I’ve recently been working on my dissertation proposal. Fear not, it is in a wonderful state. I’m learning loads about what I want to do with it and how I want to frame it and what I specifically want to focus on. I’ve even been testing out some of the exercises I’ve been devising in the classroom and at home. It’s wonderful stuff. Revisions, however, are hard. No one likes getting a lengthy paper back with a good deal of notes and a lot of questions. There are two ways to look at those notes though: as something negative or as something positive. Opting for the positive perspective is your best bet, but where to begin.

The answer is clearly related to the type of notes you received. This most recent revision I decided to do something quite drastic — I did a rewrite. That’s right, my friends! Put the previous draft in a folder and start from scratch. I read another book, revisited another seven books, remember a couple of other articles and started reading a second book. I took notes — lots of notes — and tried to re-imagine the core reason that I was doing what I was doing with my dissertation topic. What I ended up with was a proposal that was five pages longer, infinitely wiser, and radically more concrete. What changed? Me.

For better or for worse I’m the type of person that needs to actually write ideas to get them to percolate in my brain. Some call it a limitation. Those are the people who happily outline entire papers and proceed to write paragraphs underneath them and, like magic, a paper appears. While no one method is better than another (though I often envy the outliners), I’ve found that the ideas I tend to come up with are generally more interesting, involved, and risky than those formed by many others who utilize the outline method (it’s important to note that this is not always true, I’ve known many a risky outliner… but in my own personal experience it seems to be the case in general). Rewriters of the world: unite. If you know you’re not an outliner but you think rewriting takes too much time I’ll give you two options: learn to outline or seriously give rewriting a try. Once I learned that I’m a rewriter my life got much better.

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