Over the course of the past 3 years, my boys have become very aware of the fact that daddy is writing a PhD thesis. Early on I described what I was doing as ‘writing a book’. Will is perhaps the most interested in what I am doing and will often come into the room where I am writing and ask, ‘Are you done writing your book yet?’ My answer over the past 3 years has been, ‘Not yet son. But I am trying to finish soon.’ I know they get tired of this thing having my attention.
The older my kids get, the more they are starting to understand that what I am doing is more than just writing a book. They are starting to understand that a doctorate means you can become a professor or scholar. Getting a job at ORU has really helped them understand why I have been working so hard on this. The idea of a PhD as an expert is starting to resonate with Will, who is 9 years old. He is an avid reader and fancies himself as an expert on a number of things like Legos and Star Wars. In fact, he said told Amonda he wants to get a PhD in Legos.
Thanks to a set of junior novels Will got for Christmas, the newest subject he has become an expert in is Indian Jones. We already have the movies and the Lego Indiana Jones Video Game, but now he has the novels that give more details and he loves to tell me what he is learning about his new favorite hero. We talked the other night about the fact that Indy is a different kind of hero because he is imperfect. He makes mistakes, gets caught, fails, gets shot, get tricked and so forth. That is what makes Indiana Jones so cool. He’s not your typical hero.
Tonight, as I was writing, Will sat next to me and once again asked, ‘Are you done yet?’ I told him once again that I was very close. He asked, ‘What are you writing about?’ I decided to use his new found knowledge of Indian Jones as a way to teach him what a PhD dissertation is about. Here is the illustration I gave:
A PhD thesis/dissertation is an original contribution to knowlege on a topic that no one has explored before. Lets say that every book you read talks about Indiana Jones as a ‘perfect hero.’ But when you the stories about him, you notice that he is portrayed as an imperfect hero. What you have noticed, that no one else has noticed, becomes the subject of a thesis. So you decide to gather evidence to support your thesis and present a case that your view of Indy is more accurate than what others have said. Here is what you do:
You come up with your thesis statement: Your thesis is that Indy is an imperfect hero.
You review the literature: You show what other people have said about Indy.
You collect your evidence: You demonstrate in all the stories all the various ways that Indy is portrayed as an imperfect hero in contrast to what people have said about him.
You make your conclusions: You talk about what your study has found and what it means to the conversation about Indiana Jones.
You submit your thesis: A group of experts on Indian Jones reads your thesis and decide if you made your case convincingly. If you have convinced your thesis committee, they approve your thesis and you publish your findings so that other people who study Indiana Jones will have to include your research in their studies of the character.
Bingo! That illustration helped Will to understand why his Daddy has been working so hard and why this process makes you a scholar.
Its hard to believe, but as I near the end of this thesis I think I am finally fully comprehending what I am doing myself. It is definitely something I am not sure I fully understood starting out. But, it sure felt good to be able to articulate it so clearly today. Maybe this explanation will help others want to become scholars too! (Perhaps even Will!)
As I am in the finals stages of completing this degree, I feel so thankful for Amonda and my boys. They have been so supportive of this pursuit. I am few weeks away from having a final draft. I am so thankful for those of you who have supported me and the times so many of you have asked me how things are going. I feel you all cheering me toward the finish line. Thank you. Please keep me in prayer as I finish strong.