Here we are in the most productive and most dense stretch of thesis time for the Fall 2023 semester. Believe it or not, the close of the term is now in sight. After Thanksgiving break next week, the semester will be at warp speed until we part for the holidays. Keep your eye on the prize, and remember – small goals and steady engagement is the name of the game when life gets even more busy.
It was good to hear from you all about the things you think you are doing successfully as you are gain momentum. I am glad we discussed some things you feel you might be faltering on as well, as you try to make progress. As you continue to balance the issues of pacing, downtime, mindfulness, etc., remember that even veteran writers struggle with the challenge. All this is just to share the simple fact that if you feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. You are trying to complete a thesis in the midst of a lot. Just do your best, take each week as it comes — reflect, reset, and recharge.
Thanks to Jules for her presentation. Her thesis is now emerging as a thoughtful non-fiction memoir structured by small vignettes about life. As peers, you offered supportive and formative feedback. I am glad to see the emergence of a unique and compelling non-fiction piece. Keep going!
Remember you are invited to Friendsgiving!
Next up for thesis: we will have the pleasure of hearing from Giselle. I look forward to seeing you all on campus next Tuesday night.
And make no mistake, you are now in the thick of your work, which is where you should be. Try to keep going, but also remember “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” As we head towards Thanksgiving and the close of the year, take deep breaths, be kind to yourself, ask for help where you can, and consider “writing it out”. Writing down why you feel overwhelmed or anxious is another great way to help alleviate those feelings. It helps to do this unstructured – having a written stream of consciousness allows you to express yourself freely and getting those thoughts out of your head will be a relief. After you get some of the feelings out, you just might feel better enough to find a way back into your thesis writing.
I don’t mean to scare you all, but we are officially headed to Halloween, which means that the remaining time in this semester will start to really fly by, from here on in. As an academic with many semesters under my belt, I am well attuned to the rhythms of the Fall semester. What typically happens is we hit Halloween with a sense of the semester midpoint, but the remaining time really whips right by. This is in part due to Thanksgiving and then the quick approach of the holidays, which bear for many of us the weight of complex emotional expectations. In other words, our experience of time will accelerate, the pressure dial is turned up, and the worry involved with reaching personal goals will start to dial up too. But I am here to say it will be ok. I am of the mindset that if we acknowledge these impending factors, we can head off the way in which it might take us all by surprise. My advice for the next few weeks is to keep your eye on the prize, and remember that “slow but steady” wins the race. (If you were wondering – in this context, “the prize” is a successful completion of the semester).
Here is some food-for-thought about the challenge of procrastination, and the bigger picture (with some laughs):
Thanks Gianna for a great overview of your thesis project, which is well underway. It was a treat and a truly inspiration to hear you read a small excerpt from the universe you have built in Retrograde thus far. The themes (and the writing itself) are already deeply felt and distinguished, and I look forward to your further thoughts on what a “second” and even “third” draft might entail moving forward.
Next up! The following week we will not be meeting, but your do not have “off”, as the time we would be together should be used wisely with intention. I have labelled the coming week as “Independent Work Week” and I look forward to hearing about your overall progress in your blog posts.
I will see you all on Zoom on Oct. 31, and we will have the pleasure of listening to Erik’s presentation that evening. Until then, keep going and put in the concentrated time it takes to write and develop a big picture project like the MA thesis.
And remember, until we meet on Halloween night, …a candy a day keeps the monsters away.
I am glad to have a thoughtful conversation with all of you last night, and I am very pleased with the progress you are making thus far. You are all more deeply engaged in the ebb and flow of your research at this point. At this stage, it is more clear that each of you is pursuing a more customized approach to the discovery of material and readings of influence. This is the nature of the work, and I am glad you each have a sense of how to keep going based on our conferencing time together last night.
I want to remind you all that organizing all of your materials over time is a key aspect of success in the MA thesis process. Each of you will devise your own version of how to organize all your work as it unfold. I mentioned that former students have had some success with “Scrivener” in the past. “Tailor-made for long writing projects, Scrivener banishes page fright by allowing you to compose your text in any order, in sections as large or small as you like. ” I also mentioned that many of you will devise your own organization systems, perhaps all in google tools. There is also the tool called “Miro” that I have used for certain writing projects – as they state – “Build, iterate, and design faster with Miro — the visual workspace for innovation.” Or perhaps you want to organize all your work in the google suite – with docs, folder, forms, etc.? Please be conscious that your organization system for your thesis is a key aspect of working effectively overall. Next week, you will share out your organizational approaches during class time.
Our class slides:
I am also glad we took the time to do some active listening with the Structured Dialogues protocol. In addition, we spoke about the potential of peer-learning paradigms (as well as the ways these approaches may flop). I want you all to keep considering the signaficance of learning from eachother as we move forward, especially as we start the presentation cylce, because so much of the in-bulit accountability comes from our small group dynamic. Overall, peer feedback and active listening are critical to all of you.
Your to do list:
Next week Gianna will begin our presentation series (in person, on campus). After her presentation we will have another check in on your process thus far, and also discuss organizational strategies you are developing. **Remember to blog. Please highlight new discoveries, the organizational methods you are developing, and report out where you are on your Lit Review process.
It was good to connect last night and to share some insight into your early search techniques and early writing ideas, as you all try to build some momentum now. I am glad we discussed the Literature Review process, and that you now understand how to approach this element of your overall MA thesis work. Building and revising your Lit Review will be a work-in-progress from here on in.
Class agenda slides:
By now you should be all be in reading and research mode, taking notes mode, and perhaps you are also discovery mode with your own personal writing. Remember that moving forward, you will have regular opportunity to work together in a peer-feedback format, and you will also have periodic invitations to read your work-in-progress to each other, in order to refine certain evolving concerns and/or questions. Therefore, each week you should be collecting/organizing your work as it unfolds, so that you have easy access and recall as the work manifests and grows exponentially. The overall accumulation of thesis materials and artifacts will require certain organization that you should be mindful of – from the start. Be sure to keep things organized in a way that makes sense for you – there should be folders, notes, and systems (digital and hardcopy) that keep track of everything for you as your process unfolds over time.
Next week on 10/10, I will see you online in our Zoom room. I will send our link ahead of time. We will discuss your Lit Review as it is starting to shape up. Be prepared to share how it has been developing, and plan on sharing certain reading selections that you have recently discovered. What have you chosen to focus on? We can conference about your research process thus far, offering each of you further suggestions as we consider the things you are gathering.
-As always, please blog on your thesis progress. Report out on how the Lit Review process is working for you. What materials have you gathered? What materials have you actually read? What kind of note taking process are you engaging in? What have you eliminated in your accumulation of research?
The week after, on October 17th, we will meet in person in Rm. 308. Gianna will kick off our first thesis presentation.
I hope you are having a replenishing week, and that you are able to carve out at least the five hours of concentrated/dedicated time for your thesis work. This is the time when nature announces a kind of “shift” in the air, and it call us to “settle in”. The season is a time to celebrate the changing of the light, and the hues of transition. I love the late-September-into-early-October turn. Such a potent feeling comes upon us when it comes to the mood and tenor of Autumn – a time of reflection. Fall has always been my favorite season, perhaps because of the sense of passing time, and the refracted light which signals to me pause, take stock, and savor moments.
I am so glad we were able to make our way into the library this week and spend some time with Craig Anderson. As you might have discovered, there is a lot to know (“tricks of the trade”) when it comes to searching databases and finding pertinent research for your ongoing work. Craig gave us an initial glimpse of how to navigate the online portal of our Learning Commons, but there really is so much more beyond what we were able to touch upon in our workshop time. Please remember that you can always work directly with reference librarians to find the scholarship or reference material needed to further develop your MA thesis project. And you can use the online chatbox to send basic inquiries. In addition, you can contact our Kean librarians directly, or in person, to set up more customized support for your research process. Also remember that the reading/research process starts off with a broader lens at the beginning phase of thesis development – your “discovery and invention” phase. It then necessarily narrows at some point, and your own Literature Review starts to come into focus. Next week I will be discussing in more detail what a Literature Review entails, in the specific context of your MA thesis.
Keep up your blogging progress reports which will be important in touching base next week for some conferencing.
I am pleased we continued our early thesis time together with a Spiral Journal protocol to help sharpen your perception about your early-stage development of your MA thesis work. I am so glad we took the time to focus a bit on the importance of the Library and the Kean University Learning Commons in terms of resources for developing your thesis. We will connect with Craig Anderson on 9/26. Craig is one of Kean’s excellent reference librarians, and we will participate in his workshop geared towards MA students doing research. You will learn more about the vast resources at your fingertips, which is most certainly an important step for your continual thesis work. I hope you will try a few other workshops there in the future that might be supportive, and also get to know a librarian or two at Kean, while you work on your thesis overall.
Here are the agenda slides from last class:
After settling the presentation calendar together, we also discussed the concept of an Early Proposal. Hopefully this helps you start to narrow the focus at the start of your formal journey with this big project. Please remember to write your first blog, after engaging in some free-writing, mind mapping, and some possible reading/research. Generate lists, and start your own process of discovery and invention.
Welcome again to the beginning of your thesis experience. I am glad we have settled into Fall semester of ENG 5698, and we are truly “underway” now.
Our conversation this week was the start of our tutorial-style way of connecting. As we embark on this process, we are setting the tone with weekly accountability and check-in-style discussions. You are all at different places in the thesis experience of course, and each of your brings different perspectives, but it is clear to me that this thesis process will be an integral part of your growth this year. I want to state how truly how happy I am to have this chance to work with all of you in this capacity. This thesis journey we are on is the “heart and soul” of good work that matters to me.
Here are the slides from last class for your reference:
Each of you is starting the process of discovery and invention for this thesis project. And some of you have some notion of what you would like to do, you might have some elements “in the can.” But you are all still apprehending the significance and shape of your project.
Remember, each of you can learn a great deal from considering each other’s evolving work. This tutorial-style group for thesis writing will rely heavily on the peer learning potential within this small group. I look forward to “jump-starting” our collective work together.
For our Next Meeting
Remember to blog and account for what you have done this week. Please blog about your thesis process. Make sure you devote at least 5 hours of time to thinking and working on your thesis. Are you generating new ideas through reflective writing? Are you exploring possible entry points for your creative work? Are you conducting certain early forms of research? Are you writing up certain parts of your thesis outline? .
Remember we are meeting with reference librarian Craig Anderson next week at 5pm in Room 105 of the Library. He will walk us through his workshop designed for graduate students – An Introduction to the Digital Library Resources for Research. Therefore, it would be good to come to the workshop with a few research questions of your own in mind. We can meet up in our regular seminar room in CAS at 4:30pm, and all walk over to the library together.
Writing a thesis is not easy. There are many twists and turns in the road, roadblocks do come up, and there are unforeseen landscapes that cannot be imagined until you cover ground and truly travel. That said, the more time you have on the road, the more of a chance you will have to discover. I have no doubt that each of you will eventually “arrive” at the place of your own design. A place of insight and learning. A place where perhaps the outcomes were not the ones you originally anticipated.
I look forward to working with each of you as you set a course and cover some significant ground on your own terms as you develop your culminating project for your Masters of Arts in Writing Studies degree. I am here to provide suggestions, feedback, resources, and insight; to prompt you to refine your thinking and take your work to another level. Sometimes you surge forth in the process and cover good distance “on the road” due to insightful feedback during a conversation. And sometimes you surge forth due to extended sessions of engaged independent reading & research. Oftentimes, inspiration hits at the most unlikely times ;). I hope you will experience all of this.
The MA in Writing Studies @KeanUniversity is inherently a “customizable” degree, and I encourage each of you to follow a course for which you feel a spark of commitment and passion. I also encourage you to take risks in pursuing forms of learning that matter to you personally. In my own experience, this is the place from which meaningful transformation is born. And if you are going to work hard at something, why not make it both meaningful and transformative on your own terms?
Your peer learning process and our sense of community will continue to be significant, and I hope you will lean on each other for both accountability and self-reflection. That said, we will also use our time as a group to enhance and augment the asynchronous/autonomous work that you will shape. Our website here will serve to organize some shared resources for supporting your writing process while connecting our learning. It is also a showcase of your work this year (in progress).