Second Exam Professional Development Workshop

December 6, 2013

Part 1: Susan-Buck Morss

  • About ideas that matter to you
    • Find out what your questions
      • What interests you when you’re reading
      • What keeps you up in the night
    • Have something to say
  • If it violates (disciplinary, etc.) conventions, go for it
    • But ask for help
    • Be your advocate
    • Facing turmoil in all disciplines in academia today
  • Trust your instincts
  • Writing your proposal
    • You don’t know what you’re going to say
      • If you do, can’t be surprised, can’t say anything new
  • Have to convince intelligent people (you’re committee) you have something to say and have a way of figuring out how to say it
    • Some inkling of where and how to look, how to know you’ve found something important to you
    • Archives? Field research? Etc.
    • Be realistic about timing
    • Prove to these people that you have a question, you know the nature of your question, you know how to go looking for answers
      • Some realistic expectation
    • A kind of contract: deliver what you say in your proposal = you’ve succeeded
      • Safety net
      • But doesn’t mean you can’t change
      • Doesn’t hem you into too much
      • E.g. chapter descriptions should give a sense but not overly specific
    • Convince them you have something to say, are committed and devoted
      • And outline as to how to go about it
    • Elephant in the room: your committee knows your dissertation better than you, and each says something different
      • And you know none of them are right
      • Know more than anyone on your committee, anyone in the world
        • Humor them! (respectfully)!
        • You will see something they don’t see – means you haven’t articulated or demonstrated this in an intelligible way
        • Don’t be nervous about this shift (a win-win)!
  • Doing a dissertation totally different experience
    • NOT the same as term papers
  • Going to write whole chapters you don’t include, you throw out, or rewrite
    • It feels awful
    • Get used to doing fact that you do writing you aren’t going to use: USE THIS as advantage
      • Maybe the piece that doesn’t fit anywhere will allows you to think through something you haven’t figured out yet, and once you think it through, can go back
    • Writer’s block = don’t know what you’re going to say
      • I haven’t thought it through yet
      • Literally, take out a pen and write to yourself
  • Don’t be hard on yourself but work on it everyday – needs to be on your mind everyday
    • Be obsessed with it
    • Means it’s working on all levels of your thinking
    • How do you do that in your lives? One perspective
      • Take certain block of time regularly, habitually and make it sacred where no one else
      • Okay if you don’t write every time you’re in this space
    • Takes time
    • Give yourself habits and know yourself
      • Really guard this time, particularly if you’re deferential/easily guilted
    • Reward for yourself for this time
    • Don’t associate your worst habits with your new dissertation habit
      • E.g. smoking
    • Give yourself some release
      • Mind and creativity don’t obey a set schedule
  • Going to feel bad lots of times
    • Really easy to project inadequacy on things
    • Get your needs met
  • Hard in NYC, but figure out space/place where you write things
  • If you can’t start chapter at the beginning, start somewhere else
    • Start at the place where you know precisely what you’re going to say; start at the place where you’re really stuck and you need to work through
  • When you’re stuck, find someone “who you can trust to be totally stupid with because you feel like you’re back at square one”
    • Be incoherent (incoherence as sign of creativity – can say it clearly = not new)
  • Getting your committee together as herding cats
    • But at this point not intimated by them
    • But you’ve become an authority
      • And it feels cool – through your hard work, about something you really care about
  • Be willing to follow up to get feedback/response from your committee members
    • Don’t take it personally if they don’t response
      • 9 times out of 10 they just didn’t get to it
    • Can hold faculty accountable for being professional

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