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Explaining my thesis process with .gifs

June 27, 2012

The rough draft of my thesis is due 3 weeks from today, the final draft August 7th, and my defense is scheduled for August 15th. Nothing to do now but connect all my ideas in a good format and edit, edit, edit. Though I love to write, I’m currently a bit tired of it. That’s to be expected after months of nothing but research and writing, though, right? It’s for this reason, too, that I can’t do very much with this blog right now. I just don’t have it in me. Thankfully the Internet has decided to provide me with a way out; that way is the animated .gif. In case you’re not an Internet person, you might not know what .gifs are or why/how people use them.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Web 2.0’s attachment to wizarding pictures, let me explain very briefly. Animated .gifs are, like I hinted at with the wizard reference, moving pictures (quite like those from Harry Potter). Though they were graphics based when they were first “invented” (see, for example, the dancing banana), they’re now most often made from TV shows, movies, and YouTube clips. On places like Tumblr, newly aired shows and movies which are only several hours old are giffed by fans and Photoshop enthusiasts as soon as the first footage is available. I’ve seen many a movie in .gif formal (well, the key scenes) before I’ve seen the actual thing. People/Bloggers post them because they like them, because they’re pretty or have funny text in them, because they show important parts of interviews without readers having to click through to video, or to respond to things (reaction .gifs). There’s little consensus on whether “gif” should be pronounced with a hard g or a soft g (like jiff), so do whatever floats your boat.

Okay, now that we got this abbreviated history of the .gif out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. (NB: If you have epilepsy or a seizure disorder, please proceed with caution. Only you know if .gifs can trigger you; there’s one gif with strobe light-like features).

The research process was fun. I read a lot and stacks of books appeared around me as I got deeper and deeper into theory.

Sometimes I tried to start writing, but my attempts were so ad hoc that when I returned to my thesis file after a longer period, I could hardly remember what I’d been trying to say.

As I tried to formulate my central thesis and research questions, I often found myself wondering what exactly I was hoping to accomplish. I wrote theses that were more along the lines of “hoping to prove something” than “going to prove X, Y, and Z.”

After a few weeks, I plucked up the courage to email my advisor so we could actually start discussing the things I’d been doing so far and where I was hoping to go. But like any good grad student, I found writing that first email incredibly stressful.

Of course my fears were unfounded; my advisor was as nice as I could have ever hoped he would be and our first meeting really helped me focus my research and start the writing process. Pretty soon, I got really excited about the whole project again and really started believing I could pull it off.

Let’s continue the rest of this under a cut, shall we?

In a very short time, I cranked out thousands of words, some of which were good, some of which were obviously the product of sleep deprivation with a nice side of desperation. But then I felt like I was stuck.

It took collaboration with some friends from my cohort to kick my writing back into gear, and pretty soon I was writing chapter after chapter. Whenever I hit a sticky spot, I made spectacular evasive manoeuvres in the shape of paragraph-end comments along the lines of [DON’T FORGET TO CONNECT THIS IDEA TO THAT OTHER IDEA], [EXPAND ON THIS LATER], and [CITATION NEEDED].

Sometimes I came up with an absolute stroke of brilliance, only to discover I’d already had that particular stroke weeks ago. But revisiting one’s own good ideas is always nice, right? Still

Sometimes I had an off day, where I had to recoup and regroup before forging ahead with a new chapter. I consumed tremendous amounts of popular culture, like New Girl and Game of Thrones (the show AND the book). I classified this as contextualizing research of the relaxing variety, as my thesis is pop culture related.

But then came the time when all the meetings with my advisor, all the research/writing/thinking/expanding had to pay off and I had to start connection everything into a coherent, readable, good piece of writing. And suddenly, I was faced with the consequences of my great evasions: I now had to actually start doing the hard work, but my motivation had gone down the drain and my internal dialogue went something like this:

Enter thesis fatigue! Despite loving everything about reading, researching, and writing (not to mention my topic), I was tired and worn out. Co-writing had lost its magic (as much for my buddies as for me) and even the looming deadline couldn’t kick my brain into gear.

That’s actually where I am right now. Every time I get close to connecting things in what I think is a meaningful way, something else comes along and pulls me back right to where I was before.

It’s… not fun. That’s about the kindest way I can describe these last few weeks. However, I know myself and I know that I’m not only able to pull off this project the way it deserves to be pulled off, but I can do it with passion, dedication, and joy. All I need is that one push, that tiny spark, that will set me on the right course and I think earlier today that might have happened. Therefore, I look forward to taking a last leap of faith, jumping every hurdle, and kicking down every obstacle that stands between me and happy, happy graduation.

In the spirit of honesty, I should probably note that my overall moods swing between the following:

(My special thanks to the people who made these gifs. I don’t know who you are, but I appreciate your existence. If you see something you made here and would like to be credited, just shoot me a comment and I’ll do so.)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 22, 2013 10:45 pm

    This. is. absolutely. fantastic. Still early in the process, but boy oh boy I’m right in the middle of ‘dem mood swings. Thank you so much for making me laugh!! Have shared 🙂

  2. May 28, 2013 4:49 am

    Reblogged this on Pondering Nonsense and commented:
    WORD.

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