I’ve been revising my prospectus draft over that past 2 weeks or so.  I’ve come to realize that revising for me is very SLOW.  Here are some thoughts about my own revision process.

1.  I’m constantly distracted when I’m revising.  I usually have email and Facebook open and minimized when I am writing.  When things get hard or I get distracted, I’m easily drawn away.  Sometimes I feel like this is necessary – the mind needs a break.  Other times I know I’m being unproductive.  But it’s hard to sit there and just WRITE for hours without a break.

2.  I do a lot of what Rebecca Moore Howard would call “patch-writing.”  When I can’t think of how to analyze or incorporate a quotation, I often cut and paste it into my draft and the mess around with it.  I re-read authors’ exact words.  I go back to my own words and revise.

3.  I don’t know how I’d revise without cut and paste.  I cut so much and paste it into a “discard” document.  I cut and rearrange constantly.  How did people do this when they had to do it manually?  I seem to remember using the asterisk system in years past – writing, by hand, an asterisk to add in or rearrange parts of sentences.

4.  Re-reading becomes procrastination.  I know I’m putting off the hard work of revision when I’m reading my intro yet again and tweaking words, probably for about the 5th time.

5.  Sometimes a paragraph or a passage just clicks in, so to speak, and it sounds great.  It’s really hard for me to revise these “clicked in” passages because they are so fluid and make so much sense to me.  It’s hard to add or change what’s there sometimes.

6.  Revising is tiring!  After so many hours, my brain turns off.  I don’t know if I can really do a full 8 hour day of straight up revising.

7.  What I do know is that when I took the Amtrak train to Chicago a few weeks ago, I had probably one of the most productive revision sessions ever.  And I didn’t have internet access.  I was forced to just sit there and go go go for 4 hours straight.  So maybe that’s a strategy I’ll try to tomorrow – no email, no posting, no distractions, at least from the Web.

Speaking of distractions, back to the draft I go.

Defense is in 10 days!


Wrote a lot today, and my head is swimming.  I got some incredibly useful feedback on my introduction this morning and plunged in to revise all afternoon.  My opening two pages are now completely different, but better, I hope??!!   

And I read the whole beast of a draft in its entirety and revised as I went. 

Now I go home.  Tomorrow I turn it in.

moving along…

I’ve taken a hiatus from posting for the last week or so, and in the meantime, I’ve actually gotten a lot done on the prospectus.  The plan is to turn in the document this week.  My defense date is only one month away!  I also realized that the defense date is March 15…the ides of March!  I hope my best friend (or anyone for that matter) doesn’t stab me to death on the day! 

The work I’ve completed over the last week includes redoing the introduction and the research questions.  I wrote the questions in narrative style, so I no longer have 1) 2) 3), etc, but instead paragraphs articulating the questions and giving context for them.  I’m liking it a lot more than previous versions.  I’ve also gone through and planned methods for data collection and analysis.  This is foreign-ish territory to me, as the only study I’ve ever conducted that had official “methods” is the pilot qualitative study I did last semester for a course.  I’ve read many articles that have an official “methods” section though, so I’m drawing from that knowledge in part.  Today I wrote a conclusion, which was basically a summary section of all that came before.  I’m not sure how proposal documents actually end: now I’m going off to do this?  Please say yes?  haha. 

I’m meeting with some colleagues tomorrow to get feedback on my first 4 pages.  I hope that my study and rationale is clear right from the opening, so that’s what we’ll discuss. 

I do have in the draft right now a “sample analysis” section that is supposed to be a video.  I think I will spend some time this afternoon making something and see if I think it could fit there.  Otherwise the sample analysis can be regular old paragraphs, too, like I did in my qual study paper last fall. 


Strides and Figures

I wrote A LOT today and made large strides!  Rejoice!  Now on to Liz’s party to celebrate my good friends’ birthdays!  But first, a recap of today’s work.

I worked on my conceptual framework all morning.  Originally I was trying to work my “assessment model” figure into the draft somehow, but it just wasn’t working and was becoming too complicated.  So I made a new figure, which I’m calling the framework for the instructional unit.  I don’t know why I keep wanting to make all these figures.  I guess it’s because there are a lot of ideas and concepts swirling around in my brain, and I want to keep them all straight, for myself and my readers.  And I love arrows, which probably isn’t a good thing.  I HATE making figures in Word, though.  So hard to manipulate.  Pen and paper trumps word processing still for figure design.  I did learn how to use Adobe Illustrator a few weeks ago, which is better (and harder), but I don’t have it on my laptop at home.  Anyway, here a photo of the figure.

In the afternoon, I started planning the instructional unit I want to implement in my study, drawing heavily from my own lesson plans I use when I teach video composition in Professional Writing.  This was fun at the start, but got a bit tedious as I had to articulate objectives for each lesson and how it fit within the framework.  It’s interesting that because I’ve been teaching so long, I can design effective lessons without sitting down and articulating in words why I’m doing everything I’m doing and asking students to do.  However, when designing something others have to implement, you have to be extremely detailed.

Ok – enough for now.  Tomorrow I return and try to flesh out the Methods section.  Dear Lord.



Since my last post, I met with one of my committee members and one of my co-chairs and discussed the differing perspectives I’ve been receiving.  One of them told me that part of the prospectus defense is actually defending the kind of study I want to do for the committee (shocking, I know).  The point being that it’s normal (esp. with 5 committee members) for a few not to agree with everything completely, and part of my job in the written document and in the defense will be for me to make a case to do the study the way I want to and think is best.

Sooooo…..I’m going with having other instructors implement my unit, I think, unless something major happens to change my mind.  I think the pilot work I’ve done in my own classroom over the past 3 years has prepared me enough to be able to design a specific, useful unit that others can implement.

So back I went to working on the prospectus.  Today I really dug into the conceptual framework section and changed a lot.  I’m grappling with if and how I want to try and include my assessment model in the paper as a “pedagogical model” or something.

I’m going to work tomorrow and see if I can get the CF mapped out and start working on the actual unit that I would implement in a classroom.  So tonight…to bed and rest, and hopefully to rise early tomorrow and get back to it.

Juggling multiple perspectives

I met with my 5th committee member today, told him about my project, and asked him to officially become a member.  He said yes – but was surprised that I am choosing (so willingly) to have 5 committee members.  I am a little worried myself about juggling all the feedback.  Already I have received some conflicting advice and different reactions.

One area that my committee members have different views on is my idea to make the dissertation and the prospectus multimodal in some way -which probably means including some video if I can for data presentation.  I have received the following pieces of advice from different people:  1) don’t worry about the irony of composing a print dissertation about new media composition; just write it.  2) Don’t attempt to do anything multimodal because we’re not ready for that yet.  3) Do it – it sounds exciting and wonderful.  4) I’m on board, but I have no background knowledge about composing with video.  And I don’t read on a screen.  5) Using video makes sense for data presentation (perhaps for showing interview footage of participants) but not anywhere else.

In an ideal world, my diss would be able to house videos and written text, and it wouldn’t take me 3 times as long to compose a short video.  But in reality, readers can’t read pdfs with embedded video in the ways they are used to.  Some readers think that including video is just using “bells and whistles.”    And I don’t have all the functional knowledge I need to do it well yet.  But I WANT TO!  Perhaps the diss just isn’t the place, though.

A second area to consider, which the committee member I met with today gave me lots of advice on: do I try to study others implementing instruction in new media composition, or do I do the lessons myself and study the outcomes for students?  Originally (back a few months ago) I wanted to implement the curriculum myself and study my own students.  But I was advised against that by a few professors and mentors.  So I had the idea to create a unit and have others implement it and study them, the instruction, and the students.  But today, my 5th committee member advised me to implement the curriculum myself.  His argument was that I’m not actually studying myself at all, but the instructional moves I’m making and what the learning outcomes are for students.

But now I’m just confused – study a unit I do with my own students or study a unit others do with their students?  Either way, I’m studying the unit and its outcomes.  Just when I think I’m coming to a point where I know what I want to do and I think I know how to put it together, I get thrown for a loop.

AAAAAHHHHH.  I will mull this over tonight, and I hope the morning will bring some clarity.  I end with a prayer…

In the Lit. Review trenches

Sorry no dress pics today.  I worked on my Lit. Review for several hours and avoided most things wedding.  My main issue with the lit review  is that I have so many parts to the section, it’s hard for me to keep them all straight.  Also, I’ve pulled paragraphs from several course papers and exams that I’ve written over the last two years, so I’m also having a hard time weaving everything together into something coherent.

For example, I know that instruction in new media composition has something to do with all the following: transfer and meta-awareness literature (Wardle, Jaratt, etc); definitions of writing and composition and new media; Selber’s multiliteracies framework; learning-by-doing/social learning theory,; metalanguage for new media; reflection….

You see the problem.  How to put all of that together and transition between in a way that makes sense.  One of my committee members told me last week though that I can have some gaps in the prospectus and that those can be worked out in the diss itself.  So that’s comforting, although I want to keep everything straight in my head and understand how I can think of all these pieces aiming toward one goal.

Tomorrow = finish lit. review and figure out what the heck my conceptual framework is supposed to be.

On wedding dresses and lit. reviews…

I did a lot today, alternating between looking at wedding dresses online (I’m getting married in August) and revising my prospectus lit. review.  But I feel like I accomplished much.  So I will alternate in this post as well with talking about what I did on my prospectus and photos of my favorite dresses so far.  Surprisingly, I enjoyed both activities – the writing and the dresses!  So you get both too.

Prospectus Task #1.  I revised my research questions, yet again.  Yesterday, I was able to meet with one of my committee members, who gave me suggestions on refining the questions.  They are in a similar form to the form that I posted last, now with some more wording tweaks.  The most useful thing my committee member told me yesterday was that the RQs serve to shape my data collection and beginning data analysis, and that’s all they really have to do.  So I think that my questions are pretty much there for that purpose.

Here’s fave wedding dress #1: The Mackenzie by Jenny Yoo.  

Prospectus Task #2.  I re-wrote my prospectus introduction.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.  I really want to make a video for the intro still though, and I looked at the video footage of instructors talking about the challenges of teaching new media that I collected in Dec.  If I can get my act together, I’m making it and putting it in.

Fave wedding dress #2: The Presley by Amy Kuschel.  Looks a lot like fave dress #1, now that they’re juxtaposed!


Prospectus Task #3.  I added to the meta-awareness section of my Lit Review, putting in Jarratt et al., Fraizer, Bergman and Zepernick, and Nelms and Dively.  At this point in my grad career, I’m a master lit. reviewer, so I feel good about that section.

Fave wedding dress #3 (on the right), Bella by Jenny Yoo.  Conservatory appropriate, but mucho dinero for a little bit of dress.


All right, enough is enough.  Tomorrow I shall return with more prospectus news, and perchance you’ll get more dress options as well.


Revising my questions

This week’s overarching job is to get the research questions in line and then to attack the rest of the paper with the revised questions as a guide.  Here are the questions as revised based on the feedback I received last week: 

  1.  How should students learn to write in the 21st century?  What do composition instructors and students need to know about this learning process? 
  2. In what ways can strategic instruction in new media composition lead students to develop a deep meta-awareness about writing, rhetorical choices, and multiple modes of expression?  When is strategic instruction in new media composition not a mechanism that leads students toward this goal? 
  3. What aspects within strategic instruction in new media composition lead students most effectively to develop a meta-awareness about writing? 
    1. What is the role of learning-by-doing?
    2. What is the role of instruction in metalanguage?
    3. What is the role of reflection?
    4. What other aspects should be involved in strategic instruction in new media composition?
  4. What opportunities and obstacles exist for instructors and students when strategic instruction in new media composition is implemented in a college writing class? 
    1. What is the role of the instructor’s and the students’ prior experiences with writing?
    2. What is the role of the instructor’s and the students’ expectations and emotions about composing in new media, such as excitement or anxiety?
    3. What is the role of the instructor’s and the students’ functional and technical knowledge of various software programs and tools? 
    4. What is the role of the instructor’s and the students’ critical and rhetorical literacies? 
    5. What is the role of collaborative learning? 
    6.  What other factors can assist or hinder the implementation of strategic instruction in new media composition?
  5. In what ways can composing in new media in this dissertation inform the development of new media instruction?  What do composition instructors learn when they compose in new media?  What are the limitations of having instructors compose in new media? 

I seem to have too many sub-questions and overarching questions in general, but I feel like I need them all to look at the entire new media composition instruction process.  I have a meeting in 45 minutes with a professor who is not on my committee but who has read the first draft of my prospectus that I wrote last term.  I am going to ask her to look at these revised questions and help me revise them yet again.  The next task after the questions are ready is to go back to the lit. review and start revising it to center around the questions.   

a burning pile of RQs…

Today I met with my co-chairs and we discussed my committee, my timeline, and my prospectus draft itself – mostly the research questions.  We decided on other members of the committee which I now need to meet with and ask to join the project (one of which I talked to this afternoon and is on board!), and my co-chairs approved my proposed timeline.  So we are shooting for a prospectus defense for the week of March 12, as long as that works for other committee members.

We spent the remainder of our meeting talking about my research questions, which at this point feel like piles of burning refuse.  Not really – but I’m finding it hard to articulate the big questions about what I want to know and learn through my study.  Here are the questions I brought to the meeting today: 

Study Research Questions:

  1. What are the challenges to implementing strategic instruction in new media composition in the college writing classroom?
  2. What role does the instructor’s prior experiences and background knowledge play in the implementation of strategic instruction in new media composition?   
  3. What is the role of a learn-by-doing approach within strategic instruction in new media composition?
  4. What is the role of instruction in metalanguage within strategic instruction in new media composition?
  5. What is the role of reflection within strategic instruction in new media composition?
  6. Does strategic instruction in new media composition open an instructional space that leads students to develop a deep meta-awareness about writing, rhetorical choices, and multiple modes of expression?

1 and 2 probably will collapse into one question about the obstacles and opportunities for instructors and students presented by new media composition.  3-5 most likely will collapse into one question something to the effect of “What factors within strategic instruction in new media contribute most effectively to students developing a meta-awareness about writing?”  And question 6 can’t be a Y/N question, but a how question makes too much of an assumption, so I need to figure out a way to word it that takes the middle ground. 

All this tinkering with wording in the RQs seems silly to me in some ways, but on the other hand, it is true that I need to think carefully about what exactly I want to learn before I can think about designing my methods or about how to organize my lit. review. 

So the plan at this point:  continue forming my committee and dance around the fire of the RQs that once existed.  It’s ok – they weren’t that good anyway.