Five Dissertation Tips from Game of Thrones

I am a latecomer to explore elements of popular culture.  So not surprisingly, I took on viewing the Game of Thrones in its entirety only a few weeks ago, weeks after the final episode aired.  The national conversations had mostly died off when I called up Season 1 and started at the beginning.  Initially enticed by the filming and acting, I also could converse with many who openly shared with me the plot twists and even the surprise endings far in advance.  No matter I knew the endings:  I was hooked on the quality of the productions and soon made my way through all 73 hours of fantasy, relationships, power brokering, military engagements, and heart break.

I know from social media that I was not alone in falling down this tunnel after the proverbial train had left the station.  Why so many others binged along with me is another developmental question.  In the end, I was not compelled to find deeper meanings in the plot line finishes, even where I was disappointed.  But I was haunted by naming meanings to the Game of Thrones storytelling experience and process.  Like any other carpenter who sees the need for a hammer and nail in every situation, I found lessons for my academic work in the unfolding and ending of Game of Thrones. Hence, I see lessons for my dissertation students as they forage toward their final chapter and the blessed typing of the word REFERENCES.

My Five Dissertation Tips from Game of Thrones

  1.  Avoid rush and compress at the end. If you think you can finish the last chapter off in a weekend, remember how it felt to have 10 episodes cramped into seven in the stage that was supposed to explain and make meaning of it all.  When writing and delivering your Discussion Chapter, there is no substitute for space, time, and well chosen words.
  2.  Remember your context. Do not ignore important information and questions you raised in your introductory chapters (chapters 1 and 2). Like abandoning the direwolves or the people of Meereen without explanation, it is very unsatisfying.  Likewise, you cannot discount or kill off a point or perspective you brought into the story earlier only to have it show up and save the day in the end.  It is like the Dothraki storming Kings Landing after they were all killed off earlier at Winterfell.
  3.  Hold sight of your question. You started this enormous quest with a question and a purpose. If you argue deeply for some idea and create many platitudes to elevate it, you should not kill it off without fighting just as hard to reframe it or clearly showing you had no alternative. It sinks your credibility even if you allow the fallen hypothesis to be flown off in the talons of a dragon.
  4.  Select your final comrades strategically. Choose carefully from the experts and theories that have come before as you assemble who will support you at the end. These stars should be your best and brightest, not simply the ones who had not been killed off or broken contract.  They will determine whether you even get a chance at a sequel.
  5.  No proselytizing.Above all, do not justify your ending by emotional pandering in the final statements.  You must find a better conclusion than that it was all about storytelling for the sake of the stories.

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