Dissertating Resources: Proposal Phase

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Admittedly, I am VERY early in my dissertation process, but I've already gathered a list of apps, programs, and manual tools that have been very helpful. [updated 4/18/2014]

  • PhinisheD This great site describes itself as "A discussion and support group for people trying to finish their dissertations or theses, and those who have been there." I participate in one of the weekly boards and the discussion and accountability has been invaluable. [added 4/3/2014]
  • Books on Academic Thinking/Writing: This is a list I'm keeping on Pinterest. [added4/2/2014]
  • Google Keep: My new favorite note taker/task list. It captures photos, voice, and text, and syncs them across platforms. Superb! [added 3/6/2014]
  • Google Goggles: Super tool for converting a picture of text into actual text. It requires copy and paste, and a bit of text clean up, but is a super tool for Android smart phones.
  • Zotero: This is a free bibliographic organizer that can capture info direct from the web, produce reports on selected resources, and create citations and bibliography in one of several styles (APA, Chicago, etc.). I used to use EndNote, but it was pricey. Zotero is free and does everything I've needed so far.
  • Scrivener: Non-linear composition tool that I'm using for writing the text. Since I think in non-linear and often random bits, this has been great at allowing me to capture stuff as it comes and easily reorganize it later. It also produces output in several formats.
  • Send-to-Kindle: This Firefox add-on has been great for capturing tangential, but interesting, and wholly unrelated (re: fun) reading off the web and sending it via wifi to my Kindle.
  • Kindle text-to-voice: The lovely companion, in my mind, to send-to-Kindle, as this feature reads the articles and blog posts to my tired ears.
  • Dropbox: This makes my stuff available wherever I can connect to the web, is easy to back up to external drive (the all important just-in-case feature), has a handy text file creator, and is just plain amazing.
  • Adobe Acrobat: This program, combined with a Samsung tablet, is the reason I've not printed off one article or draft copy. I save them as pdfs, mark and edit on my tablet while I'm on the bus, and make the changes or input the notes when I get to the web.
  • Diaro: I'm using this handy journaling app for my dissertation and personal journals. It has folders that you can select and then save contents as a pdf. It's been indispensable for capturing notions on the go and freewriting.
  • Wunderlist: It's a to-do list that is available across platforms. Entries can be dated or left undated for processing later. Custom folders can be created to sort things the way you like. Great stuff.
  • Moleskine: While I rarely use the plain books any longer, the calendars--a small 12-month one for personal use and a large 18-month one for work--have done much to keep me on track with projects. They are also beautiful, which I consider indispensable.
  • XMind: Desktop mindmapping software that I use when the ideas are either wholly nonlinear or too fresh for prose. Unfortunately, there's no Android app, so...
  • SimpleMind: smartphone, tablet, and cloud app that reads XMind files, is easy to use, and nicely flexible. I've stopped using SimpleMind because the transition to XMind became clunky. Others may still find it useful.


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Musings of a peripatetic wannabe-sage by Laura Springer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License..

Figuring Out the Research-Writing Process (Always Be Dissertating)

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I've finished the first run through my immersion reading on faculty collaboration and have realized that some aspects of research-reading have been wholly neglected. So, once again it's time to stop for a moment and figure stuff out. Here's the first run at an iterative research-writing process. 

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Musings of a peripatetic wannabe-sage by Laura Springer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License..

Wrangling Ideas (Always Be Dissertating)

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Here at the end of the first of (hopefully) four terms of dissertation research and writing, I have some notion of where I am, a (partially) clarified view of where I am going, and a confusing idea of what it will take to get there. At this point, the process is the thing. Ideas are flooding in. I’ve fourteen single-spaced pages of bibliography-to-read and I there is surely more to come. I’ve barely started gathering sources for my theological integration. That’s a ton of ideas to wrangle.


So, here at the beginning, my wrangling process has four phases.
  1. Scan (and sometimes read) journal articles
  2. Diagram the ideas in each article to discern key ideas in the domain.
  3. Each week or so, update/modify the domain diagram, incorporating ideas from the article diagrams.
  4. Once the domain diagram settles to what seems to be its essential elements, begin the write up, revisiting journal articles as needed.


Since I’m using domain immersion, I am focusing on one domain at a time. Once a rough draft is in place, I’ll move on to the next domain/topic.

I don’t know how this will work in practice, but I am hopeful.


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(C) Laura Springer
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Musings of a peripatetic wannabe-sage by Laura Springer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License..