Teaching a Chapter how to swim; or yet another metaphor for the PhD

by Anna Blanch on February 26, 2010

There is a storm raging out the window. The sea haar is rolling in from the North Sea. The hail/sleet/hard snow is crashing against the window panes. Nevertheless i keep one open a crack. I find it keeps time in perspective when i can hear the bells toll and the sea winds roaring.

I am mentally exhausted.

But, sometimes you have to be thankful for what you have: bibliography is getting there, even if the chapter is still wearing floaties… [and seeing how much i detest floaties…I’m just going to have to teach it how to swim]
I probably should mention that i used to teach swimming…
The bibliography had some one on one coaching tonight and is about 125m through it’s 200m freestyle and is looking good…after that it’l need some work on starts and turns.
The chapter is still in the wading pool, but it might be ready for the big pool tomorrow or maybe saturday…then the hard work begins.

In the meantime though, did i mention that I get a word-playing, literary nerd kind of enjoyment out of coming up with conference paper titles. At the moment I am working on abstract and paper drafts for three different conferences all requiring paper titles. I try to not have a “:” every time and though it’s always fun to have some cute thing, or pertinent phrase of the author or a critic to throw in front of a “:” or a “;” sometimes i like to keep it simple. I came across these two paper title generators – they are both a bit of fun and should provide today’s dose of medicinally useful laughter.

Urban Informatics Speech Title Generator 

Here are some of the titles it gave me:

Approaching the Visual Environment
Thinking about the Striated Place
Playing the Active Schema

The scary thing is, I might actually be able to come up with something remotely related to my field for almost all of them…I guess it comes down to how we interpret words!

The Postmodernism Generator goes one step further and not only creates the title but will put together an entire article for you complete with references! At the bottom of the page you find this “The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator. To generate another essay, follow this link.”  

Here are some of the titles:
Subcapitalist semantic theory in the works of Joyce
The Failure of Expression: Neocultural materialism, feminism and capitalism
The Collapse of Context: Baudrillardist hyperreality in the works of Rushdie

You know, i think a generator takes all the fun out of it for me! I kind of like coming up with paper titles – it’s one of the most laterally creative parts of my job.


Anna Blanch is founder of Goannatree, and a PhD student in the Institute of Theology, Imagination, and the Arts at St Mary’s College, University of St Andrews, Scotland. At the moment she’s writing abstracts, conference papers and a thesis chapter – and, it seems, coming up with yet another metaphor for the PhD process. There’s never a dull moment or an uninteresting weather phenomenon.

Previous post:

Next post: