Friday, May 1, 2009

MMAP Challenge Update May 1: Topic Sentences and More Research Agendas

Today is Topic Sentence Day. I hate topic sentences. I mean, I've pushed and poked at all these damn paragraphs and rearranged ideas and fleshed them out and I'm a leeeetle bit tired of them now. I know what I want to say. For the most part, I said it. And yet, when you do all that moving and revising and reorganizing, the topic sentence-lids usually don't fit on their paragraph containers any more.

(I told you I love bizarre metaphors!)

So I have been staring at the bolded topic sentences all day, trying to make them actually match their paragraphs in a clear and close and meaningful way. Dude. This part of the revision process is always a slog.

How long? Hmm. I've been here staring at the computer all day. I put off both grading and getting groceries. It feels like time stopped, but really I don't know how much time was spent staring vs. working vs. hunting down random internet sites for a LOLcat I haven't seen yet. heh.

And thanks to everyone who gave me advice on what a research agenda is, particularly people like Squadromagico and Susan who told me to:
1) publish a chapter from my dissertation
2) publish something from the dissertation topic that I have not used in it.
The thing is, I already did that.

I've been out of my program all year, remember? And my advisor gave me this exact same while I went on the market. So I did. Number 2 is my R&R, which I have declared I SHALL finish during this challenge, and Number 1 is on my desk, ready to be tweaked and sent out to another journal (it was rejected as not fitting the place I picked.) I hope to take no more than a month turning that one around too.

So, now what? That leaves the rest of the summer --- in fact, since we aren't done until mid-June, I should have a clean plate for the summer. I'll be sitting around waiting for word on the submitted articles. I could:
a) go on vacation
b) sit around on my ass
c) take some sort of completely nonacademic job just for a paycheck
d) write something else for publication?
e) revise the dissertation into a book?
A and B seem rather silly, or dangerous I should say ---- I doubt that I will somehow become the candidate everybody wants if I publish these two articles, so I don't think resting on my laurels before I've published 'em would be smart. C is actually going to be very difficult given the place I'm in, which has very high unemployment and not much in the way of "jobs just for a paycheck's sake," so no waiting tables for me.

I have to run off and meet some friends for a little bitching and moaning (now! with drinks!), but anybody have any advice for a Research Agenda 2.0? Tea-cher, I'm such a good student I've finished the homework you gave me already! heh.


Tree of Knowledge said...

who told you to what?

Try this; it's a trick I use with students and I'm sure comes from some writing pedagogy guru, but I can't be bothered to figure out who. Don't think of them as topic sentences, think of them as point sentences (active, argumentative sentences that state your point). Chances are, a point sentence already lives in each paragraph, and just needs to move to the head of the block.

Tree of Knowledge said...

So the last half of your post that was missing on my screen just showed up. Sorry about the question in my earlier comment that makes no sense to anyone who got to read the whole post the first time.

Sisyphus said...

Yeah, sorry. I hit tab twice and the cursor didn't move and so I hit it a couple more times and then I got the "yay, your blog has posted!" page.

Stupid blogger. Meh.

hylonome said...

Do you have something, not from the diss, but that you wouldn't need to start from scratch? Something that might be ready to go with two months of work? If yes, then that's where I think you should put your energies first--assuming it can be in the mail by mid September.

After that's done, I'd start the process of rethinking the dissertation as a book, perhaps by even writing a preliminary book proposal. It would be great to be able to indicate that you're in the process of revising the diss in letters in the fall--and to have a sense of what that might mean (new chapters, different emphases, etc).

FWIW, of course.

Phul Devi said...

This is a tough one, but I actually would advise NOT revising the diss as a book yet. I believe it's best to let disses sit for at least a year before returning to them with new perspective -- but that's me, and I'm likely in the minority in thinking that. (I left mine aside for quite some time, and felt it gave me a very valuable distance when I returned to it.)

So... if you've already used up all your extra research for the diss., then I'd advise looking in to a new project. You may not get an article written -- though perhaps you will -- but you'll start getting some ideas for the Next Big Thing, which you are sure to be asked about on the job market. The more research you've done towards this, the more detailed your answer will be.

Shane in SLC said...

I'm going to disagree with Squadratomagico and suggest again that you work on the book proposal this summer. There's a lot to be said for getting some distance from the diss before trying to revise it, but the proposal/manuscript review process is LOOOONNNGGG, and in the process you might get good feedback from editors or reviewers about what what the books needs to become publishable.

And really, there's nothing you can do to make your CV more "marketable" than to have a book contract, or barring that, at least to demonstrate that you're ambitious and thinking in terms of book-length projects and doing the work to get your book published someday...

Anonymous said...

I come from a different academic field in which the tradition might be different, so excuse my silly question which is not aimed at Sisyphus but at all who are commenting: if you have too many articles published based on your dissertation, isn't that contraproductive regarding convincing a publisher to publish your dissertation?

Phul Devi said...

@ waterkant: Some presses like a few articles out because it can create an audience for the book -- whet their appetites for a more sustained treatment, as it were. But you wouldn't want to publish every chapter as an article: that would be a detraction, you're right.

Susan said...

Well, if you've done 1 & 2, yes, I'd start revising the diss this summer. Re-reading it after a year away is always interesting. THink through what you want to do, and -- depending on how much you need to do -- either write a prospectus, or even aim to revise one chapter. (The intro would be great).

I do agree with Squadrato on leaving the diss alone, but it's been almost a year, you've been teaching all over hte place, so you have your distance.

The alternative, is that if you have a seminar paper that might turn into an article on a separate topic, you could go with that...

Sorry not to have realized how much you'd done.

Anonymous said...

I left my diss alone for two years, but continued to teach classes based on it (got a t-t job after finishing, so that helped). I worked on a proposal last year (involved two chapters, a 2500 word intro, chapter outlines, and miscellaneous information section). The proposal was accepted and I have an advance contract. I still have to finish it. Of the four chapters in my dissertation, only two are going into the book. The other two: one is in print, and the other has been conditionally accepted for publication. So, if you do return to your diss this summer, be open to not having all of chapters making it into the book (and in fact consider publishing one on its own). As for whether or not break away from the diss worked for me, I can't say. The topic was fresh on my mind b/c of teaching -- so in a way I never really abandoned the diss.

Also -- the book by Germano *really* helped me understand how a book is an entirely different (William Germano, I think).


Dr. Crazy said...

Coming to this late, but what I'd say is that beginning work on the diss revision (like planning, maybe getting the book proposal done and a sample chapter or two polished so you can send that off and start trying to secure a book contract) but having your primary focus be working on an article (not directly from the dissertation but related).

Here's the reason I say that. 1) If you work on the diss to the exclusion of other things, and if you don't have a contract from a publisher to show for it by job market season, the fact that you're "working on revising the diss into a book" means absolutely nothing. Who in your situation *wouldn't* claim to be doing that? In other words, that statement wouldn't get you an interview. A book contract could get you an interview; an additional well-placed journal article not mined from the diss could get you an interview. Both of those show continuing productivity. Saying you're working on revising the diss does not (even if you're not lying).

My 2 cents....