Posts Tagged ‘meta’

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’ve lately been saying that I live in a constant state of low grade panic. Once they stop laughing at me, they usually ask why. It’s because I’m looking for a job, and finishing my dissertation. And it’s really hard to do both at once. It’s not a question of difficult work. It’s psychologically difficult. I keep forgetting to work on my dissertation because I’m focusing so hard on writing cover letters for jobs across the country.

I bring this up because today I went and looked at my dissertation draft, currently clocking in at 120 pages, and found a note I had written there, a note that was an idea for a book. Actually, it was just an idea for a title. But the title is pretty self-suggesting. (more…)


No one ever did this for me. I wish someone had. I wish I’d known before I started. But I didn’t.

I started my prospectus with no idea what I was doing. I had two others I had seen, things to model after, but I didn’t know even the basic format, aside from what my colleagues had done before me.

So, I followed the model before me, and I put in a section describing the project, one about preliminary theory, one about research questions, and then a vague outline of the chapters in my dissertation. On top of that, I put in a literature review, which was largely taken from this blog. I ended up with a ‘draft’ of 52 pages.

I also ended up using the wrong tone, writing to the wrong audience, and generally doing everything wrong. That’s okay; it’s kind of how I work. I do it, I get told what’s wrong, and I do it again. Not very efficient, but it works. Still, there are a few things it would have been nice to know: (more…)

It’s official: I am now ABD. My oral exams went swimmingly, and I can now be considered a colleague by those with PhDs. All I have left to do is finish off my prospectus and write a dissertation.

Of course, saying that “all I have left” is my dissertation is much like saying that after Normandy, all the allies had left was to defeat Germany. Saying “just” a dissertation is tantamount to “just” an arctic expedition, or “just” a trip to the moon.

Okay, maybe it’s not THAT bad. But it isn’t something I should go into lightly. That, I think, is fair. (more…)

I started this blog in October 2007. When I did it, it was because my advisor and friend Bradley Dilger suggested that it would be a good way to organize my thoughts and keep in mind what I glean from anything I read. He suggested that I write little reviews of everything I read, both as practice for writing reviews and just to keep my memory somewhere I can read it.

Seemed like a great idea at the time. And it was; the number of papers I have written with the help of my blog, the number of theories I have come to understand better, and the number of times I’ve turned here for inspiration is really pretty high. But recently, I’ve found another purpose.

I was asked by my current adviser to write a Literature Review for my prospectus. Not everything I’ve ever read, but a good grasp on the subject, enough to establish that I know the field. And that’s what I did. Putting it together helped me to organize my thoughts and to identify the main themes of my project, which in turn will help me finish off my prospectus.

At first, it was a daunting task. How could I do all that? How could I go through all the things I’ve read and synthesize them into a literature review? Then it hit me: I already have. That’s what this blog IS. Suddenly, the task of writing a Literature Review was less about a ton of writing and organizing and more about a synthesis and structuring of what I have already written. It’s not cheating: I wrote it to begin with. I didn’t write it for a publication, I wrote it for my own edification. That has always been pretty explicit, I think.

The end result was that in two days, I was able to put together about 30 pages of Literature Review. This blog has, once again, paid for itself. (Not that I pay for it)

For the last few days, I’ve been approaching the prospectus in the “Throw it all, see what sticks” format. No attention really paid to structure beyond a few basic signposts, I’ve just been trying to get the ideas down on (electronic) paper. Thankfully, I’ve been collecting sources and doing little outlines for quite some time now. I’m already up to 52 sources, and still feel like I’m just getting started.

Anyway, I don’t know if the way I’m heading is the right way. There’s another way to do this. Actually, there are a lot of different ways, but for me, usually one of these two is the best one to use. So if not the scattershot format I’ve been doing, what do I do? An outline. First basic, then fleshed out, then more fleshed out, and eventually into a paper of significant length. So let’s start with the outline.


And so it begins

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve been dancing around the idea for a while, putting together quotes and finding sources, telling myself I was making progress even though I was afraid to actually move towards sitting down and doing it. But no longer; I’ve started working. On what, you ask? My prospectus.

School is a system of hoop jumping. Before college, you jump through hoops in order to GET to college. The more hoops you jump through, the better of a school you end up getting into. In college, you jump through hoops to either get a job or get into a good graduate program.

Eventually, though, you end up at the highest level you can get. For me, that’s the PhD program, where there were more hoops. First there was coursework. Then there were exams. Next comes the Prospectus, then the Dissertation and getting a job.

Well, I’m ready for that hoop. I’m in the air, trying to jump, and seeing what’s there on the other side. Hopefully it’s something I can land on without twisting anything.