Please forward this error screen to 212. One of the research tasks that’s given me a tremendous amount of benefit during my PhD is the writing of a mini-review. I don’t know what else to call what I’m doing. It is writing up phd thesis a 2-3 page articulation of a work’s main thesis, supporting arguments and major points.
After this is complete, a final step in the mini-review is to take the content of 1-2 pages and shrink that down to one paragraph that you place at the top as a summary of the whole review. Of course, creating a mini-review implies that you’ve actually sat down and spent some time in the book or article. Let’s face it, it is often very tempting to superficially skim a work, perhaps combine 2-3 book reviews and think you have an idea of an author’s contribution to your thesis. It doesn’t take great skill to pull this off. It is quite a different matter to really wrestle with an author’s argument and to reflect on how it fits within your overall thesis. One is the ability to summarize an argument the other is the ability to synthesize various works into a cohesive narrative.
Ditto for being able to create rich and meaningful footnotes that capture the essence of a work. We might even say that summarizing arguments is the work horse of your PhD program around which you create your original contribution. Prior to my meetings with my supervisor I would often create a YTD summary of my readings for the time period between our chats. This document often served as a springboard to many of our discussions and it gave my supervisor a quick glance into the scholarship related to my topic. It is one thing to draw upon someone else’s book review to try to fill in some gaps in your dissertation. It is quite another to have a 1-2 page summary of a work that you have labored to create. Reading your own mini-review is like reading the most salient set of cliff notes on a particular work.
If it’s been a while since you’ve picked up a particular work, your mini-review will bring it all to mind. In the interim, my knowledge and maturity about my topic may have shifted, allowing a fresh re-reading of my mini-review. While gathering and collating sources is important, the key to a dissertation is output, and the only way of getting output is to slog your way through it. Mini-reviews get you in the PhD mode. They get you thinking like someone in the academy. How do you say something concisely, how do you accurately reflect others’ views, what is important and what is not, is this a good argument or not, etc.