PhD writing

Research update #41: Proposal writing day 5 – barriers to collaboration and the McDonald’s solution

I’m feeling uncertain about the structural advice that I got from one of my supervisors – and also about some of my own decisions. I’d initially thought that there was a lot to say about the nature of edvisor roles as well as some of the internal tensions in the community between professional and academic ones and that 2000 words would enable me to have a sufficiently rich discussion of this in the literature. (Because I’m still on the lit review). I was advised to cut that section down to 1000 and to reallocate that to the other sections. I’m kind of feeling that there is still a fair bit to discuss that doesn’t sit well elsewhere. My quandary is whether I trust the advice from someone with far more experience in academic writing or trust my own (I believe) richer understanding of the material, which to me says that the discussion of the nature of edvisors in the literature needs a deeper dive. I’ll go with the former for now and ask for feedback based on that but I have a feeling that this section will end up needing to be bigger.

My second issue is that in looking at the relationships between edvisors and institutional leadership and edvisors and academics, I think I’ve already touched on several of the issues in the next section about barriers to collaboration. It feels a little like I’m repeating myself in this section, although given that this question is pretty much at the heart of why I’m doing this research, maybe that doesn’t matter and it’s ok to reiterate it.

Ultimately I know that the solution is simply to shut up and write and save these bigger questions for editing and redrafting. I read of a problem-solving approach to decision making once that I’ll call the McDonald’s solution. It is essentially that if you are in a group trying to work out where to go for lunch and nobody is offering suggestions, throw up the worst option (McDonald’s) so that people are forced to commit to something better. I guess this is what the first draft needs to be.

I was given a certificate once in a script writing workshop that I went to giving me permission to write badly. I should dig that out and stick it up on the wall.

One other thing I should note is an interesting blog post from one of the PhD candidates at my uni who is looking at the anthropology of higher education (to paraphrase). It discusses a lot of issues surrounding the nature of work and exploitation based on love of the career but also delves into the onion layers of reasons and excuses that people use to not own responsibility for this sub-par situation. I’ll admit that I’ve found it fairly easy to ascribe ultimate responsibility for a number of problematic ideas and decisions to the upper echelons of institutional leadership but this blog post has reminded me that even they will pass the buck along to macro level neoliberal governmental and economic policy positions and this isn’t entirely untrue. I won’t accept that ultimately nobody should be accountable or that nobody has the capacity to make change for the better and there is still a lot going on at the top end that seems to drive some of these issues but it is handy to remember that everyone has their masters.