From Concept Paper to Chapter 1

The Concept Paper is a proto-chapter 1 that my school requires third year students to write to prove they are ready to start writing the dissertation. It goes through an extensive quarter-long peer review process, and includes an overview of the dissertation (Introduction), a preliminary Lit Review (my bane of existence), and a rough chapter outline. For my dissertation, I succeeded in writing the perfect chapter outline during the concept paper phase, so I have a very healthy container for this whole project. The rest, however, has been a tad annoying.

In the perfect world, to translate the Concept Paper into Chapter 1 entails some editing and perhaps some added material. Chapter 1, of course, lays the foundation for the rest of the dissertation, and it is the only one of my chapters that isn’t themed around a land in Disneyland. Because of this organizational structure, I’ve felt the need to pack as much additional information as I can into the introduction. But that’s not going to work, my chair informs me far more eloquently that I am sharing with you this morning, because my introduction is too long. The introductory statement (i.e., the content that precedes the Lit Review) is typically no longer than 15 pages. Mine is 25 pages. In reality, this is probably a relief, because there are sections that I felt were stretched just to make the chapter seem a bit longer. I am intimidated, by dissertation introductions that are longer than 40 pages—and they seem to be full of content, not lit review…

Ah the Lit Review. How I don’t write odes to thee. My biggest challenge with the Lit Review is that I haven’t read half my sources yet. This is part of my plan: There are sources that are pertinent to the Lit Review and to the overall argument of my dissertation, but I’m waiting to read them until the chapter that heavily focuses on their content. My reasons should be fairly obvious to anyone who suffers from my memory problem: I typically can’t retain information I read for longer than a few months. If I read a passage more than once and quote it often, then it’s likely not so bad. But there are books I read over a year ago (TechGnosis, The Mouse that Roared) that I have a difficult time recalling. In some cases, though not all, I’ve made an extensive list of quotes and commentary; but, the flip side to that is that if I were to make quotes and commentaries for EVERY SINGLE SOURCE, I’d spend my entire dissertation clock quoting and commentating, and not actually working.

So one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to deal with during the course of this Introduction is what to do about Walt Disney’s biography. I’ve wanted to make a statement about it, because it is an essential component to unlocking meaning at Disneyland; however, it really just doesn’t fit anywhere. There’s a lot to comment on in the Main Street, U.S.A., chapter, which is chapter 2 and mostly finished at this point. Perhaps what my real answer is, is that I need to weave the biography into the dissertation when it is necessary and leave it alone otherwise. Treat Walt like just another theorist. Well, not *just*  another theorist.

The other question is whether or not I need to actually introduce the myths under discussion in the dissertation, or whether or not I can just gloss over them and really address them in each chapter. Of course, I was already going to address them in each chapter, especially given that each chapter is also themed around one of them. But do they actually need real estate in the Introduction?


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