Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing a Dissertation Proposal

Throughout my coursework for a PhD in Communication, I have done researches individually and in groups. Every subject required the students to come up with a complete research paper. Since, I opted to fast track my coursework, I had to take three subjects every term, so that should have prepared me adequately for my dissertation work.

I thought I needed a break from studying right after I passed the candidacy exam. But, I enrolled for the dissertation right after summer of 2011. It took me a month to finally decide on a topic. I got off track with some ambitious ideas from hearing the experiences of DBA student doing his dissertation. I felt I could do even better than what he did, so I found myself downloading, printing and reading stuffs which I would just set aside lately.

I relied on a belief that I was half way done, because my topic is just an extension of a previous research I completed on Third Culture and Biracial Kids in college. I was wrong, because the moment I had the research problems defined, the content and context have changed. I may be studying the same participants, but the scope has greatly differed from the previous. I went over my earlier work to find what I could salvage, but I only found few to be relevant to the study I am doing now. Darn! I couldn't plagiarize my own work. Neither could I fill an empty page with block quotes.

I thought things would be easy as recycling an old work. When the reality that I am doing a dissertation and not just any term-end requirement settled in my mind, my attitude towards what I was doing altered. Ethics, responsibility and the discipline of research writing compelled me to act seriously and be more meticulous on what I read and what I write. I tried to grasp deeper and wider understanding of what others have known and found related to my topic. I tried to get hold of their key ideas and put them in my paper using my own words. Carefully, I restate their ideas with fidelity according to my understanding.

I hurdled mental blocks, by diverting my attention without leaving my target work undone with other tools. When words are not just there, I use visual organizers to give my left brain some rest and have my right brain do the thinking in creative ways. From the first set of research questions I have written, I found the necessity to revise them when my study framework has been diagrammed, after I listed all the variables that are included in my general research question. I found myself doing this at times I lack the words.

Reading took much of my time, but I couldn't write anything without going through the voluminous number of pages in books, journals, and other publications that matter in my study. Taking down notes, in paraphrases and verbatim have really been useful to me, as these substantiate my thoughts about the subject I am investigating. As read more critically and actively, I get to think aloud (literally) to process those thoughts I've read while I pause from going through the text, while a take a leak or get a smoke break.

Even at times that I turn in to bed, my mind would still be thinking about what I was writing. Sometimes, an idea would just popped in my head at times of silence, and I had to grab a paper to put it down so I can remember. At other times, even my fingers would gesture some thoughts creeping in my head about my study. So the way to give myself a break from all these dissertation syndrome is to get myself busy with my office works and teaching works, if I don't have the opportunity to go malling or watching a movie.

I took the advise of a colleague who just earned his PhD, that at least I should have a page written about my topic in a day. He esteemed me so much in his belief that I could write, as he has read my blogs. My problem is when I work on something, I don't leave it undone. As my resolve, I would either set a target to finish a section or certain number of pages for my dissertation proposal. And, it worked well for me. I worked on chunks or sections of a chapter at least in a day when I have time.

Another adjustment I did is to leave my work in the workplace, so I can just focus on my dissertation paper at home. I could not write my paper in the workplace, because I feel that is denying my job the work due me. But, in idle times, when I get bored of my office paper works, I pull a book, flip on its pages and write down notes that I think are important to my study. Since, I work in a school, the library resources provide me ample materials to do my research paper. With other experts around, and those who have completed their PhD's I get free advise and consultation. But, I have not exhausted this much. When I finish the proposal, that's an option.

Writing the dissertation is not the same as writing a term-end coursework requirement. This is true for me, as I believe that a PhD dissertation is an intelligent contribution to the world's knowledge. It is symbolic to define a PhD graduate's competency in doing research and in making sense of truths and realities in his field of expertise. It is a measure of one's depth and breadth of knowledge about his field that will have implications in the course of human life across time and generations. That is, if one takes the nature of a dissertation seriously as a theory-building effort, nothing less.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Falling and Rising Again: The Winner and Loser's Mindsets

There seems to me a line drawn clearly between losers and winners in life. Losers fall and can’t stand quickly. They spend more time on the ground whereas they can really stand. Winners fall but are quickened in spirit to get up and move on. Losers look back and see what or who’s behind them. But winners fix their eyes forward, thinking of overcoming their weaknesses and so getting the prize.

Both winners and losers fall – the difference is that real life winners fall by grace and they stand with grace. Losers fall in shame, remain longer in shame and stand in self-pity, envy, egotism and hopelessness.

Life is a race. We must race to the finish, aiming for the prize, the best honor – all the best that life could give and the best we could do with it. But we must race and run for the prize. Finishing the race is a prize in itself; getting the honor of racing first, second or third does not really matter at all, since in the end the laurels will lose their luster and so do we. Making and breaking records is another thing, it makes our names eternal, virtually.

Winners race with a goal. Losers race aimlessly. But both are running the same track. Winners are real sportsmen. They are proud of other’s victory and express their happiness for someone’s honor in winning. Losers pride in single or several short-lived victories. They show cunning in defeating others. Winners are esteemed to grow strongly and do better in every run. Losers brag about their strengths and use them against others. Winners are comfortable in making a good finish. Losers enjoy beating others and are seeking more attention to self.

I failed to obtain something I desired. I failed from the very start desiring it. I failed because that wasn’t the race I should be running. So I didn’t succeed. Instead I fell and stumbled because it was an obstacle race. That was the race I have tried to avoid because my agility and strength do not give me profit for taking it. I’ve taken that race before. I won and lost, lost and won, won and lost again. Like the track, it is a cycle never ending. I have found myself to be better in walking and running on clear straight path without obstacles, without hassles. Am I a coward? No I walk and run fearlessly with aim for the great prize.

I fell but I rose with grace. I stand in equanimity. I learn at every fall. I strain my body to be fit for the race where I am better. I train others freely who desires to make a good finish in life. But I can only accommodate those who are willing to be trained and who could trust me for whatever I learned by experience. I race, with time as my friend. And time is so valuable to waste on anyone who will come for a training, ask for some help and advice but never really follow. I’m patient to handle such people. However, neither I nor they will profit with that kind of attitude.

Discipline, focus, determination, submission, willingness, effort are all I require for apprenticeship. I can bear the pain and agony of training for others, but I can’t make any winners out of those who rest comfortably being losers. If I see my prodigies rising from wherever they fall trying their best to make an honorable finish… that makes me happier, that alone suffices and satisfies me. With them I could extend my patience, until death bed takes me. Hey… I’m no athlete, not even a coach. I’m just a couch potato you could take as your life coach though.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Love is a mental state

"Love is a mental state" that was what I learned from a teenager mentee I have, one time I had a chance having lunch with them. It is a mental state because we configure everything in our mind of whom to love, how to love, why to love, when and where to love. That great feeling when one is in love is also predisposition to the immediate situation.

There is a philosophical basis to believe that love is a mental state. The phenomenology of love is experienced in varied ways by individuals. The meaning of love is unique to every person. People interpret and give value to the situation, in their experience of another person, actions, words and the feelings attached to those. The good feeling of being in relationship with another is construed, logically to the abstractions of love.

Scientifically, love is a mental state. It draws material bases on the human emotions that are perceived selectively and then interpreted and given value by the mind, as a response to a stimuli. It is associated to the psychological need of sense of belongingness, security and self-actualization. As a need, it is configured in our heads as something desirable. Hence, finding the desirable in someone results to admiration, wanting and so loving.

Sociologically, our sense of self is negotiated in relation to others. We find meaning to our self in relationships with others. As we socially interact, we learn of others' satisfying experiences of loving someone, so we dare explore the situations to find a partner to share love with. Basically, we learn this from our parents, from whom we model our relational behavior with others. Hence, the way we will handle relationships reflects of how our parents demonstrated love to us.

Theologically, love is presented in its most ideal sense of being unconditional, infinite and ever flowing. Love as St. Paul teaches is patient, kind, forgiving, never envious, rejoices in the truth, humble and self-giving. Divine love serves as model for the moral foundations of human love in relation to other people. Here, the self is shared to someone and to everyone, in several concrete ways more than that of its affective values.

In all those construals of love, it remains a phenomenon in the lived experiences of people. What it means lies in the cognitive and metacognitive constructs of the individual who interprets the experiences and the emotions that go with the experiences. As a mental state, it remains abstract, mysterious and evolving to make people go crazy about it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Why do fools fall out of love?

Fools fall in love and they fall out of love too as fools. Because love has a blinding force to attract persons together and overwhelm them with pleasurable and self-gratifying emotions, the experience of love becomes an irrational state only known to fools. The unexplainable reasons of falling out of love undermined by emotions are also known only to fools.

Romantic relationships develop from an intimate social interaction. Intimacy in social interaction is characterized by the depth of shared selves between partners, and its degree is increased by the quality and quantity of communication taking place. Thus, falling out of love is affected by how partners value and practice communication that bonded them in the first place.

To put communication out of the equation in any relationship leaves two parties in a disinterested position, distant, non-interacting and with a potential to move away from having any connection at all. Communication is that vital link that allows individuals to find meaningful connections, understanding of differences and establishing trust to one another. Damaged trust is one indicator of poor or ineffective communication taking place, and a cause of why fools fall out of love.

Falling in love begins with an admiration of perceivable traits. With communication, individuals get to know each other at a deeper level. There, the sharing of likeable complementary traits result to validation and verification of trust. At that time, when people unconsciously ignore the thought of possible conflicts between them because they are overwhelmed with that fulfilling feeling of falling in love, expectations are not set.

In the continuance of the relationship, roles and expectations are developed. Unmaintained roles become an issue which violates an expectation. Expectations that are not expressed, are never understood and they are not realized. Violated expectations lead to a damage trust. Relationships begin with uncertainties and people in relationships certainly find their selves in that trap.

At a time that expectations are violated trust gets to be thinner to keep partners holding on to what they have had before. If they don't listen and talk to what each other is feeling and thinking about the situation, the damage trust leads to a split. Only during the split, partners find some time to think. This split provides a space and time to reflect on the relationship that has been.

But a split is construed to be a voluntary break up of the relationship. It is not the same as cooling off. Nevertheless, cooling off that is not definite of time and purpose also leads to splitting up. These are periods of silence. Such event is problematic to both parties because they think more about each other without apparent evidences validated through communication.

The easiest way to justify a discontinued romantic relationship is falling out of love. Apparently, dysfunctional communication behavior has a great deal to do to arrive at such state. Simply, because we become fools to ignore that relationships are built with healthy, intimate, open and other-centered communication. On the opposite, we only consider communication as self-serving. We don't listen and we talk of things out of the context of the relationship.