On Beginning a Dissertation

So, yesterday, I actually began work, in earnest, on my dissertation.  I really haven’t touched it, and haven’t even thought about it much, since my proposal was approved and I passed my comps a couple years ago.  Well, actually, I’ve thought about it pretty much every day since about that often I hear, “So, how’s the dissertation coming?”

I’ve finished all of my research, although I’m going to have to do a bunch of reading to remind myself of everything I learned while at PTS.  I’m using Scrivener — at least for the 30-day trial — and so far I really like it.  I tend to think about writing in a fairly linear fashion, but Scriverner will help a lot as I find stuff that applies to different parts of the diss.

I dug out the brief notes I took on a phone call with my advisor, Kenda Dean, about a year ago.  So this is what I’ve got to go on:

1. Problem (and solution)
Lit review
Define terms (social movement)

2. Method
detailed descriptions of movement and specific churches

3. What did I find out?
Explicate data
Core practices

4. Moltmann – trinitarian relational ecclesiology

5. pragmatic responses

Since a literature review seems profoundly boring to work on, I’ve jumped right to the social movement work.  I’m familiarizing myself with theory on New Social Movements, since several sociologists with whom I’ve spoken have said that the emerging church movement is clearly an NSM.  The first book to tackle is Frontiers in Social Movement Theory, plus a journal article criticizing NSM theory, in which I read this:

“The ideological hegemony of the state requires counter-hegemonic actions by social movements to dismantle the dominant social views that reinforce the legitimacy of the capitalist system.”

Gotta love it!  It sounds like a quote from David Fitch’s blog! 🙂

"Have you considered professional online editing services like www.CogitoEditing.com ?"

The Writing Life
"I'm not missing out on anything - it's rather condescending for you to assume that ..."

Is It Time for Christians to ..."
"I really don't understand what you want to say.Your http://europe-yachts.com/ya..."

Would John Piper Excommunicate His Son?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Hey Tony,

    Good luck with your dissertation! I just finished mine a few months ago and although it was a difficult project it was well worth the effort. My only advice would be once you know where you want to go with your argument, just keep plugging away at it. You can get lost in all the arguments and counter arguments, so sooner or later you have to plant your feet down and follow the trail. Although, from your blog and your books, I am guessing you already know that! Hope it goes well. I enjoy reading your work and your blog.


  • Hey Tony– I’m right there with you. Entered Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota in fall of 1999. Finished comps…ummmm…in 2002? In 2003 got offered a teaching job back in Michigan. Ever since then it’s been a struggle to balance the work and the research. But the end is within sight. Best wishes.

  • Hey Tony!

    That dissertation outline looks just like a dissertation outline. It reminds me that I did mine all wrong (but somehow passed anyway).

    As to the hegemony of the state and new social movements and the like, that sounds like a hard game to play. First, I find it necessary to differentiate between state and culture. Second, our consumerist/market driven culture is so flexible that it actually encourages counter-movements – as long as you play within the parameters of “personal” choice/fulfillment/expression. The only way to not get stuck is to leave the tar baby alone.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with it – and praying for you as you do it.

  • I don’t know if there’s a genuine category for ABC (all but coursework), but I think that’s what I’ve got earned. Anyway, g’luck with your dissertation!

    And might I suggest *Virtual Ethnography* by Christine Hine as a tool for considering theoretical overlaps and practical crossover points between postmodern-decentralized social movements and virtual connectivity. And may I say that I think all literature reviews should be limited to $1,000 in student costs. These days, that’d limit you to about 40 books, the perfect number for such a task, eh?

  • In the words of a damn fine American, a modern day patriot:



  • I’m hoping this will be published at some point???