Dissertation Work, August Update

I feel like I’ve been saying this every month, but August has been a busy one for the dissertation. Between reaching some major research milestones, revising another chapter, and gearing up for reworking two more chapters, I’ve been getting as much done as I can before the end of the summer. Let’s take a look!

Having a beautiful workspace has definitely helped make the past few months of dissertation work more pleasant. Hummingbirds visit that feeder I’ve attached to the window throughout the day. Image: an open laptop in front of a window overlooking trees and other plants.

Dissertation Research Milestone

During the first week of August, I reached a major research milestone. I finished reading through and cataloging all of my archival photographs. This means that I’ve organized every archival document I’ve photographed into Tropy. Or, in the case of the Met archive and some Roswell Museum correspondence where I didn’t take photographs, I’ve written summaries of them. For each document listed in Tropy, I’ve created notes summarizing their contents and highlighting useful quotes for easy reference. Additionally, I’ve made spreadsheets of all my documents listing their locations and content summaries. This lets me look them up quickly for reference and citation purposes.

Here’s what it all means in quantitative terms. I’ve organized, read, and taken notes on 3,815 different archival documents or document groups. These groups cover everything from one-line telegrams to technical manuals dozens of pages long. They represent 10 different collections in 9 repositories in 6 states, spanning from New York to New Mexico. It’s a personal archive that’s taken years to photograph and process. Completing this work is a huge deal and will make chapter revisions much easier to complete.

Revising Chapter 2

Speaking of chapter revisions, that’s another thing I’ve been working on this month. After finishing my Chapter 1 revision, I turned my attention to Chapter 2. Like Chapter 1, I did a significant reorganization to better reflect my argument and focus. I also incorporated the new research I’d done earlier this summer.

To stay on schedule, I dedicated each week spent on Chapter 2 to different tasks. During the first week, I concentrated on reorganizing the chapter. I cut out the sections I no longer wanted, and added new material. For the second week, I focused on smoothing out and refining the prose, spending one day on a different chapter section. I dedicated the last week to fixing citations and reading through the chapter to see how it sounded as a whole.

Planning Chapters 3 and 4 Revisions

In addition to working on Chapter 2, I also started looking ahead to my Chapter 3 and 4 revisions. Since I originally wrote these chapters back to back, I decided to undertake a similar process with the revision. During this past week, I worked on the rough revisions for both chapters. From there, I’ll work on each chapter individually. My goal is to have both chapters revised by the end of September so I can move on to Chapter 5 and finish that revision by mid-October.

The reason I’m moving through these chapters so quickly is because Brandon and are I celebrating our first anniversary in October. Since we got married during the middle of the semester last year, we didn’t take a honeymoon. We plan on making up for that now with a special anniversary trip. As you can imagine, I don’t want to take any work with me. At the same time though, I don’t want to interrupt my dissertation flow mid-revision by taking a prolonged pause. Finishing this round of revisions in October then, accomplishes two goals. By completing them for all five chapters before we go, I’ll get a much-needed break from the entire dissertation. When we come back, moreover, I’ll be able to set fresh eyes on the dissertation as a whole. From there, I’ll decide what needs to happen next, but at least everything will be in the same state of revision.

Summer Reflections: Revising the Dissertation on the Halleran

Having the summer to work on the dissertation without other academic or professional obligations has been a game-changer for my dissertation productivity. Last summer, I balanced dissertation work with reinterpreting the Barry Art Museum’s Doll Gallery, curating Rhonda Holy Bear: Artist and Story Keeper, and developing the Museums & Crisis syllabus. I still got a lot of dissertation work done, but I had to work around other commitments. Additionally, knowing that I’d be teaching in the fall, I scheduled my dissertation work around my class, spending the summer on research and the fall on writing I could do in smaller time chunks.

This summer I’ve had to do no such balancing. As a result, I’ve been able to complete several major milestones. These include drafting the introduction and conclusion, completing my archival research, revising Chapters 1 and 2, and starting the revisions on 3 and 4. Additionally, because I’m not teaching in the fall, I can continue prioritizing the dissertation with the goal of getting it done. No accommodating teaching schedules this year.

Looking Ahead to the Fall

Nevertheless, I’m also aware that my schedule will start picking up again soon. After a few months away, I’ll be resuming my part-time work with the Barry Art Museum at the end of August. The fall is also the major application season for fellowships, postdocs, and academic jobs. Although I’m not prioritizing teaching positions, I’m keeping my options open, so I’ve been preparing application materials. I may not have the obligation of an assistantship this year, but between finishing the dissertation and getting a job, I’m going to have plenty to do.

Which is why I’m so grateful for the Halleran. Having these summer months free to focus on dissertation work without worrying about future assistantship obligations has made a huge impact on my ability to get things done. I feel even more confident about finishing this journey next year.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *