Dear Dissertation Diva,
I have conducted preliminary research for one of my chapters and have started to write in order to digest this material. I'm finding as I write that I still have gaps that need to be filled in by additional research. How should I appropriately annotate my draft to reflect this?
Thanks for your advice.
Mind the Gap
Dear Mind the Gap:
The first chapter you write is the most difficult, for you are in the process of figuring out HOW to write a dissertation chapter. You are moving from months of research to your first draft of writing. Your question about how to annotate "gaps" in your research as you write is pertinent at this stage. Here are my suggestions...
Strategies for Identifying and Filling Research Gaps
- Identify the gap – mark with brackets or parentheses and CAPS
- Keep writing
- After the draft is finished or at a separate time, go through and find all of the gaps
- Pick one
- Evaluate and take action. If filling that gap is essential, proceed to free writing or library research, or add to list of items to find at archive. If it isn’t, delete it or put in a footnote e.g. "more research needs to be done on this topic and would make good fodder for future study."
- Repeat with next gap.
Thus, you annotate your rough draft with what I term "placeholders" -- notes to yourself to mark the place where additional research is needed. You simply type yourself a note, changing the format to make it stand out from your text, for example, by using all caps and bolding.
Your sentence in a rough draft of a chapter might look like this:
"Charpentier's political ambitions to were thwarted, once in 1327 (CHECK DATE - SEE CHARPENTIER FILE AT THE BN) and again with the assasination attempt in 1329, only to be fulfilled with his appointment as _________ (LOOK IN JS ARTICLE - FOLLOW UP FOOTNOTE 23), adding to what I argue is the tumulous intrigue which led to..."
Here's another example:
"I suspect that X's involvement in the Resistance during WWII was a key factor contributing to the nationalist tendencies in her post-war poetry. (I NEED TO DO MORE RESEARCH ON X'S RESISTANCE ACTIVITIES - WHERE TO FIND MATERIAL?)"
In the above two examples, the text in caps is what you write to yourself to mark the places where more research is needed. Using placeholders will allow to you identify the gaps, yet still continue writing.
I totally understand how the temptation is there to rush off to look up footnote 23, right then and there, leading perhaps to distraction or frustration. Better to keep ideas flowing in this generative stage of writing. You want to get your thoughts down on paper without stopping at this stage.
At a later work session, when you are done with the generative kind of writing for your draft, you put on your gap-filling research's hat and go and fill those gaps!
Thanks for your question.