Identify your area(s) of interest as soon as possible in your program, and look for ways to link your papers, course readings, independent studies, comprehensive exam questions, etc., to this topic. (Katie)
The first piece of official writing usually shared with a committee is the dissertation proposal. The correspondents provide evidence of a variety of learning cultures, describing how they prepared the proposal and what they assumed and learned by doing it. They also share some concerns that only became apparent to them after the defense and acceptance of the proposal, when data collection and analysis were in progress. Pulling it together for presentation, however, is the first step.
The excerpts below highlight the difficulty two correspondents experienced as they were “learning by doing. ” Carol recalls:
When I first wrote up the proposal, etc., I outlined the dissertation in a traditional quantitative way—problem, literature search, methodology, findings, conclusions. My committee laughed me out of the building. They let me know that qualitative research is different. It was okay to talk in the first person! And “real” qualitative research does not know what the thesis is until the interviews are done and analyzed.