Making a Plan and Keeping the Faith

It’s time to write my discussion chapter. It’s been time to write my discussion chapter for about three weeks, but honestly, I’ve been paralyzed with how to start. I think, maybe, I’ve now found a way in.

Within my particular dissertation, I have approximately 25,000 words allocated for this chapter. It’s the place where I should be tying together the conclusions from my multiple data collection areas, and where I should be addressing, directly, my research questions. It’s where the ME that is present in this document should be evident; the discussion chapter should contain the arguments that are mine, and the conclusions that are mine. This is where the ‘original knowledge’ that must be generated to obtain a PhD is to be demonstrated most explicitly.

I’ve been having trouble though, because in a large part, I’ve already done this through my case study analyses. I have seven games that I’ve picked apart and put through the ethical wringer, and around 5000 words of discussion written on each. Figuring out what to say about them in total is part of what’s kept me stuck, as I got lost in concerns about rehashing the conclusions I reached for each game, and panicked that maybe I didn’t have anything to say after all, and ended up in a spiral of self-doubt that resulted in being unable to do anything but format my bibliography and listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on loop to keep myself energized.

I think though, I have a plan. These are the steps I’m taking to make an outline for the discussion chapter.

Step 1

Go through each case study and write down the questions each game raised.

Step 2

Go through my survey analysis chapter and write down every instance where I can connect a conclusion out of the survey to one of the questions raised in the game case studies.

Step 3

Go through my ethical codes analysis chapter and write down where the case study questions are connected to an area of ethical coverage.

From there, I’m breaking down the chapter into small, tiny, sometimes sentence by sentence sections, and filling in each section as I can.

I think what’s important to note is that while this may seem like an obvious way to get the chapter outlined and written, what I’ve found at this stage of the PhD process is that things that should be obvious, aren’t. I’ve seen friends go through this as well; as graduate students we get to a point in the writing-up where we’ve been using high-level critical thinking so continuously, and so constantly, that the ability to reason in a simple way falls away. We get to where we just have no perspective anymore, and where we assume that every task must require complicated reasoning, because complicated reasoning is all we’ve been dealing with for years.

In this vein, I had a great (and wide-ranging) conversation this week with a colleague who completed his PhD last year. When I told him I was submitting in a few (short) months, his advice was to get done what I could, and only stress myself about the parts of the dissertation that had to be done for it to be written. He suggested, in essence, that I needed to think less about the complicated, interconnected parts of the document to be submitted, and think more simply about what I needed to write, and how I was going to get just that piece of writing that done. (He also gave me a recommendation for an immigration solicitor, and suggested I take a post hand-in vacation and get a tax accountant. We covered a lot.)

So now I have a plan. Which is a good first step. Worst case, I can always go to Tahiti.