good afternoon,
    Today I reviewed Dr. Carter-Veale’s feedback on my statement of the problem. They were very helpful as they made me work to clarify my thoughts and overall argument that I’m making in my dissertation. After meeting with her today, I added 2 more bodies of literature to my literature review, and began working on my statement about it the significance of the problem. Overall, this has been a great experience for me- I’ve had 4 days to think about my dissertation topic and I know that once I figure out the significance of the study as well as the statement of the problem, I’ll have a solid foundation for the rest of my study. Tomorrow, I plan to get up early again and work on the statement on the significance of the study.

    It was great meeting you all and know you’ll get through the dissertation!

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  28. Carmen Varela May 13, 2021 — 9:27 pm

    Today was kinda bittersweet knowing that this retreat was ending but at the same time being so grateful for all that I learned in these few short days. I hope that I can maintain this structure and excitement and really turn these new habits into a lifestyle change. I plan on continuing to work on my lit review through the weekend. It was great meeting all of you and I’m rooting for the ones who are close to their completion date. If anyone would like to keep in touch, or if someone needs an accountability partner, feel free to email me at mcvarela@umich.edu. Good luck to all!

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    1. Hello All It’s time to check in to see if you are still working toward your goals. Are you still on schedule? how is the countdown coming?

      Like

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