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Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 1:37 pm
by Alice in wonderland
Hi everyone,

Firstly, did anyone else struggle with the registration? I felt like it was a test to tell if I was really dyspraxic - choose the 7th number?! It took me about 5 attempts to get it right.

I am currently doing my PhD (Psychology) and am really struggling with structuring my thesis. I write and write according to what I think is a structure, and afterwards I realise I am completely lost.

I was diagnosed when I was at school (17) I am now 37 - and studying in South Africa. Few people seem to know what dyspraxia is and why it is a problem.

Any other postgraduate students with dyspraxia? Do you face similar challenges? What are your strategies for structuring essays or theses? I'd love to hear from you.


Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Wed Apr 10, 2019 10:25 pm
by Tom fod
Hi Alice

So long since I joined here I don't remember how I got through that bit. Anyway welcome. I'm afraid I don't remember ever having specific lessons on structure and I left formal schooling at 18 and did a vocational Business Admin course. All I can suggest is reading and searching by keyword on here and the wider web and consulting any guidelines your college/university produce re preferred structure. I'd perhaps create a skeleton plan so that you can plan what bits go in what section. creating a list of source references is likely another onerous task and whilst at least we have word processing apps sometimes putting the bare bones order on paper in front of you can help you in deciding what should go where.

We do have another person in or with connections to South Africa see ... 4&sr=posts.

I hope you get a more helpful response from others who are more academically minded than myself.

Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 6:50 pm
by AdiB47
Hi Alice.
I haven't studied for a doctorate so haven't written on quite the scale that a PhD requires but I know this would be a challenge. I did a masters degree, for which I wrote a 20,000 word thesis, and the writing certainly felt pretty difficult a lot of the time. Presumably you have a supervisor? Most of my structural work was informed by mine. For us, the starting point was the overall 'argument.' By the writing stage, it was essentially a series of points. Each one had their own section/chapter and I basically treated each one as a separate essay. I would then bounce the chapters back to my supervisor by email and/or in face to face meetings once I had ground them out.
It all depends on the subject matter. Mine was literature-based, about a particular author, so I was able to use a chronological approach based on their works. Might be less simple in your case but some sort of line of continuity will also help maintain that section by section structure.
Good luck!

Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:00 pm
by Alice in wonderland
Thanks so much to both of you for your input. Yes, I agree that having an overall argument is an important starting point. My problem is that I have very poor / no supervision throughout my PhD. I have a lot of writing but it is not comprehensible to a reader because of lack of structure. I know that one of the common features of dyspraxia (something that I was told when I was assessed for it) is that the verbal side of the brain works at a much higher level than the spatial. I have chosen work / studies that suit my brain (I also originally studied literature, and my thesis is in social psychology - so nothing remotely quantitative) but there are moments where I still struggle.

Will think about your suggestion of writing each section as a separate essay. I think that might also work for me.

Thanks again!


Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:34 am
by Dyspenny
Lol lol Alice - Yes I struggled too with the difficult registration for Dyspraxics!! #-o

Good luck with the thesis.

Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2019 2:07 pm
by Niamh
Hi Alice!

I graduated from my PhD (in the UK) in 2017. I really struggled with structure too, though I did mine in literature so the big structure was fairly simple - a chapter on each of my texts, plus an intro and conclusion. It was the structure within chapters I struggled with, and I ended up writing separate essays for each subsection and fitting it all together later. I'm sorry to hear you have not been very supervised, as my supervisor was one of my most valuable sources of structure advice and feedback.

As yours is psychology, your structure might be separate points in your argument, or separate stages of the study, then breaking each down into further points and processes. I can't abide them, but the academic skills people always acted like mindmaps would be the solution to all my problems. So maybe you could try planning it out on those? A thing I find always helps is finding a patient listener to explain things to. I find that though I struggle to organise my ideas, it is easier to identify patterns/strands when they're out loud and I'm getting feedback from a listener, especially when they might be able to help you identify themes/things to help you sort out your structure. Then you can write down those strands as headings, and sort what you have so far under each heading. If you find bits that don't fit under any of those bits, add a new heading and put it under that bit. You might end up with loads of overlapping headings but at that point you can start trimming or combining them, and then you can string them together. This works for any length of section - subsection, chapter, whole thesis. This may not be relevant to you as this is very much from my experience writing a qualitative POV, but it might help?

Like someone else suggested, it might be helpful for you to search your university's thesis repository for similar studies, and look at their contents pages to find some common structures and structure patterns.

I'm always happy to chat PhD if you have any other questions or want a rant!

Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Tue Apr 16, 2019 9:23 pm
by Alice in wonderland
Hi Niamh,

Thanks so much for your post. Sorry I only saw it now. Congratulations on your PhD! That's great advice, and very useful. Yes, everyone keeps saying 'have a structure for your whole thesis' - fine, not too difficult. But the structure of each chapter is another matter entirely!

I also studied literature originally, and for MA in the UK. But I moved into social science after working here in South Africa, and my thesis uses a theatre method to explore gender identities amongst marginalised youth. So a combination of humanities and social science... Quite difficult to find another thesis to look at, especially as this is participatory action research (not a very commonly used method).

I am actually now trying to put together overarching analytical points as themes, and breaking them down into more simple themes. My argument still seems to be emerging however, which is maybe part of the process, or part of the problem! I agree that talking to people is useful, but you need to find the right person and yes - supervision is important.

Thanks again for your message and support.


Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Sat Jun 08, 2019 6:46 am
by empathyoffered
Hello there - OMG I totally get you. I am 47 - I dropped out of University the first time as I thought I was "thick", I've just completed a Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling. What prompted me to get tested was I spent about 200 hours on each of my essays .... but its like I just don't get them. I was gutted getting 45% and my tutor was ... essay structure ..... essay structure ..... essay structure .... yet I still don't get it! It's like it just doesn't go through my brain and register. He was like its all there ... but structure .. relating connecting it .... if that was done it would be in it 60's ......

I just got the assessors report and diagnosed with Dyspraxia & Dyslexia yesterday. So its all very new - but the weird thing is I love writing Poetry and one of my essays was about emotions and feelings and I nailed that essay. Anything about emotions ... feelings I get totally.

I can't give you any advice - as I have no idea what i'm doing myself - but all I can offer is support & I feel your pain. Good Luck! Yasmin :banana:

Re: Hello, and difficulties with structure!!!

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 8:40 am
by Firedragon
Hi Alice

I am also from South Africa and busy doing a Masters in Religious studies through Unisa. I am struggling to structure the dissertation, but my supervisor has been very helpful guiding me, especially when I did my proposal. It's also difficult for me to get started and work on it and I would find weeks go by without me having done any writing.
A PhD is on a higher level so I can just think how important the structure must be.

Good luck with your studies and stay strong

Kind Regards