The Proposal

Reflections May 15, 2014 7:44 pm

Last week, I presented my dissertation proposal.   Like other presentations, visualizing the content helped to outline and organize my ideas.  Unlike other presentations, my ideas were significantly shifting day to day.  Throughout the semester, I cut off more than half of my potential sources and expanded on a smaller section that I had initially written about for my first year paper.  This decision happened on a night bus to New York.  A week before my presentation, I decided to frame the project as body maps and scrambled to find The Greatest Hits on visualization and representation.  Special thanks to Grace and Tom.

We were supposed to present the intended project in 15 minutes, but I think my presentation went on for around 27 minutes.  You can choose to talk freely, or read directly from your written proposal. Either way works.  It would have been easier to pretend that I wasn’t nervous about my project if I had read verbatim, but talking freely was good practice.

I think one of the most important lessons about writing the proposal is just learning how to not be attached to any particular idea.  You still need to preserve your general interest, but you can’t totally predict in which direction your project will develop and narrow.  When I tried to explain my research interests to doctors in China, they still had no clue what I was studying.  That was two months ago.  Now, just being able to mention “maps” in a project that initially had no indication of visualizing bodies has been a significant improvement.  Part of the reason for writing about atlases was so that I could engage with historians of science.  Now all I have to do is add another case study for comparison and I will be set.

Now that I’m wrapping up my third year in HASTS, I figured that I would dive right into my dissertation research.  But it turns out that this summer might be the best time to work on some existing papers to submit for publication.  This seems to be generally a good idea since publications take a while, and I want to make the most of my ideas while they are still fresh in my head before moving on.

That’s all I’ve got at the moment.

Below are some examples of my presentation slides.  The details for structuring the project continue to shift, so when I gave my presentation last week, the actual project hadn’t taken its full form yet (and it probably won’t until I write the actual dissertation). 

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.55.41 PM  a tentative title

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drawing bodies

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Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.56.39 PM  Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.56.41 PM

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historical narrative with more maps

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.57.12 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.57.08 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.57.02 PMScreen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.57.00 PM
just highlight the essentials here

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wrote this that morning

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.57.23 PM

listed a few things here

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 6.57.26 PM

I should mention that thinking through the hypothetical chapter headings really helps with focusing on the kinds of arguments you want to make.  Even if you find yourself scrapping everything, at least you are thinking in terms of the final product, which should be at least 200 pages double spaced.  The headings I suggested are incredibly general here, but just practicing with these titles makes the whole process less terrifying. 

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