Phd update: reflection and goals

Summer is coming to an end and as I wrap up both my own courses and the course I’ve assisted in this summer semester, I thought I would pause to reflect and identify places for moving forward on this journey.

I blogged a bit this summer about my own growth as a researcher, which was facilitated by two of the three  courses I took this summer. In one course, I developed a research proposal that will function as my practicum proposal. In my program, the practicum is part of the “Research Apprenticeship” which follows roughly the same process as the dissertation: proposal, oral presentation of proposal to get approval, carrying out research, writing up research, defending research.  In another course, we focused on developing a literature review: another essential skill for the dissertation process (and for being an academic in general).

At the end of this process, I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer, first and foremost. Academic writing is a tricky thing, and  the feedback and guidance of both my instructors and advisor were invaluable. Writing is thinking, and I know that my research brain has developed along with my prose. I am not ashamed to say that I am in love with my research proposal, and I am thrilled that I’ve been able to design a study that gets at research questions that I find interesting and sustaining. I spent a lot of this year seemingly unfocused (much to the worry of my mentors in the program: focus, Andrea, focus! was the most common thing I heard), but I find myself back at the same questions that I articulated in my application to school, but they are more focused as well as being functional (as in: a person could actually design a study to answer them).  After considering other questions and ideas, in the end I feel like the topics I am looking at now are ones I could stick with over the course of not only my practicum, but could develop into additional studies that could be the focus of my dissertation. To be frank, I don’t have time to change my mind, so I wanted to be sure that I really liked what I am doing. And I do. (Additionally, once I get IRB approval for what I am proposing, I plan to post everything here on the site).

If year one was about experiencing school, year two will be all about strategy.  Every decision must consider two things: first, is this decision going to help me finish faster? and secondly, does this decision help me get a job when I am finished?  Spring 2012 brings defending my practicum, completing comprehensive exams, and developing my dissertation proposal. I want all my ducks in a row to get moving as quickly as possible into dissertation mode.

So here are the goals:

  • move from exploration to professionalization
  • solidify my career goals: make appointment at Career Services, develop a non-academic resume and cover letter (just in case!), keep an eye out for job postings to understand what is out there for people with my eventual degree.
  • related to this, add a line to my CV every month (I know this sounds a little crazy, but I figure there is no harm in keeping this a focus every month, and wouldn’t it be awesome if I pulled it off? I heard this was something that folks on the tenure-track do, so it seemed like a good goal.)
  • identify something every month that gets me to graduation faster: read dissertations from graduates of the program, etc,
  • I also have a long list of brilliant people at my university that I have yet to meet. I am making it a priority to meet them this year.

Anything else?

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One thought on “Phd update: reflection and goals

  1. This looks like an excellent plan. Loving your research topic is very important. You will be living with it for a long time. And having a clear career strategy from the beginning is also a good idea.
    I wonder if, instead of or in addition to looking at job ads, you might also consider having conversations with people about their work. Exploratory interviews. Talk to the alumni office (both at your current institution and any previous universities) and see if they can put you in touch with alumni who have a similar degree who are happy to talk to current students. Those people can give you a rich picture of what is possible.

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