From the Field to the Laptop: The Art of Writing a PhD Thesis

The fact that one should go for a PhD only when s/he is 100 percent sure is well-publicised. What, however, is often not known is that even after being sure about one’s research topic, writing the dissertation can still be a difficult task! The struggles that a researcher has to go through to write a dissertation is underrated. It can be both academically and personally challenging. The two most significant aspects of doing a PhD include the collection of data and then writing the thesis. My PhD research explores the relationship between the mobile theatre of Assam and the ideas of the public. I argue that Assamese mobile theatre has created an intersection between two kinds of public – the counter-public and the public culture. While mobile theatre is seen as an assertion of Assamese identity in the face of increasing globalization, at the same time, it has adapted itself to the demands of the time by using the latest technologies and content. Thus, the example of mobile theatre shows that a public can exhibit characteristics of being both a counter-public and public culture at the same time. There is an intersection between the two categories of public. Keeping in mind the nature of my topic, the methods that I used were mostly qualitative and include oral history, both participant and non-participant observation, interview, case study and ethnography. These methods complement each other in the sense that oral history, observation, interview and case study help a social scientist in writing a good ethnographic piece. However, doing a PhD is not just about collecting the data. A lot of it is also about writing, writing and more writing. This is especially true for students of the social sciences. It can be very overwhelming to come back from the field and sit down with the field notes. It often happens that the fieldwork goes great, and the researcher collects very rich and insightful data. But the challenge lies in putting the field notes into writing. After all, a researcher is someone who ‘observes, records, analyses, interprets and writes’ (Geertz 1977: 5).  The writing part is equally important as the fieldwork part. So what can be done to ease the process of writing? As someone who has just finished writing her thesis, I have some vital insights to share with others who may be struggling. First of all, it is a good idea to discuss one’s ideas thoroughly with his/her supervisor. It is also not a bad idea to note down every minute of those discussions. Many times, brilliant and interesting ideas can emerge from those meetings. It is also important to...

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Are you sure?
Oct17

Are you sure?

Hong Kong, China (January 28th, 2014)

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Being cosmopolitans, in the name of Japan!

A fieldnote from Japanese universities (Tokyo, Nagoya, Ibaraki, Fukushima)

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