Scrap Booking Your Thesis Thoughts

qualitative research

Buy a cheap $3 kids scrapbook. Forget the moleskin.

Much of the advice about doing a PhD and in particular the ‘writing the thesis’ part involves doing mindmaps, network diagrams, scribbles, drawings – any type of visualisation technique that will allow you to break from the 2 dimensional linear-word-on-page and get out that 3 dimensional understanding that you have of your research.

However, where should you keep all this?
I’ve found having a cheap $3 kids scrapbook has been one of my most useful ‘thought collection’ repositories. Forget Moleskin diaries (you are a PhD student right? Who has $25 to spend on a blank book?) or anything fancy – here are your list of essential tools for Thesis Scrapbooking
  • 1 x Scrapbook. A big one. It should not fit into your handbag/manbag.  But then again, you are not an undergrad visual arts student – you don’t need it to be knee-high. Check out the kids section in your local supermarket. Mine is 64 pages.
  • Post-it notes: all sizes (raid your Faculty stationary for these as they can be expensive).
  • a nice texta: black (also known as Sharpies)
  • a glue stick
Optional:
  • coloured textas or pencils
  • access to a printer and/or photocopier.
I’ve used mine in a variety of ways, here are some examples with snapshots
……….
Example 1:  A Table that I started in the Scrap book but then took into digital version. The whole idea is to get your ideas started and following. I’ve started many diagrams and tables that didn’t end up being used. That is ok. It is better to have a variety to choose from rather than none at all.
Example of a Table that I didn't complete in the scrapbook but then worked on a digital file

Example of a Table that I didn’t complete in the scrapbook but then worked on a digital file

Example 2 and 3: Here is a question my Supervisor posed to me. I felt like I kind-of knew the answer but really struggled to articulate it . I started working on it in my scrapbook and eventually took it into my thesis. I don’t have this diagram in my thesis, but it allowed me to conceptually make links between items in a way that made sense to me. I don’t think I could have done this by writing the linear-word-on-the-page

The original question posed by my Supervisors

The original question posed by my Supervisors

Example of building on a central concept or questions in your qualitative research

Example of building on a central concept or questions in your qualitative research

Example 4:  This is a framework that I was trying to develop to see how different concepts might fit together. I worked on the diagram in Google Drawings (online via Google Drive) and then printed it out and glued into my scrapbook. I knew the Framework wasn’t quite right. Having it there next to my computer meant I could add and write and draw & then edit the online version later.

The draft Framework, printed and built upon

The draft Framework, printed and built upon

Example 5:  I was not feeling the above Framework, so I started to sketch some other ways that I could present the linkages between the concepts. This was inspired by an image that I found online ( I have a folder that titled “Visual Inspirations”) and I was playing around seeing if the format would suit me.

First sketches of how to link different concepts

First sketches of how to link different concepts

I hope that these real examples from my thesis scrapbook have inspired you to do the same. I know it can be hard to understand what exactly people mean when they say “you should mind-map”.

If you have some of your own sketches or scrapbook-your-thesis ideas, please share in the comments so that other people can see them and be inspired.

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About Sarina Kilham

I'm a Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. Trained as a social scientist and with a Masters in Sustainable Agriculture, I'm interested in farmer's experiences of growing feedstock for biodiesel production. My research has focused on biodiesel production in Brazil and Timor-Leste. Also on Twitter @sarinakilham and blogging at thequalitativeresearcher.net
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