As I was revising Chapter One yesterday, I stumbled up some notes I had made during a Dissertation Support Group meeting. The (then Future) Doctor Gale told me about a process for figuring out a thesis that she heard about at a conference. The process was called the Archival Wheel.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the exact author of this concept. I’d be happy to cite it if anybody out there knows who made it up.
You can create your own archival wheel by clearing out some floor space. Then, stand in the middle of your space, at the hub of the wheel, and pile your different kinds of evidence in “spokes” around you. (You can also draw this on paper, which is how I did it.)
Then stand in the middle of your wheel and ask “What is all this evidence about?”
The Archival Wheel is a good start to a free-write and a good exercise for times when you have some really interesting stuff to work with, but you’re not sure what your project is ultimately about. It’s also allows you to think in a more tactile way, which can spark ideas if you’ve been in front of a computer screen too long.