All posts by Sun Kaushik

Good Work Never Comes Easy!

Pitch within yourself.

A jarring quote in isolation, without the context of who said it (Tom Seaver), and in what context (the MLB in reality, as life advice in my case.) In elementary school, I had this scribbled on the inside of all my notebooks and journals and practiced saying it in all sorts of tones with all sorts of faces in case someone else would ever need this life-changing saying. 

I’d stuck it at the top of my dedication page, as a placeholder, but I don’t think it’ll be changing anytime soon now. In fact, it’ll be good advice for me to keep in mind in the future when I revisit my thesis in the future since I went way beyond anywhere anyone I know, or myself has been to bring this thing to life.

I could go on here forever and a day, but scroll down to read my thesis update.

If I Had My Way, Never Let You Go

Getting to the end of the semester and preparing to power through my remaining thesis concerns and self-assessment is daunting. But, I feel like nothing captures what this point means to me quite like “High and Low” by Empire of the Sun. (Seriously, give it a listen!) I’ll give you a sneak peek of what my self-assessment looks like below!


In my second blog last semester, I mentioned how I knew that no matter what I ended up picking as a thesis topic, in the back of my mind I’d be thinking about all the amazing figures from over the years of my life that played a role in helping me build some grit and sense of belonging; Scott Neidermayer, a huge part of why I grew up to love the game of hockey, the New Jersey Devils, and who taught me that you can play your own way and succeed, Martin St. Louis, who was considered “too small,” was left undrafted, and went on to have an unparalleled career, David Wright, the heart of the New York Mets, a player with both grit and care, whose retirement brought me to tears, and of course, the great Tom Seaver, baseball’s finest pitcher. 

And while I never thought I would do anything that qualified me to feel like I’ve accomplished something like they have, I think that I’m starting out on that path. All things considered, this thesis process didn’t go as smoothly or perfectly as I would have liked, and since it wasn’t a project completed in isolation, there was always the self-imposed pressure of trying to “measure up” to either the creativity, research prowess, and work ethic of everyone around me. But reviewing the past few months, I definitely pitched well outside of myself. In a matter of months, I had to learn all the basics, footholds, intricacies, and controversies within a major field of study outside the scope of the current program while also balancing the responsibilities of a job and all my other, immediate coursework for my degree. I had to figure out how to accurately, yet interestingly portray forensic linguistics, and I had to move mountains to find resources that gave me perspective on application, and not just theory. All of this cut the typical writing time down from two semesters to a little less than a whole one, and while that pressure got to me, it just reminded me of what my younger self would have said; pitch within yourself. In this case, it meant looking at the mess and figuring out what my greatest personal strengths were, and how they could help in this situation. And two immediately came to mind; honesty and perseverance. Sure, it stings knowing it isn’t going to be over when I thought it was going to be, but it’s better than crashing, burning, and feeling unsatisfied by rushing through things. And as far as perseverance goes, I’m still typing and generating content at a decent rate. If I had to pick a player comparison looking at the end of the road, it wouldn’t be any of the heavyweights up above, but maybe someone like Ray Whitney


I doubt anyone is surprised that there are a ton of hockey and baseball references in my self-assessment, and I doubt anyone is itching to go Google every legend I mentioned above! In regards to my actual thesis, yes, I produced a few more pages and churned out a side story that was based on real-life events (forensic linguists make great matchmakers, FYI!). But, I took the time to outline the organization of my thesis to step out for a second and see what needs to be built up and what needs to get started. Take a look! 

Thesis Organization Outline

  1. Dedication Page
  2. Introduction (Doubles as a research proposal)
  3. Literature Review + Methodology (
  4. Brief Character Bios + Setting Overview 
  5. Stories One, Two, and Three 
  6.  Author’s Note and “Conclusion” 

Put My Life Over My Right Shoulder With Confidence

It only feels right to round off with something as upbeat and reminiscent of happy childhood summers as “Hey Driver” by Lucky Boys Confusion, and with some more of Tom Seaver’s wisdom; “The concentration and dedication – the intangibles are the deciding factor between who won and who lost.”

See ya later today!

If It’s Not Now, Then Tell Me When

Looking For Special Things Inside of Me

I know you’re all probably expecting me to open this blog with a play-by-play from the Devils game I went to this past weekend, but it’s actually memories from way further back that are on my mind! I’m glad I grew up loving the things I did; hockey, baseball, space, dinosaurs, entomology, and of course, comic books! The older I get, the more I appreciate the fact that I pretty much grew up side-by-side with the series Smallville, and it helped me to realize I don’t want to be Superman; I want to be Clark Kent! I feel like Five For Fighting in his song “Superman (It’s Not Easy)” agrees with me. 

Clark Kent (at least Tom Welling’s version) isn’t always perfect; he can get moody and make mistakes, and second-guesses what the right thing to do is. He’s often confused about what path to take in life. And there are so many moments where he doubts himself and wonders if he’ll ever find a place where he’ll truly belong, without having to compromise some part of who he is. Yet, he has an innate determination to see and believe in the best of people, and when it comes to getting something done, he never gives up! Rewatching the show now, there are so many scenes that mean so much more, especially the scenes that highlight what an impact the people that surround you make on your character and values. Just like how Clark and Jonathan Kent, his father, would always find a way to reconcile their differences, I’ve been going through that a lot more lately with my own parents, especially my Dad. (Must be an old guy thing where they think they’re always right!) It’s a natural growing pain, especially when you’re getting ready to start your life, but it still stinks every time an argument pops up or gets blown way out of proportion, and it changes how you view yourself and what you stand for. And the lingering negativity and panic that goes with conflict make it hard to want to work or focus on meaningful things. I’ve seen too much and know too much to be as much of an optimist as I was in my younger years, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel and start seeing the world as this completely hard, cold, place. (I know there’s still hope in me if I’m still a Devils fan after the disaster this last weekend was, and if I’ve survived being a Mets fan for eighteen years, there is nothing that can shake my foundation!) There are no special gifts inside of me; I can’t fly, I can’t see through walls, and I’m probably never the smartest person in any room I walk into, but I know that I always try my best to do what I can. I really do think the way I operate through adversity will always mean more than any triumph.

Anyway, here’s a thesis update. 

You’ll Never Know What You Can Do Until You Get It Up As High As You Can Go

Let’s leave Smallville for just a second and go to the “Danger Zone,” a title fitting for the current point in the semester. 

Full confession: I am so close to going nuclear and quitting. I am tired and stressed over this whole process. I’m still experiencing the negative, internal rage I mentioned in the last post. 

I’m going through the editing process at this point, and it feels like I’m writing a whole new set of stories the more I edit and add and whatnot. So far, I’m done with two, and I’ve managed to stick to my ten to the twenty-five-page limit for both! (Ten for one, and sixteen for the other!) So, I have twenty-six pages worth of writing, plus the twenty combined from my introduction, literature review, and methodology, giving me a grand total of forty-six. (I have to figure out how many sources I really need; I kept it succinct with fifteen between my literature review and methodology, but it’s a thesis! What do I do? I have so many more I can add, but is it needed or is it fluff if I’m only adding it for the sake of meeting some standard I think I need?) I’m short nine pages of my goal at this stage, which was a page for every mile of the parkway speed limit! (An odd measure of one’s progress, but I spend so much time on the parkway during the week I had to find a way to unofficially incorporate it into my thesis!)  

I know it isn’t the length of the work that matters, and it isn’t indicative of a work’s value either. I have to reach back into the recesses of my mind and remember what my favorite professor ever told me about writing; it’s about going for the guts and nothing else! (And yes, this visceral description of what writing should do indeed come from my conflict resolution professor. Just another reason why I loved that class!) 

So, even if it’s seventy-five pages counting my introduction, literature review, and methodology, I just want to get the monkey off my back! I’m tired of all the breakdowns and stress and thinking I need to make something totally life-altering. If it’s enough for me, that’s all that matters. And if it means taking a summer submission, I’ll gladly do it! I just want to leave the danger zone for a nice, slow, and isolated back road.

I Don’t Know Where the Sunbeams End and The Starlight Begins

Let’s head back to Smallville for a second, and listen to “Fight Test” by the Flaming Lips. This is one of those songs that always gets me misty-eyed since I remember the scene where this appeared in Smallville is one where Clark and Lex are discussing the difference between their respective fathers. It’s been a tough week in the family department, and the line “I don’t know how a man decides what’s right for his own life” is hitting me extra hard. I always thought growing up that my Dad was the coolest person in the world; he always knew what to do, he never seemed to hesitate to make a decision, and he wasn’t scared of anyone or anything, and I’m not even close to having that sort of confidence in myself. 

I guess I just have to live a little more life, do a few more things, and hope that I’ll figure out who I am eventually. Like the song says, it’s all a mystery to me. See you next week!

I ’bout Had It Up To Here!

The Party Vanished Into Thin Air, Just Like A Ghost Town

The scariest thing about a sudden burst of fury is how fast your body shakes, how tightly your jaw clenches and your knees lock, and how consuming the negative energy is. For about a solid five minutes Wednesday, I did not have a single nice thought or word in my body. I piloted my way to campus, trying my best to just get there without having two inconsiderate drivers trying to merge right into me from either side, with the one on the right pulling out of a driveway and blaring his horn at me, as if me not wanting to get hit was the wrong mindset and the one on the left merging ahead of me into a non-existent opening with no blinker but plenty of speed! (FYI, there was no one behind Mr. Super Important and Rules Don’t Apply To Me Luxury Vehicle. If he was so concerned about having an accident, he could have easily backed up and waited, as he should have in the first place!) I get that we all have places to go and things to do, but when did it become commonplace to toss the safety of others to the wind, and start lambasting them for sticking up for themselves? (I’m not perfect, and my horn was definitely heard, and my facial expressions spoke volumes!) And so, in the five minutes between where that happened to the turn into the school parking lot, I become the opposite of who you normally see in class, and even opened a phone call with my Dad, after I had started walking to where I needed to be on campus, with the line, “Why don’t people care about anyone other than themselves?” In essence, the apathetic mood of “Vampire” by Dominic Fike was perfectly reflective of my march across campus.

 That thought of by any means necessary is a lot like how I’m feeling about being closer to the end than the middle of my thesis process; I’m so overwhelmed with everything else, let alone that, I’m really contemplating a summer submission for my own mental well-being. As tough as it is admitting it, I knew exactly what sort of rage I was feeling when it hit because I’m usually directing it at myself, and it isn’t productive or pleasant. It took the bell hooks tribute event to pull me a little out of my funk, and it had me thinking about the things my thesis has done right regarding vulnerability and accessibility, which is basically what this blog is all about. (Side note: I won another hat at the event’s giveaway!) Scroll further to read a quick bit about it!

Sometimes All I Think About Is You 

There’s no song that makes me feel more vulnerable and raw than “Heat Waves” by Glass Animals. (I hope it never stops playing on the radio!) Basically, the vulnerability in my work comes from wanting to bend the exclusionary framework of systems in society to make it understandable and accessible to the community, and the greater aspect of accessibility comes from the aspect of a case study into creative fiction. I took a “traditionally academic” idea and transformed it into something fun and digestible! 

As far as the writing goes, it continues! I kept editing and realized the four stories I have can be truncated quite a bit, so instead of thirty-five to forty pages, I used the Dr. Lynch method of going for the guts, while balancing the need for explanation and description to trim two down so far, to twenty pages. I’ve decided twenty to twenty-five is my benchmark for a short story. I’m also toying around with the idea of saving my future readers and myself some time and having a character directory to pair with a short backstory, instead of dragging that out for a full short-story length. I figure Rem shares enough of himself in other ways through what I’ve already written! 

In all seriousness, I haven’t touched my lit review or methodology section to update them since pivoting my project, and I know it’s concerning, but I’m just going to push it off a little longer. 

I Ain’t Done Everything There Is To Do But I’ll Damn Sure Give It A Try

The song to best describe what my work ethic is shaping up to look like for this home stretch of the semester is “Rambunctious Boy” by John Fogerty. It’s going to be a long, long time! See everyone in class next week!

What A Friendly Kid!

Try To Live, Trying To Learn, Trying To Just Be Who I Am 

I’m taking up the spirit of Lindy Ruff and saying it’s important to keep a short-term memory moving forward regarding what didn’t go well, capitalizing and building on what did, and just battling on to the next one, in regards to my presentation. It’s a lot more telling how someone faces adversity rather than how they accept victory. Thank you everyone for the feedback and interest in the room! I’ll get more into it in a second, but wow, I am so glad that is behind me! Honestly, having the presentation behind me is very reminiscent of when Hannah Montana performed “Just Like You” and revealed her secret to Lilly, her best friend. 

The rest of the week has been a blur with equilibrium; I didn’t eat as well as I normally would, but I got better sleep! I exercised minimally, but I kept my mood up with plenty of feel-good movies and music; all I need to turn my mood around is a Mighty Ducks movies and series marathon, Saturday Night Fever, and of course, classic Tom Selleck in Three Men and a Baby. When I rode my bike, I could barely balance, but when I ran, I hit a new personal record! I wrote a literal page a day, but I got through three books and a good chunk of manga that I’ve been putting off thumbing through for the better part of six months. I cried when the Riveters were eliminated from the playoffs, but I had nothing but hope in my heart after seeing St. Peter’s Cinderella run. The Devils may have had yet another lottery season, but I’m still pumped to see them this Sunday!

Above all else though, I think the most profound progress on my thesis (and the highlight of my week!) came from an interaction outside of the actual writing and editing stage. I was running an errand for work and happened to run into Diana and her kids! It was insightful hearing from Diana about what it’s like having to juggle all the different roles and responsibilities that you both impose on yourself, and that others place on you. It had me wondering where the separation in my own life is. While it was nice running into a classmate with a lot of wisdom, it was actually the two little ones who gave me a surge of hope for the thesis process! Like Madame Web told Spiderman during the nineties animated series; you must remember to have the faith of a child! Seeing how those two had nothing but confidence in their abilities to do a standing split, or be the cutest Ghostbuster (who, FYI, I could still see even as he hid behind Mom and giggled!), made me remember I have to believe in myself to go forth and just do my best and do what makes me happy! So, thanks for that! 

And now, a thesis update! 

Hope The Tears Were For Something

Let’s put on “Cheers” by blackbear, a definitive anthem of the pandemic years and the thesis process. To recap a semester and a half worth of content, it’s been painful, draining, and laborious work, but at the same time, exhilarating, enlightening, and fun! I settled on what road to go down once and for all by going with the most unbiased form of decision-making; a coin toss! (I should have defaulted to this long ago since it is how I decided where to go to college way back when!) So, it’ll be a creative project, which means slightly restructuring my lit review and methodology section, and editing things I wrote in the interest of furthering research, rather than for the reading pleasure of others. It’s a good thing I just stocked up on red pens! My next step from here is to edit the four thirty-five-page stories I have, and craft at least one or two more to really flesh out the characters and feel like I wrote enough. So, not a novel, but intertwined short stories with a cool forensic linguist! 

It’s wild how making this one decision changed everything for me; if I keep going at the pace I kept this week, instead of being a last-minute submission in May, I might be able to comfortably finish with an extra two weeks to spare. Talk about a turning point!

I refuse to let the rest of my work fall by the wayside, so I’ll work on refining one or two case studies to create an article to submit to a journal or academic magazine for publication, and of course, I’ll still be employing a lot of that work in my pitch for the three-minute thesis competition! Other than this, there’s nothing to do but keep trucking along! 

There’s Somethin’ Fiction ’bout The Way That Reality’s Going

I just want to end this post by reminding everyone that although the weather today may make it seem otherwise, it is spring, allergy season is upon us, and it is nearly time for baseball, with Opening Day fast approaching for the Mets, making this tune by hippo campus more than fitting! The next six weeks or so are going to fly by, and I can’t wait for it to be over! So, here’s to a Venn diagraming of the end of this process and program, and the start of the rest of my life! 

There’s Just Some Things You Can’t Do Inside Those City Limits

It’s Gonna Take A Fireman To Put This Old Flame Out

It’s really weird for me to have so much to write about; normally I’m a last-minute blog poster, so to have two posts in two consecutive weeks tells me that there’s a positive trend in how my thesis work is going! It also helps to have Tim McGraw as part of my thesis soundtrack; his album Not A Moment Too Soon is appropriately titled for this part of the thesis process, as things are going from liminal to concrete, and the deadline is starting to Venn diagram with the date. As per my last post, things are continuing to be a bit of a see-saw, but that’s mainly due to the fact that I’m facing some presentation anxiety, which I’ll explain further in a little while. My will to keep writing and see this thing through is summarized pretty well by the song “Give It To Me Strait.”

I guess I have this overwhelming sense of hope that I can do this after having as close to a perfect day as possible yesterday. The weather was perfect; the sun was high in the sky, reflecting off the water in the center of the park I ran a few laps around while my Mom and brother lingered somewhere in the background, walking at their own pace. I managed to skin my knee, bringing back the feeling of what it was like to be a kid again! Park trees, skinned knees, melting ice cream, and smiles brighter than sunbeams! I saw the ducks take off in a perfect flying-v formation, and even briefly helped a little kid who was learning how to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time. Seeing someone else have to push through the fear of failure and anxiety made me confront myself about how awful I was handling my upcoming presentation. (Truth be told, I just forced myself to make a slide deck last night!) 

Enough about my extracurricular activities, let’s get on with the thesis report!

Ain’t No Closing Time, Ain’t No Cover Charge 

Let’s go “Down On The Farm” for a quick minute or three!  I’ll tell it to you directly; I loathe the thought of presenting my thesis topic because it feels so out of place in the classroom. Last semester honestly killed a lot of my confidence; I found myself constantly questioning if I was in over my head with this topic, if I sucked as a presenter (strong likelihood), or if maybe there just wasn’t a space for forensic linguistics here. I felt like I spent the whole time speaking to myself. Keeping with the spirit of being on the farm and my love of Smallville, it felt like I was the scarecrow on homecoming night. I know I definitely don’t want to lose on any of the progress I’ve made towards feeling better about my thesis and feeling better in general, so during my big day out yesterday, I picked up my notebook and just kept writing; what I wanted to put on my slides, what I wanted to share, and what I think no one else needs to know. 

I think the emotions and inspirations behind the project are just as important as the finalized product, so buckle up for the ride! In order to mitigate the odds of boring everyone, I’m going to phase through my slides rather quickly, and then allow you, my audience to vote on what they want to see; excerpts from one of the case studies, my written component for Research Days, or one of the accompanying short stories starring none other than Rem Shepard, a forensic linguist with all the grit and heart in the world. 

As far as thesis completion goes, I’m worried, scared, and shaking in my Converse! (Get it, the linguists’ favorite sneakers? It’s one of my better jokes!) The preliminary stuff is out of the way, but after two case studies, I feel like I’m running on empty. Even with all my re-organizing and whatnot, I just can’t get it together. I just don’t enjoy research anymore. It took a few panic attacks, but eventually, my mellowed-out mood at the park had me picking up the pen for Rem Shepard again, this time having him interview someone on death row to discern if perhaps, there was one more death she was responsible for, to give the family some closure decades after the crime. (It’s morbid but also cathartic in an odd sense.) Like I said in my last post, I’m leaning towards the creative route to make the deadline because, at the moment, it’s coming to me much more naturally. I’m scared of not following the research route because I don’t know if I’ll ever have a moment in time to do something like this ever again. It really tears me up inside to have that fear of not handing everything in prim and proper by May. I know it isn’t an inherently shameful or embarrassing thing and yet I can’t shake the connotation of a summer submission with failure. I guess this is the duality of the mind; everything else in life is falling into place, but the center is slowly falling in. What will be will be, and for now, I just feel better getting my worries out there; maybe it’ll help to put someone else at ease!

I’ll see you all tomorrow afternoon! 

I’m Only Off To Wander Across A Moonlit Mile

Got Motion, Restrained Emotion

I’ve caught myself listening to The Pretenders more thanks to “Brass In Pocket” coming on during the long, stop-and-go ride home on Monday. It’s been another one of those wrap-around, non-stop, everything is inside out and upside-down sort of weeks, but I’m loving every second of it! Chaotic energy is sometimes necessary to shift into high gear and get the words flowing, even if it’s for the thesis and not for my blogs, which are going to be much more sparse, probably until the end of the semester. 

As far as things outside of school and my thesis go, they’re going! It took exactly two hours after class for me to accidentally answer to Nash (Bridges), so at least my Dad got a good laugh at the end of the day. By the time we got home, it was back to Sonny or Vice. Just like last semester, carpooling with the man was not only fun, but I managed to drive with three hands on the wheel and just had to grit my teeth and bear the constantly changing radio stations. (I’m guilty of it as a passenger, which is fine because my Dad can tune it out, but as a driver, constantly changing the radio gets on my nerves!) I started a new job, and I’m enjoying getting acclimated and finding my rhythm in the workplace, and figuring out how to adjust my running and writing schedules accordingly! The Devils bus trip sponsored by the Graduate Student Government is only a few weekends away, and since it’s a rivalry game against the Islanders, you can bet I’ll have the time of my life! I’m stoked for some playoff Riveters hockey, and I’m excited for the new Opening Day on April 15 for the Mets! I know it’s ways away, but the thrill of baseball on the horizon (along with the annoying itchy eyes and runny nose thanks to allergies) is how I know it’s the changing of the season, and the start of better times. My application to the paralegal certification I mentioned a while ago is going in soon. It might not be super apparent, but there’s a shift in how I’ve been feeling as of late, and I hope to keep it going.  

Anyway, let’s get on with the thesis update! 

There Is A Wait So Long

The taunting, sardonic tone of “Here Comes Your Man” by the Pixies sums up the feeling of having to present this upcoming week. It’s tough to follow after Susan and Jessie since they’ve both had dynamic and compelling stories to tell and research to share, and while I may get lost in the world of forensic linguistics, it isn’t for everyone, and that’s perfectly OK! 

I’m thinking about how open I’ve been about running a parallel track of research vs. creative writing this whole time, and whether I should split the presentation between the two, focus on one, or find a way that lets me pull my Research Days work in and still make it make sense to everyone else. I’m also thinking about how open I’ve been about the insider-outsider feeling and the way that might have an effect on how I feel going into the presentation and what ends up happening. I’m thinking about how I’ve written the same amount, lengthwise, of both creative fiction and case studies, and how it would be so easy to rework my lit review and methodology and pivot between the two. The looming deadline has me leaning one way, and my heart and instinctual self have me leaning another. Here comes your man, indeed. Except he’s a man with no plan. Going the creative route would let me finish ahead of schedule, comfortably, and I probably would have less anxiety. I’ve been committed to the research angle for so long, my imposter syndrome might just explode if I try to cross over to the creative side, no matter how much I try to reason I haven’t lost any progress. But if I cross over, I’ll feel like I cheated myself out of something that might not come around ever again.  

I started the semester out thinking I had all the answers, and the closer I get to sharing my work with others, the more I realize I can answer their questions, but none of my own. I have more than an adequate handle on forensic linguistics; the terms, key figures, major occurrences, and all that jazz. It’s my position in the field that is unclear. Am I a researcher? An inspired writer? An imposter? Just a student? Just a guy?

But, that is not a cause for stress or any other concern; it’s almost like the internal conflict is letting me pull through on both fronts and keep the momentum alive so I’m well-positioned, no matter what direction I take. This is a thesis that’s been something out of a fairytale for me. There have been a lot more potholes than smoothly paved roads, and plenty of tears, frustration, and moments of doubt. And yet, there’s been so much magic and charm to it. This thesis has been a nocturnal project, with the progress when inspiration hit outpacing the rising of the sun. All the words have been flavored with different types of teas and coffees, and my identity as the writer was validated by the scrawls on the sides of the cups. It belongs to me just as much to me as it does to the spaces in which I found myself writing, such as Starbucks, the library, the park benches, the passenger seat of the family car, the break room of Kohl’s, and who knows how many rooms and offices at this point on campus. This project came together thanks to countless voice memos, index cards, post-it notes, and conversations with anyone and everyone who stopped to even ask what I was working on. For my presentation, I’ll figure it out in due time. Here comes your man, more like “This Charming Man.” 

At least I’m pretty much wrapped up on the Research Days front! I went all in and now have a written component. In this paper, I analyzed the CSI effect versus real-life timetables and investigative tools available, how police procedural shows have impacted jury duty selections and verdicts, and the overall effect of long-term viewing through the lens of social psychology. I kept it relatively short (about ten pages). I’m also wrapping up the design of my digital poster, and am slightly dreading the amount of teasing I am going to incur when I walk into the house with either a trifold or poster board and the question “Is this a project for class due tomorrow?” I might even add some glitter just to give this work some personality! It’s just about getting it done and doing it well at this point.

Suddenly Thunder Showers Everywhere

It’s only fair to end things with another one of The Pretender’s big hits, “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” This song, in particular, is especially appropriate for describing the floaty, optimistic, and yet focused sort of feeling that seems to be my baseline as of late. I wish I could articulate it better, but I think that if the Mets are telling me I’ve gotta believe, and miracles like those on the ice can come true, then there’s nothing for me to do except accept that there is just something in the air and just keep doing what I’m doing! 

Loosen Up!

Like A Movin’ Heartbeat In The Witching Hour

I’m telling you, Def Leppard’s Hysteria is one of the greatest albums to come out and one of my favorites to have on at any time; in the car, working out, and while working on something when I need that extra push! “Animal” is definitely one of those time-warp songs; you can just see the hairspray flying, the mullets growing out, and all the leather jackets with their back to you leaning over pool tables in dim light, with the haze of cigarette smoke and the smell of stale beer permeating the air. I’m just blown away by how fast spring break flew by and how I managed to figure out my directions for the foreseeable future! I owe a lot of this momentum going forward to hope from external forces; the Riveters, who might be fourth seed heading into the playoffs, but have played some of the best hockey I’ve seen this past weekend (check out Rebecca Russo’s end-to-end goal!), the Devils, for the upset wins over the Avalanche and the Ducks, two teams who they persevered against (with the latter game proving Jesper Bratt is elite and should have been the Metropolitan Division’s Last Man In), and the Mets, with the return of the MLB, new acquisitions, and the chaotic energy of our owner, Uncle Steve!

This blog is a shorter one, but the energy is what’s critical here; there’s a breakthrough taking place right here, right now! 

Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light, Go!

I know you know the words to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and it is totally not a guilty pleasure song, so feel free to sing along! As far as thesis writing goes, I am proud to report that I met my goal of wrapping up the first two chapters plus my written component for research days, so that’s a solid thirty percent out of the way! After reading through a recent Twitter feed about presentation fiascos, I also made sure to double-check everything has page numbers and follows the same order of appearance as far as elements of the cases I analyzed go. The next thing I checked for as I was running through it again was any form of bias, which I am glad to say is missing, and if I had adequately addressed any counterarguments, which just took another page or so to work through. 

I was starting to run out of steam and recognized I kept polishing these chapters up because I didn’t know where to go from there, or how to get to that next destination. Let this be a cautionary tale about over-researching; you can find plenty of brilliant cases at all levels (local, state, and federal), but you have to pick and choose which you think you can work with the best. The last major piece of writing I had to spread out over a long stretch was my paper on the Rwandan genocide for Conflict Resolution, so I used the Dr. Lynch approach to figure out what to do; first, look at my abstract to see what needs to be addressed and answered, thus creating the bare bones of a new outline. Next, I generated an exhaustive list of questions for each section of my thesis in no particular order; introduction, literature review, methodology, case studies, results,  the brief interlude and restatement of the purpose, the proposed place and protocol for forensic linguistics, the hypothetical change and outcome, and the conclusion. Then, I went back and categorized the questions, combined what I could, and moved on to the next process. 

I spent half a day alone on this and created a checklist to see what information I had available on every case, and created a checklist; legal documents, academic articles, newspaper articles, magazine articles, podcast episodes, documentaries, and television or movie adaptations or inspired elements that helped me figure out which cases were up next. Following this, it was a matter of pairing each case with the remaining articles or even using previously untouched elements of those already cited to make things easier on my future self. So, what was once my research folder is now sib-divided for each chapter of my thesis, with everything I need right within reach. I’ve been working on each chapter of my thesis as an individual document, and I’m sorting through and moving them around to the appropriate subfolder as needed. 

The elements of conflict resolution I mentioned earlier are also taking shape in their own right; I spent the other half of my organization day formulating questions that I hope to use those concepts to answer, rationalizing to myself why this fits in the intermediary space between case studies and proposed protocol, and the general outlook is decent so far! After all the organization and re-outlining, I was too wired to not make progress, so I started writing “out of order” again. I now have a rough draft of the “interlude” section and the beginnings of my proposed protocol. The case studies are ultimately what should come first and remain my priority, but it’s OK as long as I keep it going!

As far as Research Days go, I’m feeling good about my progress! I’m just about a month out, but I have the time to change, add, and revise my written component, as well as work on my poster. This is where I have the least motivation to get anything done. I trust myself to, but who knows when, and how. 

I can’t ballpark how long it’ll take now, but if I keep going at it I might be able to get through another case study by the end of this week, bringing me to the official halfway point, plus my Research Days work! After that, I’m considering asking someone I know to read things over for me and let me know if mastery of the topic is demonstrated, if enough background is given without detracting from the main ideas and purpose, etc. There’s nothing to do but keep pushing from here!

You Got It, But Are You Gettin’ It?

There’s nothing urgent enough to “Armaggedon It” just yet. I feel a bit of burnout creeping up on me, so I might not be as active as this past week. If I get through the next case study, and st least figure out what my poster looks like, I’ll consider that more than enough! After all, I have exactly a week until I present so that’s where I need to fine-tune my rhythm. Yes, this is bringing up all the ugly, negative feelings that come with the insider-outsider effect, but I’m coaching myself through it. Fear cannot outweigh curiosity and progress! It’s another case of going through it to get past it and walk on. 

It’s Such A Magical Mysteria

The closer I get to the end of this thesis process, and to school itself for me, the more it feels like “Hysteria.” I’m stoked about Jessie’s presentation for tonight! I know that whatever comes of the storm, the story will be a page-turner! 

There’s this gnawing curiosity and unease about how the rest of March and April are going to play out, but I can’t psych myself out trying to forecast too many things or by ripping into myself for not having more done. It’s just like the Mets always say; Ya gotta believe! 

Have You Got It Together?

Writers, Prize Fighters, And Wall Street Traders

I have nothing but love for New Jersey, the state I’ve always called home, but after Susan’s moving presentation and amazing memoir snippet, I had nothing but the infinite possibilities and wonder that New York has held for so many people over the years on my mind and there’s no song more fitting than “An Open Letter to NYC” by the legendary Beastie Boys to inspire me to keep it in perspective while moving forward. It’s one of my favorite music videos, and it’s neat how they celebrated all the positives of New York while still addressing the fact there are systemic changes that need to be made! Thank you for sharing and setting a high bar Susan! 

There have also been other good events from last class to now. I was able to order my graduation cap and gown online, and seeing the order confirmation felt a lot like getting off of the one and nine line. The Meet the GAs event GSG hosted was a blast, and going forward, there are so many more fun events to look forward to, from guest speakers to massages to an alumni panel to a Devils game bus trip! (If you’re interested in learning more, reach out to me or follow Kean GSG on Instagram! Also, graduate students get first priority for game tickets, so definitely make the effort to come if you can!) I finally let go and let my emotions flow during a one-hour run and two-hour journaling marathon one day, and I’m getting better at keeping my mood level. My Dad is still lovingly ragging on my haircut months later, especially now that it’s growing out and the feathered layers are more pronounced; I absentmindedly answered to both Don (as in Don Johnson) and Sonny Crockett, the name of his character on Miami Vice the other day, and he has yet to let it go. (No one else gets to call me Sonny, so don’t even think about trying it!) To be fair, there are definitely a few similarities, and I definitely wouldn’t mind having a Daytona Spyder. I’m anticipating and certainly not going to fall for Nash/Nash Bridges!

I feel pretty good about the direction my thesis and work, in general, is going in after attending the recent career fair and speaking with individuals outside the program to see if there is an audience for it. (And yes, there is!) Riveters hockey this weekend was both a mood booster and major comfort! Seeing a team you love stand up for mental health awareness, especially after a year where you personally have struggled more than ever before is incredible and beyond words. Add into that the fact that both the Riveters and the Devils had thrilling OT wins on the same day, not to mention the crazy awesome calls from Erica Ayala during Tuesday night’s game, and you have the most amped-up version of me on a writing tear! 

I’m feeling better now that I’ve broken a lot of ground on my thesis, and I was able to integrate what isn’t the central focus, but the most important aspect to me, which I’ll get into in just a moment. My Research Days endeavor is full steam ahead as well, and you’ll be able to read about it in-depth in just a second! 

Now, a true thesis update!

We Just Got The Start Wrong!

So, you will definitely need something as upbeat as “Haven’t Had Enough” by Marianas Trench to get through this next section, and I definitely need something as emotive as bolded caps lock for this next statement: MY THESIS IS ON A ROLL AND I HAVE FOUND MY VOICE! Yep, the wheels are turning and the accelerator is pretty much to the floor! 

In terms of progress, I have nearly two chapters done, plus my research days project which I am nearly complete with, barring a few modifications to my research design. As previously stated, I finally mad-libbed together a methodology section, which felt like passing through the EZ-Pass lane, but then I got caught up in the mad scramble for the exit and took a wrong turn at the fork in the road. Essentially, my first stab at one of the case studies I put together wasn’t necessarily terrible, since it was on target and checked off all the aspects that I wanted to assess; the background of the case, the significant factors that made me select it, the key figures in the investigation, the role that linguistic evidence either did or did not play, and the ultimate consequence that perhaps a shift could have incurred. (I also decided once I started to go with a chronological progression of the case studies, to highlight how different investigative tactics and tools have emerged or become more sophisticated.) It just felt like something was missing, and it was something that even Rem Shepard couldn’t help with. (I did give him a second story, but it was more for fun rather than as a roundabout to frustration.) The lab manual approach worked for my methodology section but needed to be tweaked for everything else. And my answer came in the form of something much closer to what I’m working with; a brief crash course in how to draw up legal briefs and memos, and opinions from the Supreme Court. 

Luckily, there are plenty of free legal memos and brief writing guides and examples on the Internet, tailored to all different areas of law. I chose to focus on the organization and language utilized in criminal law, evidentiary, wills, trusts, and estates documents since written and verbal statements and artifacts are crucial here, and used examples of each to create a comprehensive list of terms and definitions that should be kept in perspective and to see what aspects are crucial to mention in real-life situations. (LexisNexis is goated for having all the document examples I need, plus a rad legal dictionary!) I also took note of the headings, length of each section, and the extensive use of superscripts and footnotes, which was a big help in helping to make my work more concise and readable. I was also able to re-organize the chapter, add in a few aspects and instances I had glossed over, and alter the section headers to better reflect the material. But, something was still missing, and that’s where the Supreme Court opinions come in. 

It’s remarkable how easy it is to find Supreme Court opinions, with or without database searches, and I truly loved those I read that were written by Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in particular. I can remember seeing Justice Sotomayor on the news the summer after fourth grade when her confirmation process had just begun, and leaping up in joy when I heard she had also read the Nancy Drew series in its entirety as a young girl, and my Mom telling me, “Maybe one day you’ll work with her!” It’s an honor to include and cite her work in my thesis, and it makes me all the more determined to do a good job. Justice Sotomayor’s majority and dissenting opinions are practically all in the same ballpark of thought that I entered into this thesis with, and if there’s anything I pulled from them it is to organize your thoughts in order of importance and illustrate the consequence of the final findings and rulings. (Her style of writing also emboldened me to go back and revise my statement of positionality to be more paramount.) Justice Kagan’s writing style particularly struck me as inspirational, as there were glimpses of humor and an almost conversational tone, filled with accessible examples illuminating her key points. I blended the two together, and then I found my groove! (And plenty of sensible parallels to other things, such as literature and media! I’m also going to make it clear here: If I can compare anything to anything in hockey or baseball without it being a distraction or hard to follow, you bet I will!) I kept Kagan’s warmth in mind, and it definitely helped me settle down and want to write, instead of feeling the pressure of a deadline and dreading writing.

Now, onto the part of my thesis that is possibly the most important to me; the inclusion of concepts from my conflict resolution course! Granted, I still have plenty of case study analysis to write before I can even begin to plan out and write the future considerations and procedures section, but I didn’t want to lose any momentum, even if it means writing out of order briefly. Sure, it sounds conceited, but I know I have the material locked down and I can and will power through that portion of my thesis; I was able to define and illustrate all key ideas and points from memory, and barring the year, I even had the in-text citations memorized. It’s going to take a lot of refining, but I feel good about the direction things are going in. 

Hopefully, after all of this, I’ll get the story straight and the ending right! Now, onto some Research Days progress! 

Just A Whole Lot Of Noise 

It’s rare for this to happen, but I needed silence at first to figure out how I was going to proceed with my Research Days project. (Usually, I have to have some sort of music or podcast on in the background to set a pace and keep me motivated.) Unfortunately, the time constraints and concerns over whether an IRB certificate needs to be acquired are something I can’t stress myself out over any longer, and as much as it pains me, I have to do away with the survey and statistical analysis. Naturally, this means having to restructure my research design and outline a bit. So, it’ll be a media analysis over a case study analysis of just one character or one series, and I’ll have to stick to finding the role of forensic linguistics and how that portrayal lines up with the reality of the field. Furthermore, I think this is where content analysis best fits with my thesis, so I can work in reverse by completing this, and then amending the methodology section as needed. It’s a tricky business, but this endeavor has to take on a double-identity; a stand-alone project, but also something that ties into my larger thesis. 

Lately, I’ve just had “pulse conditioner” by Cougar, “Blimp Mason” by Citizen, and “Rave After Rave” by W&W on loop as I continue the write-up and poster process. (I think I might have conditioned myself to associate clubbing music with homework!) As far as my poster goes, I have the guidelines provided by ORSP for Research Days, but I think it could be tweaked a bit to become a tie-in graphic I can feature in my thesis. I’ll probably have that ready by the middle of next week, so I can look away and fix it up a bit before formally presenting later the following week. I also figure that by following this timeline there’s a possibility I might even be able to fold it into my upcoming thesis presentation, which I haven’t thought too much about just yet. I better get on that! 

If, When, Why, What? 

West End Girls” provided me with all the questions I need to figure out what direction to go from here. The plan is simple; just capitalize on the momentum! After all, my abstract, introduction, literature review, and methodology are all completed and the pedal has been pushed down to the floor lately. I hope that by the time I’m back in the classroom on Monday I’ll have the two chapters done and edited, plus the written component to my Research Days project/thesis tie-in done, which brings me to roughly 30% completion as far as thesis-thesis written material goes. If I really need to, I can always write out of order and cut to the later parts; the conflict resolution infusion and the proposed protocol of forensic linguistics and projected future changes to keep things going. I know that 30% isn’t much at all, but it takes a step to start a journey, another to keep it going, and a third before you decide to sprint because you’re moving too slowly! At some point a switch will flick and this thing will be done by the deadline!

I know that I have a lot of other things going on as well, such as planning for my upcoming presentation and beginning to prepare the website for my multimodal submission. (I’m also looking into publishing this formally, so it’ll be neat to journey into the world of Proquest/JSTOR/other thesis and dissertation databases! I also wonder if I can get  my Research Days findings published in a formal journal, or maybe even a magazine!) I can’t tell you exactly how just yet, but it’ll be OK. I’m getting there!

Get Straight, Go Forward, Move Ahead! 

And don’t forget to “Whip It!” The rest of spring break is all about figuring out a better routine to carry me to the end of the semester, keeping the momentum going on my project, and of course, showing up and supporting Jessie next Monday during her presentation! See everyone then! 

It’s Gonna Get Worse If He Waits Too Long

You Take It On Faith, You Take It To The Heart 

Tom Petty is absolutely correct; “The Waiting” is indeed the hardest part! But, waiting is thankfully where things have massively turned around for me. What I thought was falling behind was a lot more like being under construction; the road to actually, really feeling better and happier is no doubt going to be long and stretch well beyond what I thought it would, but staying the course is something I’m determined to do! The first steps came this week, by re-assessing what is and isn’t working in life in general. Negativity and living in the imagined “worst-case scenario” or “bad outcomes” isn’t going to magically disappear, but it is possible to take a step back, assess the thought, and do my best to work around it. I finally convinced myself that it’s OK to still enjoy the things I love even if I was momentarily stuck and unmotivated with my thesis, and that’s how I found myself spending Saturday and Sunday both weeks rooting for the Riveters! (I really hope that everyone at least got to take a peek at the games, whether on ESPN+, Twitch, or from all the clips and play-by-plays I retweeted! And it was great to get my family into the games as well; my parents are familiar with a fair amount of hockey terms and rules after years of the Devils on their TV, and now they’re getting to know the Riveters as a team! (It’s a work in progress; Madison Packer, team captain, is the only player my parents can recognize and name on their own, in large part because of her pink hair!) Needless to say, they think it’s fitting and hilarious that the team I root for spent a bit of time in the penalty box!

It’s pretty tough to be sad after seeing amazing work like that, and finding a viable path forward in the process! During Sunday’s win against the Minnesota Whitecaps, I had an enlightening interaction on Twitter with Dr. Virginia Yonkers, an amazing and accomplished scholar who opened my eyes to the methodology of ethnomethodology, as well as keeping a methodology but adding a lens, such as constructivism! I’ll explain further down just how my mind’s eye is imagining this is going to play out. 

Outside of just the weekends, I’m back to a regular gym schedule, lifting a little heavier, and took full advantage of the few nicer days and went for some long runs, bike rides, and soul searching. There’s something about beating the traffic and pedaling to your backdoor in the middle of the sunset while wind hits your face that makes things feel a little better, just like pulling into the parking lot for a deserted beach and staring out at the water on a cold, windy day. Of course, with student government meetings, the wonderful Twosday that happened to coincide with the Miracle on Ice anniversary, the Devils returning to action on Thursday against the Penguins in a big way, a trip to Broadway, and of course, the Riveters at home this weekend in Newark with the gorgeous Black Rosie jerseys, I can feel a shift coming! The ongoing negotiations between the MLB and player’s association will hopefully have an equitable outcome, and I know it’s ancient news now, but I can’t wait for the Mets to have their Old Timers Day this summer! 

(Also, I have my fingers crossed regarding a few more upcoming job interviews and the results of a few past ones!)

Things are in motion, and I am trying to conscientiously be here for it all. And now, a thesis update! 

You’ve Got To Trust Your Instinct And Let Go Of Regret

If you’ve been following my progress since September and know me, “All Mixed Up” by 311 is just the right pace and mood for how things have been, and I’m on the happier side of it now! The methodology dilemma is no more! I know where this thing is going, and I know “how to write my thesis” now that I have all of that cleared up. In my last attempt at a methodology section, I got frustrated and overwhelmed and wrote a whole short story as a way to prove to myself that I know what’s going on and how to do things, but I’m not so good at telling others what the framework of my project is. Most of my struggles in school are lost in translation to my parents, and yet this time, my (real, not something of a) scientist (himself) Dad had a helpful response; brush up on my lab manual comprehension and lab report writing skills, because the problem I’m describing is basically the same as those processes! And yes, it worked. (Also, I am still capable of keeping up with the fast-paced and nuanced science talk! Between that, this, some literary theory and criticism I’ve been delving into on the side, and all the stats I’ve been brushing up on and crushing, I’m feeling really good about myself!)

So, it was once again a scenario where I had to work it from the inside out; I might have figured out my angle and style, but I also needed to work on formatting, organization, and introduction of ideas, transitions, and actually sitting still long enough to write things out. Naturally, I rationalized that if there could be different types of literature reviews (narrative, chronological, etc.) the same logic could be applied to my methodology section, and so I chose to introduce my means of analysis by ranking and re-evaluating what a methodology is. Of course, case study and discourse analysis are my top two, and so they were scheduled to appear in that order. Protocol analysis almost threw a wrench in the plans, but since it ties into my case study framework, I just folded it in there. I took a look at content analysis and corpus linguistics next and through the same process, worked out how I would introduce and implement these investigative tactics. 

Following this, I used some structural elements of the lab manuals and reports I combed through to create a “composite document,” which was essentially typing out how I would introduce the methodology in a transition from my literature review no matter and leaving brackets with very obvious instructions to my future self wherever necessary, such as [insert name of the methodology here], [insert author’s name here] and [insert quote about the relevance of methodology] to give you a basic idea. I then circled back to add in other important brackets, such as [explication of the relevancy] and [reiterate supporting detail from previous sections], and also added the essential and pertinent headings and sub-headings for each approach and for the rationale section. I then created a corresponding “for filling in the brackets” document that contained all the key terms, definitions, and figures I wanted to mention and used a bold and italic system to once again denote importance versus optionality. I made sure to add in-text citations next to each term where applicable, and created another document for just those. (It’ll be handy through the whole process, so future me will thank me later!) And then, just to make sure I really hit all the bases before loading them up with information, I revisited Telling A Research Story: Writing a Literature Review by Christine B. Feak and John M. Swales and checked my composite document against some of their tips for having concise, pragmatic writing that still addressed all concerns of both author and audience while giving attribution where necessary. 

Naturally, drawing up a composite document also meant a lot of re-evaluation of who is this really for, an issue that I’ve constantly been grappling with. (Yes, it is for everyone here, but when published, hopefully, it will be seen by other forensic linguists and researchers!)  Luckily, I happened to know of a few categories of case studies, and after some research, I determined illustrative and critical instance case studies were the two that best fit the bill here. As a quick refresher, illustrative case studies are used to dissect and examine a prior situation for the purpose of explaining it to others and are qualitative by nature. Nothing is added, subtracted, or dissected, but it differs from a cumulative case study in the sense that it is assumed the audience is either entirely new or only vaguely familiar with the topic at hand. Critical instance case studies can be utilized to either examine or determine the causes and consequences of an instance or to challenge a universal assertion. Rather than challenge a universal assertion, the question at the center of my thesis, how can linguistic evidence come to be viewed in the same light as physical evidence, seeks to introduce a potential universal assertion. So, that moved finding supporting sources and justifying this approach, my main concern for this section of my thesis to the resolved column. It was tedious, and some of the steps may not have been entirely necessary, but it felt good to feel like something was getting done and eventually filling in all the brackets. 

Conventional? No. 

Successful? Yes! 

TL;DR: I played a high-stakes game of mad-libs with my methodology section and it paid off really well! 

I’ve gotten started on the critical part of my thesis writing, which is the actual application and analysis of all the cases I selected. It’s going to be a hyper-involved process that involves checking out my notes on my sources, re-reading articles and re-visiting podcasts, possibly adding in some documentaries (PBS is the best!), and of course, creating titles for each chapter, but I can, and I will do this! 

Out Of The Shadows And Into The Night!

Now that I’m older, I admire how sociable Phil Collins is, insisting Billy not lose his number! (I could never!) As I’m working on my Research Days project, I am also working with the knowledge of knowing it will ultimately become a part of my thesis, and based on the topic, it is coming at a highly polarized time and needs to be completed with a high level of integrity, not just for the sake of the outcome, but also with consideration to the impact it could potentially have. It means working on a disclaimer to place at the beginning of my survey, to ensure that there is a clear understanding that completion of the survey is completely voluntary and that there is content of a sensitive nature that will be addressed. Furthermore, as I load up and trim down questions, I am also cognizant of the limitations of what is and is not permissible without an IRB certification, so I plan to meet with a resource librarian to ensure that the questions are appropriate and within bounds. 

Aside from narrowing the list and scope of the questions on my survey, I’ve narrowed down what statistical software to use! I’ve messed around with a few open-sourced tools and found that I really liked both JASP, which is automatically calibrated for APA-style results, charts, tables, and PAST, a similar, but simpler software. I’m confident in my working knowledge of the tools, and I’ve done quite a few practice runs with some stats problems to make sure I know exactly where to input what and everything else. (I will also admit it is inflating my ego every time I intuitively know where to plug in what or click what.) 

Aside from the mathematical side of things, I feel pretty confident that I have reviewed all of the pertinent literature on the CSI effect, and am able to translate that into what my survey questions are attempting to measure. I’d also given myself the task of watching a set of shows that I felt were pertinent to influencing how others in my age group and a bit older might view police, investigations, and available resources, and I’m making steady progress working my way through them all. I’m only one person with a limited amount of time, so I’ve devised a plan to try and see if transcripts of episodes are available anywhere, and then, I plan to run a bot to analyze for similarities among the scripts, a set of key search terms, etc. and go from there. (Rest assured, this will be marked in my methodology section if I chose to do so!) So, my Research Days work is alive and a live wire! 

All My Dreams Have Fallen Down

This floaty and focused feeling I’m getting from making progress on my work and other concerns are pretty well summarized by “Save Me” by Remy Zero. Just like young Clark Kent, I too am setting out on my journey to become who people will know me as for years to come. Smallville is one of my all-time favorite shows and I usually have it on in the background while writing. This week, it echoed in my life; much like Clark and Jonathan Kent, my Dad and I definitely fight a lot but are still quite close. And just like Jonathan Kent, my Dad looked me in the eyes when he gave me the lab manual review advice and said, “I wish I could tell you all the answers, but you have to find them yourself.” It had me thinking about the insider-outsider feeling, and I came to realize over the last two weeks I hardly felt it, and I want to keep it that way. Forensic linguistics is fascinating and I regret spending even a moment wishing I picked something else to write about. I’m literally going to exercise the option of being able to leave the classroom for the second half of class and walk around as I write, and hope to finish at least half a chapter before heading home. 

I also realized I’m closer than further on a lot of big decisions, like how to submit my thesis and how to present in a few weeks. For my thesis, I’m definitely doing a traditional submission and a website. (I figure it might help to have live links to my sources in my work.) Admittedly, the latter half is weighing heavily on my mind; I really don’t want to go for round four of an aggravating instead of exhilarating time in front of the classroom. I could take the easy way out and use it for practice for Research Days. Or, I can stop stressing over what is still way out on the horizon and remind myself that no matter what happens, I’m hitting submit in May. 

So, I’m not quite Superman just yet, but the time will pass in the blink of an eye.

Don’t Give Yourself Away! 

It’s only fitting to end a post this long and with hints to even longer pieces of my writing with a bop like “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. (This came on at least three times while I was cycling uphill, so I’m equating it with a strong surge of determination and a push against all odds.) As I look ahead to today’s class, it’s all about showing up and supporting Susan, who I am sure will have an amazing presentation! See everyone later! 

It’s Gonna Get Worse If He Waits Too Long

You Take It On Faith, You Take It To The Heart 

Tom Petty is absolutely correct; “The Waiting” is indeed the hardest part! But, waiting is thankfully where things have massively turned around for me. What I thought was falling behind was a lot more like being under construction; the road to actually, really feeling better and happier is no doubt going to be long and stretch well beyond what I thought it would, but staying the course is something I’m determined to do! The first steps came this week, by re-assessing what is and isn’t working in life in general. Negativity and living in the imagined “worst-case scenario” or “bad outcomes” isn’t going to magically disappear, but it is possible to take a step back, assess the thought, and do my best to work around it. I finally convinced myself that it’s OK to still enjoy the things I love even if I was momentarily stuck and unmotivated with my thesis, and that’s how I found myself spending Saturday and Sunday both weeks rooting for the Riveters! (I really hope that everyone at least got to take a peek at the games, whether on ESPN+, Twitch, or from all the clips and play-by-plays I retweeted! And it was great to get my family into the games as well; my parents are familiar with a fair amount of hockey terms and rules after years of the Devils on their TV, and now they’re getting to know the Riveters as a team! (It’s a work in progress; Madison Packer, team captain, is the only player my parents can recognize and name on their own, in large part because of her pink hair!) Needless to say, they think it’s fitting and hilarious that the team I root for spent a bit of time in the penalty box!

It’s pretty tough to be sad after seeing amazing work like that, and finding a viable path forward in the process! During Sunday’s win against the Minnesota Whitecaps, I had an enlightening interaction on Twitter with Dr. Virginia Yonkers, an amazing and accomplished scholar who opened my eyes to the methodology of ethnomethodology, as well as keeping a methodology but adding a lens, such as constructivism! I’ll explain further down just how my mind’s eye is imagining this is going to play out. 

Outside of just the weekends, I’m back to a regular gym schedule, lifting a little heavier, and took full advantage of the few nicer days and went for some long runs, bike rides, and soul searching. There’s something about beating the traffic and pedaling to your backdoor in the middle of the sunset while wind hits your face that makes things feel a little better, just like pulling into the parking lot for a deserted beach and staring out at the water on a cold, windy day. Of course, with student government meetings, the wonderful Twosday that happened to coincide with the Miracle on Ice anniversary, the Devils returning to action on Thursday against the Penguins in a big way, a trip to Broadway, and of course, the Riveters at home this weekend in Newark with the gorgeous Black Rosie jerseys, I can feel a shift coming! The ongoing negotiations between the MLB and player’s association will hopefully have an equitable outcome, and I know it’s ancient news now, but I can’t wait for the Mets to have their Old Timers Day this summer! 

(Also, I have my fingers crossed regarding a few more upcoming job interviews and the results of a few past ones!)

Things are in motion, and I am trying to conscientiously be here for it all. And now, a thesis update! 

You’ve Got To Trust Your Instinct And Let Go Of Regret

If you’ve been following my progress since September and know me, “All Mixed Up” by 311 is just the right pace and mood for how things have been, and I’m on the happier side of it now! The methodology dilemma is no more! I know where this thing is going, and I know “how to write my thesis” now that I have all of that cleared up. In my last attempt at a methodology section, I got frustrated and overwhelmed and wrote a whole short story as a way to prove to myself that I know what’s going on and how to do things, but I’m not so good at telling others what the framework of my project is. Most of my struggles in school are lost in translation to my parents, and yet this time, my (real, not something of a) scientist (himself) Dad had a helpful response; brush up on my lab manual comprehension and lab report writing skills, because the problem I’m describing is basically the same as those processes! And yes, it worked. (Also, I am still capable of keeping up with the fast-paced and nuanced science talk! Between that, this, some literary theory and criticism I’ve been delving into on the side, and all the stats I’ve been brushing up on and crushing, I’m feeling really good about myself!)

So, it was once again a scenario where I had to work it from the inside out; I might have figured out my angle and style, but I also needed to work on formatting, organization, and introduction of ideas, transitions, and actually sitting still long enough to write things out. Naturally, I rationalized that if there could be different types of literature reviews (narrative, chronological, etc.) the same logic could be applied to my methodology section, and so I chose to introduce my means of analysis by ranking and re-evaluating what a methodology is. Of course, case study and discourse analysis are my top two, and so they were scheduled to appear in that order. Protocol analysis almost threw a wrench in the plans, but since it ties into my case study framework, I just folded it in there. I took a look at content analysis and corpus linguistics next and through the same process, worked out how I would introduce and implement these investigative tactics. 

Following this, I used some structural elements of the lab manuals and reports I combed through to create a “composite document,” which was essentially typing out how I would introduce the methodology in a transition from my literature review no matter and leaving brackets with very obvious instructions to my future self wherever necessary, such as [insert name of the methodology here], [insert author’s name here] and [insert quote about the relevance of methodology] to give you a basic idea. I then circled back to add in other important brackets, such as [explication of the relevancy] and [reiterate supporting detail from previous sections], and also added the essential and pertinent headings and sub-headings for each approach and for the rationale section. I then created a corresponding “for filling in the brackets” document that contained all the key terms, definitions, and figures I wanted to mention and used a bold and italic system to once again denote importance versus optionality. I made sure to add in-text citations next to each term where applicable, and created another document for just those. (It’ll be handy through the whole process, so future me will thank me later!) And then, just to make sure I really hit all the bases before loading them up with information, I revisited Telling A Research Story: Writing a Literature Review by Christine B. Feak and John M. Swales and checked my composite document against some of their tips for having concise, pragmatic writing that still addressed all concerns of both author and audience while giving attribution where necessary. 

Naturally, drawing up a composite document also meant a lot of re-evaluation of who is this really for, an issue that I’ve constantly been grappling with. (Yes, it is for everyone here, but when published, hopefully, it will be seen by other forensic linguists and researchers!)  Luckily, I happened to know of a few categories of case studies, and after some research, I determined illustrative and critical instance case studies were the two that best fit the bill here. As a quick refresher, illustrative case studies are used to dissect and examine a prior situation for the purpose of explaining it to others and are qualitative by nature. Nothing is added, subtracted, or dissected, but it differs from a cumulative case study in the sense that it is assumed the audience is either entirely new or only vaguely familiar with the topic at hand. Critical instance case studies can be utilized to either examine or determine the causes and consequences of an instance or to challenge a universal assertion. Rather than challenge a universal assertion, the question at the center of my thesis, how can linguistic evidence come to be viewed in the same light as physical evidence, seeks to introduce a potential universal assertion. So, that moved finding supporting sources and justifying this approach, my main concern for this section of my thesis to the resolved column. It was tedious, and some of the steps may not have been entirely necessary, but it felt good to feel like something was getting done and eventually filling in all the brackets. 

Conventional? No. 

Successful? Yes! 

TL;DR: I played a high-stakes game of mad-libs with my methodology section and it paid off really well! 

I’ve gotten started on the critical part of my thesis writing, which is the actual application and analysis of all the cases I selected. It’s going to be a hyper-involved process that involves checking out my notes on my sources, re-reading articles and re-visiting podcasts, possibly adding in some documentaries (PBS is the best!), and of course, creating titles for each chapter, but I can, and I will do this! 

Out Of The Shadows And Into The Night!

Now that I’m older, I admire how sociable Phil Collins is, insisting Billy not lose his number! (I could never!) As I’m working on my Research Days project, I am also working with the knowledge of knowing it will ultimately become a part of my thesis, and based on the topic, it is coming at a highly polarized time and needs to be completed with a high level of integrity, not just for the sake of the outcome, but also with consideration to the impact it could potentially have. It means working on a disclaimer to place at the beginning of my survey, to ensure that there is a clear understanding that completion of the survey is completely voluntary and that there is content of a sensitive nature that will be addressed. Furthermore, as I load up and trim down questions, I am also cognizant of the limitations of what is and is not permissible without an IRB certification, so I plan to meet with a resource librarian to ensure that the questions are appropriate and within bounds. 

Aside from narrowing the list and scope of the questions on my survey, I’ve narrowed down what statistical software to use! I’ve messed around with a few open-sourced tools and found that I really liked both JASP, which is automatically calibrated for APA-style results, charts, tables, and PAST, a similar, but simpler software. I’m confident in my working knowledge of the tools, and I’ve done quite a few practice runs with some stats problems to make sure I know exactly where to input what and everything else. (I will also admit it is inflating my ego every time I intuitively know where to plug in what or click what.) 

Aside from the mathematical side of things, I feel pretty confident that I have reviewed all of the pertinent literature on the CSI effect, and am able to translate that into what my survey questions are attempting to measure. I’d also given myself the task of watching a set of shows that I felt were pertinent to influencing how others in my age group and a bit older might view police, investigations, and available resources, and I’m making steady progress working my way through them all. I’m only one person with a limited amount of time, so I’ve devised a plan to try and see if transcripts of episodes are available anywhere, and then, I plan to run a bot to analyze for similarities among the scripts, a set of key search terms, etc. and go from there. (Rest assured, this will be marked in my methodology section if I chose to do so!) So, my Research Days work is alive and a live wire! 

All My Dreams Have Fallen Down

This floaty and focused feeling I’m getting from making progress on my work and other concerns are pretty well summarized by “Save Me” by Remy Zero. Just like young Clark Kent, I too am setting out on my journey to become who people will know me as for years to come. Smallville is one of my all-time favorite shows and I usually have it on in the background while writing. This week, it echoed in my life; much like Clark and Jonathan Kent, my Dad and I definitely fight a lot but are still quite close. And just like Jonathan Kent, my Dad looked me in the eyes when he gave me the lab manual review advice and said, “I wish I could tell you all the answers, but you have to find them yourself.” It had me thinking about the insider-outsider feeling, and I came to realize over the last two weeks I hardly felt it, and I want to keep it that way. Forensic linguistics is fascinating and I regret spending even a moment wishing I picked something else to write about. I’m literally going to exercise the option of being able to leave the classroom for the second half of class and walk around as I write, and hope to finish at least half a chapter before heading home. 

I also realized I’m closer than further on a lot of big decisions, like how to submit my thesis and how to present in a few weeks. For my thesis, I’m definitely doing a traditional submission and a website. (I figure it might help to have live links to my sources in my work.) Admittedly, the latter half is weighing heavily on my mind; I really don’t want to go for round four of an aggravating instead of exhilarating time in front of the classroom. I could take the easy way out and use it for practice for Research Days. Or, I can stop stressing over what is still way out on the horizon and remind myself that no matter what happens, I’m hitting submit in May. 

So, I’m not quite Superman just yet, but the time will pass in the blink of an eye.

Don’t Give Yourself Away! 

It’s only fitting to end a post this long and with hints to even longer pieces of my writing with a bop like “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. (This came on at least three times while I was cycling uphill, so I’m equating it with a strong surge of determination and a push against all odds.) As I look ahead to today’s class, it’s all about showing up and supporting Susan, who I am sure will have an amazing presentation! See everyone later!