As you might be aware, I am on the final year of my PhD, and the last step that this degree requires is the production of a monograph that justify, describe and interpret the research that I have been conducting over the past few years. Writing such a text is a challenging endeavour, so I decided to spin it a bit to make things more interesting. Still, before getting ahead of myself, we need to understand what entails a doctoral dissertation.
Writing a document of this type is not an easy feat. As is it often stated, it requires to offer an accurate positioning of the research, a logically coherent argumentation of the thesis, and an original and meaningful contribution to knowledge. Elements that are clearly and prominently established in every book on doctoral writing that I have come across. However, what many authors fail or fall short of describing, is the need to form a compelling story—one that is carefully woven around the thesis, capable of transmitting not only its content but also its intent, meaning and consequences.
The lack of such a compelling context frequently results in a dull or inconsequential thesis, which in occasions might be hugely unfair, especially when the mistake of the author wasn’t to select an uninspiring field of research or a faulty research question. But instead failing to provide enough context to make the reader familiar, invested and moved by the work completed.
Storytelling offers a structure to frame academic work into an engaging recount of events that inform and influence the reader in a relatable manner. In this way, stories have a powerful, but often undervalued, influence on the notions that we develop of events, societies and beliefs—yet, stories are unsurprisingly ubiquitous.
Humans can turn any idea into a story. We find stories in the news we consume, memories of past experiences, and even representations of the people that surround us. Though not every story is a good story, and very few have the potential to profoundly and meaningfully influence people. Think about religions, nations, or social movements; most if not all of them are founded on great stories: the life of prophets, the ideas of revolution, or the tragical events that mark us profoundly. What all these great stories have in common is that they compelled us to take action.
We all know at least one of these stories, heck, we probably are what we are due to the impact that one of them had on us. Whether it is well-known or the product of out rationalisation of forming experiences, great stories have power, and we all can recognise one. However, the table turns quite drastically when we try to define or attempt to create a great one. Of course, storytelling is more of an art than a science, and there isn’t a straightforward recipe that can help us here. Even when an expert on the matter can describe tools and skill necessary to achieve this objective, it can take us a lifetime to master them.
So, what hope do I have to incorporate these elements into my dissertation? Before I run out of time, that is. Well, not much if I’m honest, but I might as well try. Fortunately, stories are expressed using a wide variety of mediums. The storytelling craft has evolved along with human societies from oral narrations, to written words, to refined arts, and more recently to technological expressions. Among all these mediums, I have always been interested in cinema—a modern reinterpretation of storytelling enhanced by a myriad of technological advances. Alas, not all of them successfully accepted. Yes, I’m talking about 3D cinema.
I have been a cinema enthusiast for quite some time now—on occasions watching ten or so films in a week during my undergraduate years. Of course, quantity does not equate quality, but my experience in innovation management has thought me that diversity is equally relevant. And thus, I hope that my attempts at analysing, interpreting, and understanding cinema, however inexpert, can help me combine the components of storytelling with my work as an academic.,
Likewise, this additional layer of depth doesn’t simplify my work to produce a successful dissertation. Quite the opposite, as I now need to explore, learn and implement these strange features, vaguely heard-off in the academic world. Regardless, I do like a challenge, and this seems like an unusual opportunity to test my skills, explore topics that interest me, and produce content for my blog—a triple win. What’s more important is that I hope this exercise will help me focalise my writing.
In summary, as is the case with other crafts, this goal requires serious commitment to continue learning, practising and improving my writing skills. And thus, I have set myself the challenge to write like I’m running out of time, quite literally. I plan to write one essay a day, not that much different to this one, for the next two weeks. Of course, with such time pressure, they will be a bit rough around the edges but their purpose is to help me discover my writer’s voice, improve my analytical and rhetorical skills, and incorporate storytelling into my writing. Finally, I hope this public statement helps me keep focus and committed, otherwise feel free to complain, I’m sure it will help. In any case, thank you for reading, and read you tomorrow.