Ryan  Burns, phd
November 6, 2012

preparing for dissertation writing

Update below
As you can see, I have installed a new theme plugin package for my personal site. Its aesthetics are terrible (ugh!), but I’ll be tweaking it slightly over the next several weeks in order to make it more pleasant. The switch is coming at a time when I’m in the throes of my dissertation fieldwork and am beginning to think ahead toward the writing process. In case I’m speaking Greek to you, the process usually moves from taking classes -> conducting a research project -> writing about the project in your dissertation. My work with the Commons Lab at the Woodrow Wilson Center will double as my fieldwork, and when I return to the East Coast I’ll begin the process of analysis and then, as I analyze, writing the dissertation.

I’ve installed this really cool theme here because it allows paragraph-by-paragraph commenting. My plan is to write my dissertation here, on this site, to begin a conversation with my readers (however few). Paragraph-by-paragraph commenting is useful for this because it’s often quite difficult for a reader to indicate, in a single footnote comment, where they spotted a problem or had a question. It’s kind of analagous to commenting in Microsoft Word, only my approach enables a constructive dialogue between myself, my readers, and between commenters (this is much trickier - almost impossible - in Word. Google Docs, another popular collaborative writing platform, contains a similar functionality but wouldn’t easily plug into my WordPress-based website. This WordPress theme also allows me to write in a book-style format: one large volume that’s comprised of several smaller chapters and even smaller sections; all of this is integrated into the cool-looking buttons at the top of the screen (which I haven’t yet figured out how to most effectively leverage).

Ugly, sure, but hopefully I can tweak it enough to make it more pleasant. I’m hopeful that installing this theme will encourage my audience to engage with my ideas more. Update: I’m switching back to my previous theme, Twenty Ten, while I work out some of the aesthetics of the CommentPress theme. The default CommentPress theme is quite unattractive and slightly unintuitive, so I’m going to tweak it in the background in preparation for my dissertation writing. In particular, I’d really like to figure out if it’s possible to have only a single page with CommentPress activated, rather than the entire site. Let me know if you have tips!

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