I glance at my nephew’s artwork on the monitor desktop, titled Man in a Doorway. It’s the same one I have set as my picture on this blog. The subject of the painting was never specified. It could be any man, any person. This morning, I am the man in the doorway. I stand on the threshold of another week and another phase of my PhD process. I have begun thinking and writing my thesis as a whole piece. It isn’t just individual chapters any longer. Each chapter has a place and a role within the broader structure. It’s gone from being bits that should fit together somehow to a larger story that has contours within and between each of the chapters. This is rather exciting but also quite scary. There is a lot of work yet to be done on it before it will be ready to submit, but now I know more about it than I did before.
I am standing in the doorway, on the threshold of this thesis. Through the doorway is a lot of hard graft as I write this thesis into being and write myself into being as a scholar in the process. I can see some of the way into the next phase of work, even if much of it still lies in the shadows. The light from behind me is spilling in through the doorway to illuminate the next few steps of the path. I am not stepping into complete darkness because I know this material. It takes me a while to articulate it sometimes, but I do know it. As much as I learn more about my data set every time I review something or apply another element of analysis, I can say I know my thesis now. My thesis, my argument, only addresses a small component of the possible analyses of the data so I would not expect to know everything about the data set as a prerequisite to developing my thesis. What I’ve done is enough rigourous analysis to craft a defensible thesis.
I stand on the threshold of my thesis. It feels more than a little intimidating, because this has to stand up to examination. At this point the statistics on outcomes of PhD examination have little impact on calming my fears. Most theses are accepted (or accepted with minor editorial corrections) or amend. A smaller percentage get revise and resubmit. Of course I worry about ending up in that small revise and resubmit percentage, or the even smaller ‘recommend for another degree’ category. I think most thesis students fear they will be in one of those latter groups.
I stand on the metaphorical threshold of my thesis. Realistically, I have already taken the first step through the doorway. I have a nominal full draft of my thesis, with every chapter in at least first draft. That alone is a major achievement. I have already started the thinky work for the ‘end to end’, working out what I need to do in preparation for moving into the writing. Having had some positive and constructive supervisorly feedback on my detailed thesis outline section in my draft introduction, I am feeling more prepared to acknowledge that I am moving through that threshold. I’m cautious about saying how far, though. There may be a steep staircase through the door, or it may even be one of those climbing walls. Whatever it is, it’s going to be hard work.
I am also not the man in the painting. I am not standing motionless in the doorway. I am stepping through the doorway and it is leading somewhere.
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