I have an idea – oh crap!

It might seem counterproductive, but I had an amazing idea yesterday and I am regretting it today. Very badly as well. Let me contextualise a bit.

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I am currently trying to write Chapter 3 of a five chapter thesis. That seems about right so far. I have done about eight months’ work of research on this chapter, and I have it written in my head. I am not trying to avoid the work, I am just trying to make sure I have all the necessary readings done before I start writing it down “properly”. I have already submitted the first part of the chapter for my supervisors to review and they liked it, and gave me feedback on how to improve it. So I am working with that. Keeping the rough part of that first part, chopping off and rewriting certain bits and then keep writing the second part. That’s fine.

Whilst reading, however, I have been having some trouble understanding the theory of intertextuality. Well, not so much understanding, but also quoting and citing. Who said what? Whose theories are people in that field working with these days? We have forty years worth of research after Julia Kristeva coined the word in 1967. So where is the field going and who should I be reading to 1) understand and 2) quote in my Literature Review of the chapter?

Since this was a major difficulty, I decided to start writing about what I know and the polish it up at a later date. Whilst I was doing this, I realised that I could use the polysystem hypothesis, which I have used in previous chapters, to be the theoretical framework behind my work. Why not? I feel very confident about that and I know how to quote it. So I started writing and it made more sense and when I told one of my supervisors she agreed that the changes I was proposing were good and made sense in the bigger picture, plus they give continuity to what I had said in Chapters 1 and 2. Good then.

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Current plan, looking okay

But then I went to meet my other supervisor. We have an odd power relationship between us, and, since she is an older academic, I feel like every time I have an idea or I want to do something, I need to make sure I think it through and explain it very well, almost inside out, for her to understand and approve of. I feel like I do when I am talking to my mom and trying to explain a major life decision: I need to let her know that this is not rushed, that I have put a lot of thought and research on it, and I understand the consequences. Which in a PhD scenario is really good, because I discard half baked ideas and we end up discussing things that really matter and on which I have a founded opinion. It also pushes me to find that state: to work hard and explain my research in different words.

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New plan, looking far more enticing

The problem is that yesterday, whilst I was in the meeting with her, all sorts of ideas came up. Some half baked, some slightly more thought through. As I was sitting there, she was asking me questions that really put me in a position to advance in my thesis writing. I had to explain how I want Chapter 5 to look like, but I had to admit that I don’t know what I want to do for Chapter 4 and that is putting a lot of pressure on me. I mean, what if I don’t find anything to write about anyway? Whilst I was there, I also suggested something else that could be in Chapter 5. And then it stroke me.

AN IDEA. A THESIS-FOCUS-CHANGING IDEA.

What if I bin the main writer and pick the main translator? The thesis will have a unity, Chapter 3 will become Chapter 4 as I will need to split Chapter 2 in half and expand it. My other supervisor had told me not to worry because if I could not find something for Chapter 4, I could just reorganise the structure of the thesis. But this imply a major change – thesis title change, research question change, and all, although I will be able to use a great amount of what I have already written. In any case, I will need to rewrite Chapters 1 and 2 at a later stage and improve them considerably. So why not improve them with this new focus?

Today of course I can’t think of anything else. I have promised them a sample of my writing in two weeks and a first draft in four… I have calculated the differences between the chapter I think I want to write, and a chapter that would fit into this new model. And I find the new chapter easier to work through, but I can’t just go “actually, look what I did” and send it to them without having consulted them. I am getting really carried away with this idea and it’s somewhat scary.

I think I will try to relax (I seem to go through ridiculous bipolar spikes with this research) and work through what my original idea was and then give the new one a shot. Stay tuned to find out how this goes. I might end up regretting having an idea.

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