Motivation to Write



I haven't been very active on here in some time. I started my doctoral dissertation (why do we Americans call it a dissertation when it seems the rest of the world calls it a thesis? Here, a thesis is for Masters students. Why can't the US just get on the bandwagon with everyone else?) in February. I have written only 32 pages. I have been working on it--writing, really! But, my page count isn't moving. I just keep deleting chunks and typing new thoughts in their places. I haven't managed to write much of anything in the last week.

Has anyone else hit a slump like this? My research is in Colombia, and I am not there right now, so that may be part of the problem. I have a one-way ticket scheduled for next month and plan to stay until August or September (I have to come back to work). My chair is very very busy and takes literally weeks to give me feedback on anything I do. I have support from my boyfriend and family, albeit none of them have been through a PhD. I have a good network of colleagues who are exactly where I am in terms of progress, so that helps. I ordered a new laptop (I went with a Lenovo that is a bit smaller than my current one) almost 3 weeks ago, and am hoping a fresh, blank screen will help (STILL waiting for it to ship though!).

What do you do when you feel overwhelmed with information? I have a lot, but I am unorganized. I have Mendeley, but I always forget to use it. I work with about 12 documents open at any given time. And many tabs and windows. I will attribute that to the ADHD. Any tips?



Although it may vary by subject area, 32 pages if you only started in Feb doesn't sound bad to me, particularly when colleagues are in the same position as you.

Wanted to offer a suggestion about the information overload and multiple documents open at once which was a problem that afflicted me and left me always feeling stressed. I saved references that I hadn't yet used more informally than Mendeley either just as the pdf itself or as url in a Word doc with one line underneath saying what was potentially useful about this paper so that I knew the info was available to me and not lost. Then was strict about having only one paper consistently open at a time and opening and closing others only when I needed to make cross reference to them. Also, made sure that I shut down the computer at the end of the day with all tabs/papers closed and recorded rather than sleep mode otherwise it played on my mind that the job was half done.

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Great advice from Clupea about multiple documents and dealing with information overload-tips I am going to remember-thank you very much indeed.

Frequentflyer@Going to Colombia might really help given that Colombia forms the context for your research topic.

I hit a terrible slump around the end of last year and early this year, where it seemed all my attempts at collecting data were hitting the wall. Totally lost interest in my topic and working on it. I did do a bit by forcing myself but it was definitely a low point.

My supervisor's impression was that once I started getting data in, my interest levels would rise and she was so right.

So acknowledge that you have done some work (even if it isn't as much as you would have liked), and then once you become reabsorbed in your topic as you immerse yourself in Colombia, make the most of it. Good luck...slumps and troughs are dismal parts of this journey but fortunately they don't seem to be permanent. You do get through them-or at least this is what I have found. :)


I don't know how you get on with techniques/programs to help you focus, frequentflyer, but this is something I've been trying recently as I found I was just reading more and more and not writing anything down. I downloaded a program called Focus Booster (which uses the pomodoro technique - there are other sites and programs out there that do much the same thing). It gives you a small bar across your screen which counts down time in 25-minute chunks and it gradually changes colour too, so you can tell at a glance how far you are through the 25 minutes. I'm using it to make myself write for 25 minutes at a time, and so far it is working quite well. I would also say try to focus on one of your documents at a time and you will get there - once you have something written down you will see how and where the next bit can fit in, rather than trying to hold it all in your head.


Thanks all for the great advice! Clupea, I definitely keep my laptop on hibernate, which is more or less the same thing as sleep. I will _try_ to work on one document at a time! And, to save and shut down my computer at least once a day. I leave multiple windows open so I don't forget about a webpage or article I have located. But, you are right--if I save them and label them properly, I can always go back to them!

Pjlu, I agree that going to Colombia will help my focus. A lot. When I was there a few weeks ago, I was free from the distractions at home and found myself drafting up notes effortlessly. I am glad you were able to overcome your slump! You give me hope that I will be able to rise out of this funk as well!

Chickpea, I am going to download Focus Booster and see if it works for me. A friend of mine had me download a pomodoro app on my phone last year, but I forgot to actually use it (I got the app well before I started my actual dissertation research, so maybe I didn't realize the need...). At this point, I guess my goal should be to take this process one step at a time, document by document. Thanks!!


Excellent response 0rYx. I have also been doing each of these tips since I began writing up the body of my thesis in February 2012 (I'm a part time student), with great levels of success. For the majority of the time my writing has been constant and pretty pain free. However, that is not to say that I also haven't hit slumps and been in times of need! Being aware of these times and identifying actions to help overcome the current situation (for example, I recently started using to help structure my work/break ratio) is what got me back on track and into my writing. So, in other words, the very nature of your post frequentflyer means that you're onwards and upwards! You'll be in your graduation gown before you know it ;)

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This response is directed towards RLD1984-I notice you mention that you have been writing up since 2012 and that you are also part-time. How long do you think you will take for the 'write up' overall? Not so much the final finicky bits before your supervisor lets you submit-but the majority of the write up of data so that it is basically a thesis/dissertation (whatever-different universities over here call it different things). And are you writing up social science or science data or is your thesis a literature/history or politics sort of thesis? (i'm asking this because I think the approach is a bit different to some extent).

I've got a draft intro-draft lit review and a dog's breakfast that will be my draft methods chapter-but I'm collecting qualitative data and expect to have this stage complete by the end of 2014-with the methods chap sort of sorted by then as well. I'm hoping then that the rest of the thesis will be two more years (2015-2016)-would this be similar to your timeline.

Glad also Frequent Flyer that the responses helped you over a rough patch-good luck with writing.


Hi Pjlu. I'll PM you now, just so we don't end up hijacking frequentflyer's thread.


No's not hijacking when you're providing helpful information ;) Thanks to all of you for contributing!

I'm not actually writing the body yet. I am still working on my proposal (since this February), but am about done. I have about 50 pages done. My university requires the first three chapters be included in the proposal, frontloading. The first three chapters will be well over 50 pages in the actual dissertation, but they want to make sure we know exactly what we are doing and how we plan to do it all. We also have to go through the IRB process before we can work with human subjects

I'm doing a single, exploratory, holistic, ethnographic case study. It's a mouthful. The only part of the proposal I really need to finish is data analysis. I am probably doing 20-30 interviews, which I will have to translate, transcribe, and code. I haven't figured out which method of coding to use yet. And 0rYx, about #9....I wish it were easier to communicate with my adviser, but she is ALWAYS out of the country. She is very knowledgeable and has helped me establish contacts, but she takes a long time to respond to my messages. My other committee members can not answer logistic questions because my adviser is the one who makes decisions about formatting and necessary content. I'm going to Colombia next week and hoping to defend my proposal via Skype or some other online interface during my first weeks in the country. I feel like a lot of people who do qualitative research at my university take forever to even get their proposals done. I know people who were 2-3 semesters ahead of me and have yet to defend. I can't stay in this limbo stage much longer, so I am trying to push my chair to read my draft so I can just edit and defend already! Thanks for listening!