Nerdy Newsy Update

Oh hai! I have office supplies now, so my hastily-drawn comics will again adorn these blatherings. Aren’t you glad? 

First, I must a shout-out to my similarly-nerded cousin Victoria, who shall henceforth be known (at least by me) as Doc Brock (my maiden name is Brockmeier–someone had to rock it, right?). She’s now a full-fledged PHUD (that’s how we eddy-ca-shunned people say “PhD”) of poetry. I’m happy, proud, and unreasonably jealous all at once–wahoo! If I had a copy of it, I’d post a photo of us at about age ten, after we spent one happy afternoon playing My Little Pony and making glittery princess crowns, then donning nightgowns and about a dozen plastic necklaces. It’s pretty epic. Here’s how I remember it.

We were pretty much twins–long straight blond hair (yep, I dye it–now you know, GASP!), glasses, scrawny–except Vic was about a foot taller than me and just six months older. We both grew up to be knitters, comic-readers, pop-culture-geek-aficionados, and PhD-hopefuls. Which by sheer extension of the metaphor means I’m going to complete this degree soon, right?

And I do have progress to report! I “met” with my advisor, Dr. C., last week via Skype (the Power of the Interwebs!). I showed him a potential survey tool I’d like to use, we discussed it, and I’m working on pursuing it to see if it’s viable (the main holdback being determining if there’s adequate data on its reliability/validity for my committee’s taste). While I work on that, we’re also trying to get my degree plan finalized and signed and filed… again. It got lost last summer shortly after we got it done, sigh, and I neglected to get it done before flying out here.

In the meantime, I plan to start brushing up my literature review. I’ve already got a draft of Chapter 1 (Introduction) and Chapter 2 (Lit Review) that I wrote last year in my class on “Research in Higher Education,” AKA “Class on Dissertationing.” Chapter 3 (Methodology) will be the final component needed to make up the Dissertation Proposal, which I’m hoping to propose to my committee (aw, doesn’t that sound romantic?) in early 2012.

Here’s a very rough look at the dissertation process, at least as it goes at UNT and specifically in my department:

  1. develop the topic (this apparently takes FOREVER since I have been working on this since BEFORE TIME BEGAN)
  2. write proposal (dissertation chapters 1-3)
  3. back-and-forth drafting process between student & advisor
  4. dissertation committee members (usually 3) read the final draft
  5. Proposal Defense: (usually 1-2 hours) you present on your topic and what you want to research, formally, to your committee. They question you, point out flaws in your reasoning and your spelling, and either approve your topic (so that you can begin collecting data), or they approve it with changes (the usual way of things), or they send you back to the drawing board (back to step 1, amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth). Mainly, your committee wants to know if your topic is:
    • significant (will it make a contribution to the field?)
    • doable (can you really get this project done in the time allotted? do you have the resources, time, and know-how?)
    • measurable (are your variables things you can measure? do they match to what you’re trying to prove or find out?)
    • of appropriate scope (not so big you’ll never finish it, but not so small that it doesn’t prove your merit as an Independent Researcher, the goal of the PhD?)
  6. if approved: collect data
  7. perform statistical analyses on your data (I imagine a glittery-robed wizard wiggling his fingers at an Excel spreadsheet)
  8. THINK about your results. A lot. (The PHUD word for this is “interpreting your results,” but it can also be translated as “figuring out what the crap it all means.”)
  9. Write up your results as Chapter 4 (Results). Usually you do this after step 7, during step 8.
  10. Write up your meaningful and discipline-changing (ha!) interpretations as Chapter 5 (Discussion).
  11. Again with the back-and-forth drafting process.
  12. Likewise, give your committee a few weeks to read your final draft.
  13. Dissertation Defense: (again, ab0ut 1-2 hours) You present to your committee again, this time focusing on the results of your statistical analyses and the conclusions you’ve drawn from it. Again, questions are pointed at you about your work and related things, partly to test for flaws, partly to test your confidence and preparedness as a researcher. Ideally, your advisor never lets you schedule a dissertation defense until he/she knows you are ready and will therefore pass, but that’s not always the case.
  14. After the Diss Defense, just like after the proposal defense, your committee asks you to wait outside while they deliberate on your future. It’s pretty heavy. I had to wait it out both times for my master’s thesis, and I’ve waited with friends at their defenses, and whether it’s a 2-minute wait or a half-hour wait, it’s the slowest time has ever flowed.
  15. Ideally, they FINALLY let you in, say “Congrats, Dr. Your-Last-Name-Here,” and then you get an awesome graduation ceremony with fancier robes and your advisor hoods you with super-awesomely-crazy regalia (depending on your university, school, and department). Your family claps, you all eat cake, and you get a job with which to begin making hugely outrageous (or outrageously huge) student loan payments.

Ah, don’t it all sound grand?

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