Sunday, October 7, 2007

Which way next?

Here's my dilemma: I need to figure out which chapter to work on next. I have three chapters left to draft, which essentially boil down to two substantive choices:

1. One of the two archivally-based chapters, each dealing with a specific issue in the larger topic. These are, in many ways, cannibalized from the dissertation, but with extra material both primary and secondary added in, and the larger analytical framework threaded through; or…

2. The Big Bad Theoretical Chapter, which forms a bridge between the background chapter (written, and looking decent) and the four archivally-based chapters. This chapter is where I really lay the foundation for doing something new and different. It's critical, and absolutely critical that I get it right. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about it. I've done no work yet on this chapter at all, and all I know about it is that: a) It needs to get me from point A to point C; and b) I know about four of the authors whose ideas are currently providing the bulk of my inspiration. Oh, and did I mention that this is not the kind of work in my discipline that my graduate training prepared me for?

Option one is by far less daunting: I know more or less what either of these two chapters has to say, and I can guess how long each is going to take me (six weeks for either one, I'd guess). Option two is more intimidating, because I know neither of these things about it. It's a bit of intellectual quicksand that I will have to traverse, sooner or later. But the reading promises to be interesting.

But: I have a research presentation to give at Fellowship Institute just after Thanksgiving, and I'm thinking that, if I need feedback and input on any chapter, it should be Big Bad, since I'm so lost. On the other hand, if Big Bad takes longer than six weeks to think about and draft, I could find myself still floundering when the presentation comes around.

I've gone back and forth on this for a week or two now. I'm leaning towards option one. What is really pulling me that way is this: If Big Bad's job is to take me from point A to point C, it would be helpful to have point C finished, rather than half-finished.


squadratomagico said...

This is a tough one. But I would vote for Theoretical Chapter. It sounds like it's the most difficult one for you to write, so getting the feedback from colleagues, and getting an early start on it with plenty of time to revise, seem like good ideas. While I take your point about knowing precisely which issues are being bridged, surely you must have a clear sense of the content for the Archival Chapter(s).

I'd say: start with the theory, get the collegial feedback, and know that if things get frustrating, you have a more expository chapter in your future.

Belle said...

And I go the other way. Get the paper done, or at least started; BBT needs the most careful work and if you're niggled by the paper, you'll be distracted. FWIW.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Two replies, two opinions, both with good reasoning. You see why I'm in a quandary?

I'm still pondering this, btw. Gonna decide tonight, somehow.