What Exactly Is a Doctorate?

I saw this graphic almost three years ago when I began my PhD journey – it’s as true today as it was then …

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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 …

First Draft – Complete Field Statement

I received feedback on the two sections of my field statement that were still in draft form and spent the weekend revising and rewriting to bring them more into alignment with the approved section.  After much writing and rewriting, I began putting everything together early this evening.

Because I had auto-formatted the sections in each individual document, I was able to bring them all together fairly painlessly.  I did decide to change the format from I.A.1.a. to 1.1.1.1. as it seemed to be easier to follow in the larger document.  There weren’t a lot of other formatting changes necessary, though I moved all three bibliographies to the back of the document, retaining them as individual sections.  I also wrote a brief introduction and conclusion to bring the three fields together and to start down the path of discussing research questions for my dissertation proposal.

So … for you “numbers types” … here’s what I ended up with:
103 total pages
110 bibliography entries
23,556 words (not counting footnotes and endnotes)

What’s next?  I submitted the complete field statement draft to my chair, so now I wait.  As I receive feedback, I will make updates.  Once he has approved it, I will send it to the other two members of my committee and hopefully be able to take my field exam in the next 3-4 weeks.

Three of Three

Less than five minutes ago, I submitted a draft of the third part (of three) of my field statement.  I would feel relief except a) I’m too tired, and b) I’m sure there will be some editing necessary.  Nevertheless, it feels good to be “somewhat done” with the writing for my individual fields.  So where am I?

1) Bureaucratic Politics – complete
2) Russian Foreign Policy – second submission complete – waiting for feedback
3) Nuclear Proliferation to Non-state Actors – first submission complete – waiting for feedback

What’s next?  I will relax for a couple of days and then work on tying the three fields together into a coherent field statement.  Basically I will need to write an introduction and a conclusion that integrates the three and perhaps proposes some relevance to my dissertation.

But for now, it’s sleep – I’ve got to get up in about 5 hours for work … *yawn*

End of Year 3 – Status

As today is June 1, I guess that means that my third year as a PhD student is finally over.  Technically, it ended sometime in May when final grades for the semester were submitted, but today seems as good a day as any to take stock of my progress.

I’m currently in the “field stage” as anyone who has been following my trek knows.  I’ve submitted two of my three fields.  Of the two, I still have some updating left to complete on one.  I’m currently working my third field and should have my first draft submitted by the end of the month.

Fields Status:
Bureaucratic Politics and National Security Policy – Complete
Russian Foreign Policy – Submitted, rewrites necessary
Nuclear Proliferation to Non-state Actors – In Draft, submission by the end of the month

This puts me in good shape to have all three fields finalized into my overall field statement by the end of July in order to take the field exam in early August.  As long as all goes as planned, I will spend the Fall semester writing my dissertation proposal and hope to defend the proposal in the October/November 2013 timeframe.

SPP PhD Student Association

File this one under “Why haven’t we thought of this before?”

I went to a meeting today to work through the establishment of a student association for PhD students at the GMU School of Public Policy.  Now, technically, we already have a student association of which all PhD students at SPP are members – the SPP Student Association, or SPPSA.  It’s a great organization that represents all students within SPP.

What is the need, then, for a PhD student association?  Why set up an organization that differentiates the PhD students from the masters students?  A couple of reasons come to mind.  First, since I can remember, the leadership has been comprised of masters students and as a group, it is more beneficial to masters students.  And so it should be.  We have approximately 800 masters students at SPP and far fewer PhD students.  Second, and probably more importantly, the PhD student experience is nothing like the masters program student experience.  Sure, we take classes in the first part of our program and some of those are the exact same classes masters students take.  But once the coursework is over, the similarities quickly disappear.

I remember professors telling us during the PhD Student/Faculty Retreat right before our first classes began that this experience would be unique.  They said that as we progressed to our field work and then to our dissertation writing, we would go from a very social experience during which we saw our classmates regularly to a very lonely experience when we would think we were the only student going through the program.  They were right – the transition is very real.  And it brings with it a unique set of challenges that requires a lot of self-motivation.

A couple of my fellow PhD students recognized the need for an organization that understands the unique experience of PhD students and started putting things into motion a couple of months ago.  They got a group of us together today to gauge the level of interest and to gather ideas about what needs the group would answer.  It was a good discussion – there were about 20 of us there, which was a pretty good number.  We left with some really good ideas that the leadership will work over the summer with the intention of having our first general meeting after classes start in the fall.  At that time, we’ll elect representatives and hopefully work to implement some of the ideas that were brought up today and in emails over the summer.

Great idea!