Lots of Moving Parts

There’s a lot happening, and I’ll do my best to cover it all.  After running into the proverbial wall on my original dissertation topic, I’m working with my advisor and others to see if I can recharacterize it in a way that will salvage the topic or if I will need to adjust to another policy topic completely.  Time is ticking away, so I will need to make a decision quickly.

I’ve returned to coursework this semester.  I’m taking PUBP 718: Transportation Policy.  It’s definitely interesting, and it’s the first transportation course I’ve ever taken.  So why, you ask, am I taking a transportation course?  The answer it two-fold: 1) I need to take something to remain continuously enrolled and I’ve taken almost everything else; and 2) transportation is an important topic where I live.

The course ties into my other news.  Up to this point, I’ve kept my academic life and this blog separate from my professional and personal lives.  I’ve done that intentionally so that students and prospective students can quickly get to the heart of what it’s like to be a PhD student.  And yet I’m unable to maintain the partition any more.  Without providing an understanding of other events, I only paint half the picture.  Events outside academia most certainly affect your voyage.  So what’s the news?

I am a declared candidate for the House of Delegates in Virginia.  I am running to unseat a 24-year incumbent and this endeavor will impact the pace at which I work on my proposal.  I put many hours of thought into the decision to throw my hat into the political ring, and in the end, have decided it’s the right thing to do.  I won’t go into all the reasons behind my decision here, though feel free to contact me if you would like to know more.  My campaign web page is http://www.shawfordelegate.com and the Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/ShawforDelegate.  You can also follow me on Twitter: @ShawforDelegate.

I will continue to maintain this page and keep you updated on my academic progress; check on me every once in a while! 🙂

SPP Newcomers

It’s that time of year when those offered admission to the PhD program have to decide whether to join the quest.  A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by one of those prospective students.  Like everyone who has started something new, he was looking for insight into the program and had read my blog.  We had a really good email conversation and covered those questions not addressed in my writings here.

Four years ago, I had a lot of the same questions and was looking for an “insider’s perspective” on the PhD quest.  The closest I came to finding that insight was a blog by a law student, so I decided to start my own blog to help those who would join me in working toward a PhD.  I’m always encouraged when I hear from a future fellow student.  To the prospective PhD student, thanks for the email exchange.  I’m glad I was able to give you a better understanding of what the program is like.  Let me know if I can help in any other way and I look forward to seeing you around campus this fall!

The PhD pinata (or, groping for research questions)

I certainly identify with the writer’s struggle …

The Thesis Whisperer

This post was written by Paula Hanaszwho is currently writing a thesis on the geopolitics of water security in South Asia at The ANU. She is enrolled at the Australia National University but currently spends more time on her couch than in her office or the library. Last time we met Paula she was experiencing PhD lifestyle guilt, this time she reflects on the difficult question of the research question…

I raise my arms and swing them, blindly, above my head. The full force of my swing lands on…nothing. My hands, still gripping their bludgeon, fall impotently by my ankles. I raise them and swing again. And again. And again. My misses fall awkwardly. I should be embarrassed. Before the blindfold was wrapped around my eyes I caught a glimpse of the piñata and I’m sure that I’m standing directly below it.

Or am I?

With each…

View original post 726 more words

Tempus Fugit

Where did October go?  It’s been a busy 6 weeks since my most recent post, yet it doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.  As I had mentioned in PASS, I’m taking GOVT 731: Russia this semester.  Yes, I’m beyond the coursework phases, but chose to take the course to round out my understanding of Russia.  It has taken a lot of the time I wish I had to devote to my dissertation proposal because of paper writing (FIVE!) and reading.

So what’s my progress to date?  I’m still working through my dissertation proposal and it will not be ready to propose before next semester, so I will continue to plug away at it and plan for a dissertation proposal in the 201403 – 201405 timeframe.  After speaking with my chair this afternoon, this is my final course, my chair and I have decided that I will only take dissertation proposal writing credits next semester.  I should then have the time to knock out the proposal in short order and move into dissertation research and writing.

Yes, it’s another shift to the right (this time by 6 months) and I’m learning that PhDs don’t like to be rushed.  I’ve come to terms with the new schedule and updated my timeline accordingly.  I should still be able to graduate in 2015, though it might be later in the year depending on when I defend my dissertation.

Here’s the updated plan:
201403 – 201405 – Propose Dissertation
201406 – 201506 – Write Dissertation
201507 – 201508 – Defend Dissertation

One step at a time …

The PhD Balancing Act

Over the summer, I was asked to write an article for SPP Currents – the online publication about life at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy.  Well – today, it was published!  Woohoo!

I’ve cross-posted the link here: Finding Balance | SPP Currents.  Read it over and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

How do you find balance in your PhD experience?

Ready for the Field Exam

Great news!  I received notice from my committee chair today that after my most recent revision, my field statement is complete and I am now ready to sit for the field exam.  He is out of town for the rest of this week and will begin writing questions next week.  For my part, I will need to identify a couple of four-day blocks as possible times to be available to complete the exam.

How is the field exam structured?  According to the GMU SPP PhD Student Handbook
“The field examination should include written questions on both advanced methods of inquiry (methodology) and substantive content in the domain of research interest (theoretical and empirical knowledge). The questions are broad, comprehensive, and central to the theoretical, methodological, and policy issues in the various topics proposed. While some questions should cover foundational issues, others might deal with unresolved issues in the fields. Students are expected to synthesize material from across their entire program. Although the field examination will be based primarily on the field statement and its bibliography, students might be asked questions that would require them to draw material from topics not explicitly covered in the student’s field statement and bibliography. If the field statement includes three topics, the examination must be in three parts, one part per topic. Often the student is given a choice of answering one out of two or two out of three questions per topic.”

What are the expectations for the field exam responses?  Also referring to the GMU SPP PhD Student Handbook
“There are no specific length requirements, but normally the answers to the questions for a single topic require 10 to 15 pages double spaced using normal fonts and margins. The writing should be clear and free of serious grammatical and typographical errors. Since it is a timed exam, the student can use shortened references rather than full and formal footnotes.”

So it looks like I have 30 – 45 pages of writing to do in a four-day period … SOON!

The field exam must be completed and graded by the second week of the term in order for me to avoid coursework next semester.  Additionally, I’ve switched my funding source from my employer to the GI Bill, so I need to make sure that courses are paid for by August 26, 2013.  In order to do that, I need to have passed the field exam so I can register for PUBP 998 – Research/Proposal for Dissertation.

There are lots of moving parts – August is going to be a busy month!

Complete Field Statement – Rev 2

After receiving feedback on my field statement last weekend, I worked through whatever free time I had this week to update the paper as required so I can move into the next phase of the program.  I have now finished and submitted the second draft of my complete field statement.

As with my last update, here are the statistics for you “numbers” types.  The second draft is a little heavier than the first:
106 total pages
113 bibliography entries
24,177 words (not counting footnotes and endnotes)

Back to the wait …