In September I started an MA in applied theology. I was somewhat apprehensive as I have never undertaken academic study. My entry was through experience and I’m a “mature” student! I also wanted to document my journey hence this journal. I don’t know how much and how often I’ll write, but you’re welcome to join me on this journey.
I avidly tried to prepare before that first study week by buying what I thought I’d need, however, in hindsight this would have been better done after the first week. The college were excellent in making it clear what was needed and what needed to be done.
Once the first two study weeks were completed, there was a sense of apprehension once again as now it was all on me. Even though the college was clear, I still felt unsure as to what to do. However, one book that was mentioned as a must read for the whole course was, “A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations” by Kate Turabian. I can recommend the spiral bound version of the book as being the most accessible. Completing part 1 of this book gives you everything you need to know about getting going with your research questions. Once I read those pages, I was set to get started.
The key challenge is not necessarily the work, but giving yourself enough time. It takes some 300 hours per module, which for our first model equates to 100 hours per month. That’s 25 hours per week! Yikes! It took me a number of weeks to get my head clear and working full time I have not met that quota. Some good advice on a forum recently stated that you should just time-block the hours each week in your diary. This is really good advice.
I have two papers to complete. One which is 1,500 words and the other 4,500. The first is proving difficult as you have to set your own dissertation proposal. That’s harder than you think. Once you start researching your amazingly unique and mind-blowing question, you realise it’s already been covered! Still, continued reading leads to the formulation of yet new and interesting ideas!
In terms of software, I am using Ulysses to write my research notes. ulysses has some major writing focused features and is well worth a look. From there I’ll either use Scrivener or Mellel to write it up. Mellel is particularly good as it fully integrates with my citation manger which is Bookends. Bookends also creates a bibliography automatically from your citations. Even though other word processors integrate with citation managers, you need to be careful that adding citation is not just in one direction. What I mean is that if you add the references to your document and convert them to full citations and then need to go back and add more references, many word processors won’t change the citations back to citation references. Why is this important? Because the first reference of a particular source is different to subsequent mentions of it. Should you convert all you references to full citation and then you add a new one to an existing source further up your document, you then need to check that the next reference to the same work is correct. Mellel is fully bi-directional so it takes that stress away. Mellel and Bookends have a special offer if you by both together, which is the way I purchased them. You’ve also probably gathered that I’m working on macOS.
Better stop there and get on with my research!