#phdchat, PhD, Reflections

Defending My Dissertation Proposal

Well there you have it. I successfully defended my dissertation proposal to my faculty committee on Tuesday. My proposal represents Chapters 1, 2, & 3 of my dissertation.

This slide deck might give you some insight, but probably not enough to cover my 89-page proposal. Really, this was just a visual to talk about my research plan. From this meeting, I have some helpful notes, comments, and questions to answer before moving forward with my data analysis. After I clean a few things up, I will be sure to detail more about my these chapters, specifically the literature review and research methods.

20140225_104145Our department also invites other researchers, including students, faculty and visiting scholars, to our dissertation proposal and final dissertation defenses. This open forum style provides other doctoral researchers with ideas and examples for their own research and defense. I have attended a few proposals (and final defenses) before presenting my own. These defenses are great learning opportunities to gain insight and ideas for the doctoral process. During this post defense meeting, I really do appreciate the SUPPORT and FEEDBACK given by my scholarly peers (near and far). Thank you all!

Although it is not the end (just one FINAL defense left), my faculty advisor told me to celebrate. Take heed of important milestones. It is important to recognize steps throughout the doctoral experience since it is a long journey. I am not finished; however my dissertation proposal lays the ground work for Chapter 4: Results and Chapter 5: Discussion, a.k.a. my contract to freedom and to finish my PhD. It’s go time.

#phdchat, PhD, Reflections

The PhD: Troubles Talk… and Moan… and So On

As a PhD candidate, I am trying to be more cognizant  with my response when asked the following (common) questions:

  • “How’s your dissertation going?”
  • “When are you going to finish your PhD ?”
  • “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages…”

phdFor those who are also “dissertating” like me, you understand how easy it is to offer a roll of the eyes, smile/nod combo, and “just great” to friends and family. When talking to fellow PhD candidates and scholarly researchers, we seem to be more open to dig right in to slag the our dragging timelines, cry about our progress, complain about our faculty support, identify dissertation distractions, and, of course, whine about the TIME we used or didn’t use productively.

I recently read an article by Dr. Inger Mewburn (a.k.a. The @ThesisWhisperer), who discussed such “troubling talk” among PhD candidates. Often it is the talk of troubles that brings PhD scholars together to form communities  of practice, like a learning network and/or support group. There has been a large growth in online blogging, tweeting, slidesharing, podcasting, and more from PhD and early career researchers. There’s an active online community that supports personal/professional development and sharing of resources.

One section in particular interested me as Inger shared her own experience with the transition from student to professional academic. Specifically Mewburn (2011) discusses how there is evidence for doctoral researchers who interact with one another often whine and encouraged this type of struggle storytelling with others, even if they were not having any challenges. In recounting experiences of PhD gatherings and discussion over lunch, Inger identifies with the camaraderie of a shared PhD struggle:

 “The recognition that others were struggling too certainly made me feel better, but at the same time my own role in the talk was strangely discomforting. I realised I was amplifying my writing trouble, making it into a ‘war story’  in order to make it amusing and interesting to others. I wondered: was my performance of an   ‘inept student’  in the kitchen a form of PhD student identity work? By talking about being ‘in trouble’ with my writing, I was positioning myself as ‘one of us’  (a student) and not ‘one of them’  (a professional academic)  which was closer to my lived experience. I began to wonder: did my fellow PhD students ever deliberately perform ‘non competence’  too? It’ s likely that many of them experienced good writing days, but I rarely, if ever, heard about them in the lunch room” (Mewburn, 2011, p. 322).

Which brings me to my own experiences, and thoughts about my PhD progress. Do I keep quiet or join in with the slagging if I am around others who are complaining about the struggle? Do I try to down play my advances in writing and publications with other grad students? Have I told any “war story” to entertain my peers, rather than the reality of my own research progress? It is easy to fall into this, especially when there are funny xckd.com images or brilliant PhDComics.com cartoons. Just posting something like this to get a like, RT, or share from others in my PhD community is commonplace with those of us who claim #GradStudentProblems:

grad student motivation graph

A number of blogs, such as The Thesis WhispererPhD Talk, and PhD2Published; and Twitter hashtag communities, like #phdchat#gradchat, and the @GradHacker community of bloggers/Tweeters, have actually been quite helpful for my PhD progress.  I appreciate theses online communities for sharing ideas, talking about writing resources, offering advice, and linking to research methodology. When thinking about my own approach to “catching up” with my social networks (online and in person), I’ll be sure to not just moan about things. Although I do value my online networks, there’s nothing better than having a bit of a chat with other doctoral students/candidates or researchers when we get a chance to meet up and socialize.

Let’s not just use these social moments to be A.B.M. (always be moaning). As PhD candidates, our lives aren’t THAT bad. We were selected to study and research in a field or discipline we want, and really if it’s not your cup of tea … then maybe it’s time for a change anyways. Much of our PhD negative self-talk or even group-think can stifle research and writing momentum. Sure – there’s going to be issues and challenges; however we need to celebrate the small victories along the way. I know we have more productive and interesting things to talk about when we get together (online or in person), so let’s collectively encourage, motivate, and positively influence each other with our research progress. We CAN do it!

Reference:

Mewburn, I. (2011). Troubling talk: Assembling the PhD candidate. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(3), 321-332.

#AcWri, #AcWriMo, Dissertation

#AcWriMo In Review: My Output

Many things come to an end as the month of November closes. See you later Thanksgiving, Fall 2013 semester, #Movember, and Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo). (Actually – it’s more of a see you soon, really.) Officially, the month of November is dedicated to #AcWriMo; however a number of graduate students (including yours truly) used this past month to complete a good chunk of their dissertation to loose this moniker:

Why my weekends are filled with literature reviews, data collection & #acwri sessions... #acwrimo

Review of My November #AcWriMo Goals… and my Lessons Learned:

  1. Complete my doctoral dissertation proposal so that it is ready to DEFEND to my committee.  Almost there. I did get a good chunk of writing accomplished at the UNT Dissertation Boot Camp – so this helped #acwrimo my progress. Although drafted, my dissertation proposal is not ready to defend yet. In working on a new application for methodology for social science, I want to meet with a couple faculty members on campus to hash out specifics and needs for Chapter 3 (Methodology) and test some of this during the month of December. It looks like a January 2014 date is more realistic for my dissertation proposal defense. I’m okay with this – because once this proposal is approved then Chapters 1, 2, and 3 for my dissertation are DONE!

Lesson Learned: Dedicate the time for the dissertation. As a doctoral candidate you need to be selfish with your writing time. Since this is large project, you need to chunk out your research and writing time that is supported by realistic short- and long-term goals.

  1. Finish “Technology in Advising for Higher Education” manuscript to submit to the NACADA Journal. Since I started #AcWriMo a day later, I used December 1st to work on the #AdvTech research findings and drafting of this manuscript. I am not sure why this project was put on a back burner, but I definitely need to move forward and submit this in December 2013 for Spring 2014 publication eligibility. This goal is not complete, but I will plan on sharing it with my co-authors before the week is out so we can submit to the journal editors for review.

Lesson Learned: Finish your #acwri projects before taking others on. Sure the promise of more research and writing might be enticing, but how productive will you be on your own or with a collaborative writing team if you are not finishing your manuscripts and publishing them? Always be submitting.

  1. #iConf14 Social Media Expo – paper & video for conference. After a lunch brainstorm session with Andrew Miller (@findandrew) and @FiachraM last week, I found the momentum to draft the abstract for the #iConf14 proposal.  Although not submitted (just yet), the abstract is being wrapped up and edited this evening. The final video will be compiled tomorrow evening; however our team Dropbox is filled with photos and images, with Andrew to capture video tomorrow.

Lesson Learned: Innovative ideas come from interdisciplinary thinking and problem solving. Research that is participatory and collaborative drives my writing and efforts. Also, when you experience #acwri well with other scholars, be sure to include these researchers as conspirators for your common research interests and projects.

  1. Complete a minimum of 2 blog posts per week – on writing progress and projects. Done. Whether I was reading, researching, or writing – I was able to share what I was working on with my blog readers, and provide on-going updates about my #acwrimo progress.

Lesson Learned: Stating goals out loud and adding social pressure is great, but reflection and sharing always helps me to process ideas more. Although my “official” month of #acwrimo accountability is over, I am fortunate to have my blog to share and write about my research progress, dissertation progress, teaching methods, and more.

Overall…

This month of academic writing has been very productive for me. In looking at my contribution to the #AcWriMo Accountability in the Spreadsheet o’ Fun you can see I logged at least 35, 097 words, and have been dedicated to the daily habit of writing. It is not so much the word count, but really the completed projects, which are finished and not taking up real estate in my research/writing space. I am taking the #acwrimo lessons learned with me by continuing this #acwrimo habit in December by setting specific project goals, carving out dedicated writing time, and reflecting my progress via my blog.

How did #AcWriMo in November go for you? What have you learned from this academic writing month? Post a comment to share, or respond to this #AcWriMo Questionnaire (not mine).

#AcWri, #AcWriMo, #phdchat, PhD

#AcWriMo Peer Pressure: Time, Challenge/Support & Cheerleaders

As many of you know, I signed up and successfully completed my first UNT Eagle Dissertation/Thesis Boot Camp over that past few days. What did I accomplish? (you might ask). Here is my summary, in a tweet:

The boot camp structure helped me find time, space (physically & mentally), and support to dedicate 3 FULL DAYS of just writing and research for my dissertation. Dr. Oppong and the Toulouse Graduate School provided the group of doctoral students with advice on the PhD process, motivation, meals, and, of course, COFFEE! Boot camp let me be selfish with my time and required me to just SHUT UP AND WRITE my dissertation.

Shut Up & Write #AcWriMo Start of Dissertation Boot Camp

During the camp, I purposefully unplugged from all social streams, e-mail, phone, etc. Unless you were my faculty advisor,  my friend Paeng from our COI research lab, or my partner-in-crime – you probably did not hear from me much.

Similar to #AcWriMo November 2013, this boot camp included goal setting and accountability with our writing progress. Here’s my self-evaluation from camp:
Boot camp sel-evaluation. #acwrimo #phdchat #latergram

My main purpose for this boot camp was to finish my dissertation proposal for my committee to review. Essentially the dissertation proposal consists of Chapter 1 (Summary), 2 (Literature Review) & 3 (Methodology) for my final dissertation. Want to learn more about this writing process? Check out SAGE’s new resource: Do You Understand What is Required in a Doctoral Dissertation or Thesis? [PDF]

I managed to get most of these beginning chapters drafted, and have them loosely reviewed by my faculty advisor. I also put my writing drafts into the official UNT Dissertation format, and identified areas I need to edit and add to. I plan on using December to meet with a few faculty members to review my research methodology (the recipe for research), and then I will work with my faculty advisor to set up a time for my dissertation committee gather for review in early 2014.

Overall, this boot camp was a great experience, and I am quite pleased with my progress. I think that agraphia groups and writing support programs are invaluable for doctoral students. Events like this offer peer pressure, social support, and, most importantly, TIME for writing. I would like to attend the next UNT boot camp in February to write up Chapter 4 (Data Collection, Analysis, & Findings) and Chapter 5 (Conclusions) in the Spring.

Thanks for the challenge & support from the following tweeps: #AcWriMo writersinstigator of research ideas, and especially those of you who cheered me on. Always be writing…

#AcWri, #AcWriMo, Dissertation

#AcWriMo Discipline: Dissertation Boot Camp Here I Come!

In honour of my #AcWriMo November Goal #1, I decided to apply to the UNT Eagle Dissertation Boot Camp that is happening this week (November 21-23). To date, my word count for the month is 19, 344; however I need to dedicate more of these words to my dissertation drafting.

BootCampGraphic

Image from UDaily post from University of Delaware.

After approval from my faculty advisor and support from my supervisor, I applied to this 3-day boot camp to SHUT UP AND WRITE.  I just received my official acceptance to the program from Dr. Joseph Oppong, the Associate Dean for Research and Professional Development in the Toulouse Graduate School:

 Dear Student,

Congratulations, you have been accepted to attend the Eagle Dissertation Boot Camp! It will be held in the Willis Library Forum (first floor area). The boot camp is designed to provide you 3 days of interruption-free, stress-free, no-excuses-just-do-it writing time for your dissertation. To help you prepare so that you optimize your output here are some packing tips.

Be sure to clear your calendar for the whole of the boot camp. You need to commit to attend the entire workshop. You will not be excused to teach or attend class. Arrange transportation and childcare so that you are free to attend each day.

This is your notice that you are enrolled in Boot Camp. If you cannot attend this session let me know immediately. If you cancel within 3 days of the event you will be considered a “no show” unless you situation truly is serious. If you “no show” you will not be allowed to participate in the next session and your advisor will be notified. We have limited funds, space, and resources and you must commit to coming or give your seat to someone else.

Please bring a laptop, a mug (coffee/tea available) and/or water bottle. If you don’t have a laptop, you can check one out from the Library, but, bring a flash drive to save your work. MP3 players and headphones are recommended if they help you concentrate, or if you find nearby conversations distracting. Work tables, lunch, and snacks are provided.

No lateness, please. It’s distracting for the other campers…

Here is the line up this week’s dissertation boot camp – so don’t expect a whole lot of tweets, email responses, social network posts,  or interaction from me as my Interwebs use will be limited from Thursday (11/21) morning onward:

Boot Camp Schedule

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
8:00-9:30 a.m. Formatting Workshop
9:30-10:00 a.m. Roll Call, Welcome, Introductions, Breakfast
10:00-11:30 a.m. Writing
11:30-12:00 p.m. Wellness Activity
12:00-1:30 p.m. Writing
1:30-2:00 p.m. Lunch
2:00-3:30 p.m. Writing
3:30-6:00 p.m. Optional Writing Time or Optional Individual Consulting
9:00-10:30 a.m. Writing
10:30-11:00 p.m. Wellness Activity
11:00-12:30 p.m. Writing
12:30-1:00 p.m. Lunch with Advisors
1:00-2:30 p.m. Writing
2:30-3:00 p.m. Self-Assessment and Discussion
3:00-6:00 p.m. Optional Writing Time or Optional Individual Consulting
9:00-10:30 a.m. Writing
10:30-11:00 a.m. Wellness Activity
11:00-12:30 p.m. Writing
12:30-1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30-3:00 p.m. Writing
3:00-6:00 p.m. Optional Writing Time or Optional Individual Consulting

Each day includes:

  • several blocks of writing time
  • scheduled, limited time for web-browsing
  • tip sheets
  • wellness breaks
  • a lunch conversation with fellow campers (box lunches provided)
  • space to continue writing in the afternoon (if interested)

The reason I applied, is to have specific time carved out and a dedicated space to move forward on my #AcWriMo goal #1. A number of things get in the way of my dissertation writing, including other writing projects, presentations, work items, and life. Also, as a student who wears “many hats” on campus and outside my job, I can sometimes find it challenging to pick up where I have left off, and my motivation to just write is fragmented with other responsibilities. I think this dedicated writing schedule will push me further along with my dissertation goals.

I will report back in after “camp” is over. Write on, my friends. Write on.