Proposing (Dissertation, not Marriage)

I successfully defended my dissertation proposal almost two weeks ago. It was, as my friend Annie who defended a few days later concurred, both harder and easier than I had imagined. My proposal passed, but the results were: adding a committee member, expanding my lit review, and rewriting 2 of my 4 research questions. I’m not sure whether to consider that the usual “minor revisions” or actual “major revisions.” Honestly, I’m still in shock that I had to answer so few direct questions. It made me think of Han being tortured in Cloud City


The Experience: It was just my committee and myself (I think there wasn’t enough advance notice for guests, plus it was at the end of the semester). We were in a small conference room, seated around a table, myself at the head (a hot seat if there ever was one). I presented about my topic using a flatscreen to my left (about 15 minutes), then we discussed the proposal for about an hour. I was excused from the room while the committee deliberated (I think this was about 15 minutes, hard to say because I was talking with a colleague), then they called me back in to announce I had passed with revisions. We spent another few minutes discussing the revisions to be made, then the others left and I discussed next steps with my chair for about ten minutes.

It was, overall, a positive experience, thanks to my excellent committee. It was more of a discussion of the proposal and how to improve it, rather than the traditional defense model that has more a flavor of academic hazing (proving that you’re capable of carrying out the research you propose). This was one more in a chain of doctoral education experiences in which I realize how much I still have to learn. I think this educational process is designed to give us imposter anxiety and thus lessen any research hubris we might have had… while also giving us self-confidence as independent researchers. It’s an interesting combination.

So now I’m energized to move forward–and simultaneously a bit discouraged about the amount of work that remains to be done. I think that’s pretty typical for this stage. What I’m most glad about is that now, in addition to reading prior research and editing my dissertation document, I have concrete tasks I can perform: submit IRB minimal review form, approach pilot study participants, do reliability testing.

Insights from my Proposal Defense:

  • Request several “good” proposals (not just full dissertations) from your chair.
  • Lit review: it’s not not just to reflect the overall concepts in your study, but should specifically build toward each research question.
  • Prepare to be surprised.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to look up ideal sample sizes for test-retest reliability when piloting a survey in the social sciences.



6 thoughts on “Proposing (Dissertation, not Marriage)

  1. cynthiabeard says:

    Congrats on the proposal defense! Also, I wanted to let you know that I selected you as a recipient of the Liebster Award. It’s a way to honor fellow bloggers who are writing in small forums, and yours immediately came to mind. My blog post says a little more about why I chose you

    The acceptance conditions are :

    1. Thank your award presenter on your blog and link back to him/her
    2. Copy and paste the award to your blog
    3. Present the Liebster Award to 5 blogs that you think deserve to be recognised.
    4. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

    Have a great day!

    P.S. Wanted to post this in the “About” section instead of as a comment to a post, but couldn’t figure out a way to do that…so here it is πŸ™‚

    • Starr Hoffman says:

      oh, THANKS, Cynthia, that’s so lovely and sweet!! πŸ™‚ what a great idea, and now i have more great blogs to read from your other nominations.

      HMMM. now i’ll have to ponder this over the weekend and post my own choices next week… yay for an assignment! πŸ˜€

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