Notes from an Accidental Scholar

" title="Notes from an Accidental Scholar"> Notes from an Accidental Scholar

Constructing “Sure”

Published on October 19, 2012

I hit a block today and when that hap­pens, I usu­ally pop open a how-to guide to dis­ser­ta­tion writ­ing. I remem­ber some­one told me about Rowena Murray’s How to Write A The­sis and decided to take a look. (Luck­ily its avail­able through eBrary, so those of you with uni­ver­sity sub­scrip­tions to read it instantly). When I skimmed the table of con­tents, Chap­ter 8: “It is never too late to start” caught my eye. It’s a very thor­ough, quick-and-dirty recipe for just fin­ish­ing the damn dis­ser­ta­tion already. The chap­ter is full of prac­ti­cal strate­gies and prompts that I won’t go into here, but it was the con­clu­sion that res­onated with me. She described how stu­dents expressed inse­cu­rity and doubt over the quick-and-dirty com­ple­tion method. Because stu­dents are just start­ing out in their fields, they won­der how they can be “sure” about what they’re writ­ing. To which Mur­ray said:

[W]e have to repo­si­tion our­selves in the knowl­edge process. We can­not wait until this hap­pens to us; we have to make it hap­pen. We have to con­struct “sure.” It is an inven­tion. If we do not invent that moment, it will not nec­es­sar­ily occur spon­ta­neously. Occa­sion­ally — per­haps more often than that — we have to force it, even when we feel that being “sure” is a very dis­tant prospect. The­sis writ­ers have to take them­selves to that point. You can then move from being unsure and not writ­ing, to being unsure and writ­ing reg­u­larly. You have to silence the inter­nal edi­tor. We all have to do that.


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