The intro

Having written a draft of the results for my thesis, I’ve now turned to the introductory chapter.  It’s slow going.  I had sort of an idea about how I wanted to start the whole thing off–you know, the introduction to the introduction–and I’ve gotten two pages (double-spaced) written.  But I looked it over and I glanced at a couple of thesis introductions from former lab members and most of what I have written so far is waaaaaayyyy too simplistic.  I know, I know, I should just keep writing, but guys, what I’ve got is probably Cell Bio 101 material.  Maybe even remedial cell bio material.  So, it’s totally going to have to be trashed.  However, writing it has helped me organize my thoughts which were so frazzled yesterday afternoon (when I started this endeavor) that for a moment, I couldn’t remember what the big picture was.  Actually, not the big picture, but the BIG big picture.  As in, why the hell the  cell needed what I’m studying anyway.

I know.   It’s incomprehensible that I had that sort of brain function meltdown at this stage in my career, but I’ve been so focused on the knitty-gritty details of two of the proteins I’m studying that, while I could instantly spout off why what I’m studying is important and interesting to my field, for a moment I drew a blank when contemplating why what I’m studying is important to LIFE.

*shakes head in dismay*

Additionally, I keep getting side-tracked looking up tangential information.  I spent a ridiculous amount of time yesterday trying to confirm an aspect of this function in prokaryotes which I mentioned in one sentence.  A sentence that I will likely be throwing out.  I found one review that mentioned something interesting which led me to another review about a related topic which led me to another review and another and another until I was finally reading about some unrelated topic.*  Also, I  pulled down my college cell bio texts.  That was when the post-doc who works at the other bench in my bay told me I was on the road to crazyville and should probably just go home.

Today is going much better. The content of my writing has gradually turned into something much more sophisticated.  So, in the end, I’ll probably just cut off those first six paragraphs or so and nobody will ever read the portion that should probably be named “Cell Biology for Dummies” (or possibly “Cell Biology for Senior Grad Students Who Are So Caught Up in Their Work They Cannot See the Forest for the Trees”).

*This happens to me when I look up words in the dictionary, too.  I get distracted by the guide words at the top of each page as I’m flipping through it (and, any drawings or pictures on that page–ooh pretty pictures!) which is why it takes me half an hour to look up a definition.


7 thoughts on “The intro

  1. I totally and completely understand! I find myself doing the same thing, especially when looking for references on a specific thing – that leads me to more and more and all of a sudden it’s the end of the day!

  2. By introduction, do you mean introduction or review of literature? If the former, my suggestion would be that you write the discussion first and then come back and do the introduction as that will give you more of an idea of what you need to include and what you don’t.

  3. Yup – you need to get cracking on that then! I tried to write my lit review using subheadings of everything I thought was important then dragged things around to where they seemed to fit. I had also published about 1/3 of the lit review as a stand-alone review article well before my thesis was submitted so that made life a lot easier when it came time to pull the behemoth together. Just remember that if you have an overblown mother of a lit review, your examiners aren’t going to read it so be thorough but concise and succinct … easier said than done, huh!? I wish I could offer some words of wisdom but I don’t really have any 🙂

  4. I went to an awesome seminar by a dissertation coach. It was all about the psychological barriers to finishing a dissertation and strategies to overcome them. One of her main points was to stop writing as though your committee is in the room. In other words, in the early stages, just write whatever comes into your head because you can always change it later. I’m planning one or more posts about the seminar soon.

  5. I was just having this same problem the other day! I spent a loooong time looking up sources to confirm some thing in one sentence. I totally sympathize with you. I’ve put off my introduction and conceptual framework sections of my proposal because I’m totally intimidated by them. I’m trying to work on the easier sections first to get me in the groove and doing something! And even in those I got hung up by references.

  6. Hi! I found my way here via ScienceWoman’s BAD post today. And I just had to comment here because I *just* finished writing my intro first draft late last week, and it was SUCH a struggle. So I totally empathize. I could not figure out the appropriate level of SCOPE. My advisor said it should be written so that my parents could understand it. I didn’t do that exactly, but it’s definitely not aimed at an audience of member of my subfield.

    Good luck. It’s slow going but when you finish your first draft, you will feel AWESOME!

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