Let’s begin with a general preview to the process as I understand it right now for those who don’t know. I will have a meeting with my advisor in January to talk about the rest of my life here at the university. This isn’t new. We do this every semester. What is new is that we will now talk about my dissertation. At this meeting, we’ll talk about potential dissertation topics and members of my committee. Once we decide on a topic and committee, I move forward with writing a prospectus. This is essentially the beginning of your dissertation or a proposal. You talk about what you plan to do, why it matters, and your general plan for how it’s all going to go. You present/defend your prospectus before your committee. They sign off on it if they think it’s a good idea and it’s something they think you can get done in a reasonable amount of time. Then you move forward with writing the actual dissertation.
So, when I say “Dissertation Day 1”, it’s really my first day of writing what I’m calling a memo or my pre-prospectus. I’m formalizing my thoughts on what I’m going to talk to my advisor about in January. My goal is to write up a brief five-pages or so that outlines my ideas. We’ll meet, he’ll tell me what he thinks, and I’ll have to revise A LOT before anything is close to going to my committee. Like the ideas I have right now are very likely not the ones I will ultimately write about. The general topic is pretty for certain. I would be very surprised if my dissertation is about anything except value-added modeling, but we’ll see what happens.
I allotted four hours to “writing my dissertation” today. So far I’ve cobbled together pieces of some old papers I wrote, some chicken scratched notes and fragments of ideas I tucked away in Evernote, and some random thoughts on the topic not previously penned to paper. Perhaps Christmas break is not the best time to start such a task, but at least the next time I return, I will not have a blank page staring at me.