…okay, I guess you can look at these too. Whenever I get stuck or start feeling stupid and worthless and not PhD worthy, I always eventually figure out (or get advice on) how to get out of it by just rethinking whatever it was that I was doing and then going at it a different way. This almost always results in a super awesome, amazingly productive short burst of time where I’m all excited about this new way of thinking about a thing.
So I’m going to start collecting little tips for myself here where I record what it was that I did that made me have that really awesome burst of productivity. I’m sure this won’t help everyone (hence why this is called “PhD tips for myself), but if it does help you, then awesome!
Tip 1: the claims are more important than the authors
So this might end up being really bad advice, but for now this is helping you.
You were having a really hard time with a literature review that should be really easy for you because you’ve been reading DIY, Making, Crafting, Hacking shit literature for the better part of a year now. But you were having a hard time because a lot of the stuff that is going to be really important for your paper was stuff that you read a long time ago, and you couldn’t remember their primary arguments. Also, everyone’s arguments were all starting to sound the same, and you were freaking out because you couldn’t remember exactly how what Gauntlett said in “Making is Connecting” was different from what was being said elsewhere.
To fix this you turned the problem around. Rather than try to remember things about authors, you just started listing the claims that you had come across in the literature. Then, with the help of your annotated bibliography, you started adding author names to those claims. Exactly who claimed that most DIY activities fall into a counter-culture, anti-consumerism ideology didn’t matter at first. Just write that shit down. Then add authors names as you remember / as your bibliography reminds you. That’s the way it’s going to be in your paper anyway, so why not make it easier on yourself?
Tip 2: write awful, terrible sentences and words. embrace it.
This one is simple. Just remind yourself every time you sit down to write that the first batch of words you put down on the page are going to be TERRIBLE! Embrace it, and you won’t psych yourself out. Just write awful awful stuff. You know that you are much better at editing things already there than you are at writing content from scratch, but you have to give yourself something to work with first. In other words: just do it.
This is exactly how I was taught to do literature reviews when I first started writing them– and sometimes I need a reminder that this is how they are supposed to go, so thank you for that! You should always write out the argument you are trying to make with the literature first, then you go back and review the literature. Will you need to massage your literature? Absolutely, but at least you’ll understand the argument you are making by positioning certain works in particular ways and you’ll be able to ignore things instead of getting bogged down in the details.