Thinking things through…

I feel like I’m at a good place with regard to my thesis development.  There’s just the right amount of tension/stress/anxiety and a load of excitement/enthusiasm/energy.  There are still, however, a bunch of questions.  

I struggle with trying to define the genre of my piece.  Should I call it historical autofiction? Faction? Fictionalized memoir?  And what about the fact that I intend to write it in letter/email/text form.  Does go in the description, too? I think that’s considered epistolary form. To be honest, the genre thing is ok with me for now because I have learned it is not uncommon for writers to have this struggle and I don’t think I necessarily have to pigeonhole it to one specific category. It is a hybrid of sorts, after all.

Also, I struggle with explaining the project itself. Not being able to clearly verbalize what I am creating gets me a little worried.  I mean, I can explain it, but each time that I do, it sounds a little different. I’ll get there.

The biggest concern for me right now, though, is what my research question/focus will be.  I know what I want to create, but I’m still not quite sure what part of this process or product I will be “analyzing.” I recently dug up my first research proposal from Dr. Chandler’s class (spring 2015) and it felt so neat and tidy.  I had a clear (although somewhat boring) research question and methodologies and lit review selections and a plan (it did require the use of IRB, though). (SeeLaura Lopez if you’re curious.) We also had to write a pretty lengthy paper about our research philosophies.  Somewhere in that nine page paper I said:

I argue, in fact, that many studies aiming to construct knowledge (or define the question they’re seeking answers to) through the study itself in actuality begin with an unspoken theory about what the research will uncover.  In this respect, there may always be a hypothesis underlying the research whether or not it is realized.  Do we not always have an opinion about what we think is true?  Through these acknowledgments, I can make a case for valuing pragmatic views on the way knowledge is constructed (epistemology), the nature of reality (ontology) and the approach to inquiry (methodology).  


This explanation provides evidence for the value I place on a pragmatic (mixed methods) approach to inquiry. I acknowledge that other paradigms are free to utilize mixed methods as well, but as I understand it, a pragmatist makes no preference between quantitative and qualitative.  I hold that the study should dictate the method.  In fact, I am concerned that studies specifically devised to fit into a specific methodology (due to its paradigmatic views) may inadvertently exclude themselves from potentially effective findings.  While I acknowledge the importance of understanding what methods one personally sees as most useful, effective and appropriate as a researcher, I maintain it is also important to be willing to deviate from these methods in pursuit of one’s goals.  


After a reflection upon my newly-defined research philosophy as it has emerged through this assignment, I can see myself, and others who hold similar outlooks, shaping writing studies as a discipline in many interesting ways.  Particularly in light of the direction I see writing studies going, the way in which I choose to conduct my own research and analyze the research of others has the potential to make a significant impact on the field.  We are entering uncharted territory in terms of what kinds of research we are likely to be conducting.  Given its non-restrictive framework, a fundamentally pragmatic research philosophy may have the greatest potential to create change.  

That was the very first course in my master’s degree journey and it seems so long ago..well, I guess it kind of was.  I’m not sure I knew exactly what I was talking about but I do see some common threads in my thinking, even now (I may have been trying to sound fancy for Dr. Chandler…I was very intimidated!). The point I guess I’m getting at is that I think it may be particularly hard for me to choose what I want to say about my project because I haven’t started it yet.  How can I know what this project will reveal about me, about writing studies, about the grieving process, about composing in different modes, about reader engagement, about genre blending, about memory, about storytelling, about the process fictionalizing a real person…..

Should I have all of these questions in mind as I begin to execute my work?  Do I then, hypothetically, attempt to “answer” these questions? Or should I have no questions andleave it for the piece to decide that for me? With a creative thesis such as this, is there a way for someone to begin with a blank space that allows the finding to unfold rather than beginning with a clear focus? I am interested in finding out the answers to all of the above research questions but I just don’t know which ones will stick. Upon further reflection, maybe it is actually very important for me to choose my questions before I begin or what’s the point, right?  Or, can I simply make a case for why this project is significant and leave it at that?  What about just listing all the possible implications of my work?  Is that enough?  There are so many angles. Just talking my thoughts out here…..

I don’t know…I’ve never written a thesis before.  But this seems more like “creating” a thesis since there’s not a “study” I plan to conduct so I’m not sure how the analytical part plays into all of this. I understand that an autoethnographic study uses one’s writing to reflect on their personal experiences as they relate to the world around them.  But, am I conducting an autoethnographic study of my own writing??  Does that question even make any sense?




2 thoughts on “Thinking things through…

  1. Keep writing and asking the questions! No, you don’t need all the questions formulated now; that’s what this time is for. Bounce from trying to form them and then being informed by readings, and other works that might inspire your thinking.

    Don’t worry about trying to dress it up in academic language. Start with your simpler, more basic questions about story form, character, the author/story relationship, the place of the story in the world and the place of the world in the story… These are your starting points, there are research questions in all of these

    How can I know what this project will reveal about me, about writing studies, about the grieving process, about composing in different modes, about reader engagement, about genre blending, about memory, about storytelling, about the process fictionalizing a real person…..

    You are far from without questions, they are there.

    While this is from a scientist, he was also a brilliant, curious, and artistic human- it may gel some approach ideas

    View story at


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