I wrote 2 pages about new models of information literacy in affinity spaces today, or about 968 words.

I’m trying a new thing with my writing. Usually my process is Read > Take Notes > Concept Map > Outline > Write, the whole paper at once. But right now I’m trying a thing where it’s Read > Take Notes > Quick Outline > Write for just a small chunk of the paper and I’m really liking it.

I’ve probably read that this was a good way to write in a million places, but I can’t identify any of them right now.

There are lots of gaps, but I wouldn’t even know those gaps were there before I started writing, so there we are. If you’ve been struggling, maybe try this more cyclical writing process.

First, huge thanks to Dr. Laura Gogia for the descriptive phrase “Dissertating in the Open.”

Early on in my PhD program, I decided that I wanted to be as transparent about my dissertation process as is ethically possible. Since I’m focused on studying Connected Learning, and openly-networked products are a key part of that framework, I wanted to share my own process. This blog post is the first step in that direction.

When I came into this program, several of my cohort-mates already had clear ideas not just about their area of research interest, but about their specific dissertation projects. Others took a hard turn and completely shifted their research interests. I’ve followed a middle route; while I wasn’t zeroed in enough to turn every assignment into a chapter in my dissertation (or even my literature review), everything I did was somehow focused on interest-driven learning. But I was never clear on how it all would come together in a culminating research project.

Over the past three and a half years, I’ve probably floated almost 10 different dissertation topics or themes past my very understanding advisor, but none of them quite coalesced into a question. I should have known that the question would come out of the literature. My best research always comes from someone else’s “Possibilities for future research” section.

A few weeks ago, I was reading Dr. Crystle Martin‘s (2012) dissertation. She investigated the information literacy practices of players in the World of Warcraft affinity space and, based on previous prescriptive models of information literacy and her own results, generated a new, descriptive model of information literacy for digital youth.

And then in her conclusion, she said:

“The more affinity spaces which are studied, the more stable the model will become, until eventually it will be a powerful predictive model that can approximate outcomes when parameters are changed” (p. 108).

I physically actually got chills. But I wasn’t sure how I would tie this into my own work.

Then I went to the Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy concert and saw the cosplayers.

Then I re-read Dr. Martin’s dissertation.

Then I realized cosplay is an affinity space.

Then I sat down and over the course of a few hours banged out a dissertation prospectus to send to my advisor. It’s just a first draft. But I wanted to share it for those of you who are inexperienced in writing them. I’m lucky that my professor Dr. Barbara Wildemuth really walked my cohort through this process. Comments are open, so feel free to annotate it up and ask questions.

Next time, on Dissertating in the Open: building a comps package based on your prospectus!

I wrote 279 words about definitions of “makerspace” today. Tomorrow: reviewing all 26ish pages I’ve written so far and making a plan for the conclusion.
My makerspaces lit review is now at just over 15 pages. It’s mostly cutting and pasting from synthetic notes rather than new writing. That feels a little like cheating but it also feels really nice to know that all the writing I’ve done since January is actually useful. There are lots of wacky little comments to myself like “Do a better job paraphrasing instead of quoting here,” and a few places that need to be better synthesized or fleshed out. Goal 1 is just to get it done. Goal 2 is to go back and make it better.
I haven’t been keeping track daily like I hoped to, but this chunk of my literature review now has about 6.5 pages written. Also, I’m finding that I can genuinely often just copy my synthetic notes whole cloth into the paper, which is huge.
Outline
Finished converting my concept map to an outline. Tomorrow: WRITING!
Today I added 11 studies to my concept map for my makerspaces literature review.

Tomorrow: finishing my outline.

And then, I write.

I will write a bad first draft. And it will be good to have written.

Surprise work session today! Took advantage of bonus nanny time to get a couple’s work session in at the coffee shop near my house. Get you a partner who will sit across a table in silence from you while you both have your laptops out and secretly look at pictures of the kid you have together after you use a little work break to upload them to your shared album.

On to the reporting!

I reviewed and wrote synthetic notes for three studies today. Call that 600 words.

Then I transcribed synthetic notes for twelve studies from my notebook into Google Drive.

NEXT STEPS: revisiting my conceptual synthesis spreadsheet and adding new details to it. Making a new concept map. Revising my outline. Getting this chunk of my comps package drafted.

Today I have reviewed and written a synthetic note for one journal article.

I also wrote my earlier blog post.

(I did some other stuff, too. But it isn’t tied so directly with my writing.)

As promised yesterday, I’m going to start tracking my daily work productivity, mostly to help me realize that yes, I’ve actually done stuff. First we’ll get a macro picture of everything I’ve written as part of my doctoral program, and then I’ll get into the work I’ve been doing for my comprehensive exams, where I will detail more than just words written.

I have written the following items as part of my doctoral coursework:

  • The Maker Movement and Learning in School Libraries. Literature review. 8,000 words.
  • The Role of Archives and Special Collections in K-12 Instruction. Literature review. 7,000 words.
  • Organizing and Describing Information for Children. Literature review. 5,000 words.
  • School Librarians as Leaders. Literature review. 5,000 words.
  • Special Education Training for Preservice School Librarians. Original research. 4,000 words.
  • “A Real Fun Scene”: Learning Improvisational Comedy in Community. Original research. 7,000 words.
  • Everyday Life Information Needs of Adolescents. Literature review. 4,000 words.
  • Designing Information Retrieval Interfaces for Children’s Use. Literature review. 5,000 words.
  • Libraries, Tabletop Roleplaying Games, and Teen Identity Development. Literature review. 6,000 words.
  • Cultivating a Community of School Librarian Scholars. Literature review. 6,000 words.
  • Unlocking the Door to Adventure: Cultivating a Community of Practice in Improvisational Comedy (and related assignments). Original research. 10,000 words.
  • Expansive Learning, Third Spaces, and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy (and related assignments). Literature review. 5,000 words.
  • Learning from Library Escape Games. Research proposal. 1,000 words.
  • Decolonizing and Participatory Research with Youth in Library Makerspaces (and related assignments). Literature review. 7,000 words.
  • Possible Selves. Literature review. 6,000 words.
  • Teen Participation in Library Makerspaces: A Grounded Theory Study. Research proposal. 5,000 words.
  • Youth-driven School Library Services. Research proposal. 1,000 words.
  • Racial Equity Initiatives in North Carolina’s Public Schools. White paper. (Co-authored.) 6,000 words.

In the two and a half years of my coursework, I wrote 98,000 words.

Not bad. (Please don’t ask how many I published.)

Now, let’s talk about the work I’ve done on the comprehensive examination literature review package.

I identified 179 studies that were potentially of interest. Of those, I have identified as useful, read, and reviewed 35 studies. I have written synthetic notes for 33 of those; at an average of about 250 words each, that’s a total of 8,000 words. This is a marked drop-off in word count output. There are several non-writing reasons for that. I’m going to ramp it back up in the near future.

So that’s where I was as of yesterday. Look for another update after today’s work session!