In preparation for my committee meeting this week I have really had to sit down and make decisions about which projects I want to do (or don't want to do). In December last year I was struck by the realization that there are so many projects that I could do at my field site based on my interests. This was liberating to me because I spent part of last semester struggling to find what I was excited about doing in the field. Then I just had to lay them all out (using FreeMind helped me conceptually organize my ideas) and decide which ones to pursue.
This week I will present my committee with a draft table of contents for my dissertation including chapter titles and a brief synopsis. Putting this together has really made me see how far I have come. I spent much of last year feeling like I was 'behind' because I didn't have any data yet. Now when I look at my table of contents I see that I have collected data for one chapter, one chapter will be a review, and one will be based on other forthcoming data that I don't have to collect. I already have what I need to write two of my five dissertation chapters. It was like I woke up one day and POOF! there is was. Ok, not really (since I spent 3 months in the field for some of that)- but that's how the realization felt. I have to collect data for just two more chapters and some side projects (in case one or more of the projects fail). Holy crap! That makes it seem like I'm making serious headway on this Ph.D. thing, which I didn't realize until about 2 weeks ago.
I actually have too many projects outlined at this point to fit in my dissertation. I sent Herb a rough draft of my table of contents with 9 chapters and he said I needed to relegate 3-4 of them to appendixes. But... you mean I can't keep them all? I can see how grad students can delay their completion by thinking they haven't done enough yet and that they need to collect more data. I can see myself falling into that trap. But as far as I'm concerned, this is an exciting problem to have. After all, too much is always enough. I'll have enough for a dissertation.