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!

 

Slow Progress … Is Still Progress

Yes, no matter what the pace of progress, it is still progress.  I have one of my three fields complete and my second is almost at the point where I can turn it in to make sure I’m headed in the right direction.  My goal is to begin my third field next week and have it ready for turn-in by late May or early June.  This schedule should provide enough time to do rewrites (which I fully expect) on these two fields in order to take my field exam in August.

Just to make sure I’m covered in the event I’m not able to complete my field exam and have it graded in time to exempt me from coursework in the Fall 2013 semester, I’ve signed up for two courses in the Fall:

GOVT 731: Russia
PUAD 651: Virginia Politics / Policy / Administration

The GOVT course will fit in nicely with my intended dissertation area and is being taught by a member of my committee.  Whether the field exam phase is completed on time or not, I will likely take this course to broaden my knowledge of Russia in preparation for my dissertation phase.

The PUAD offering seems a bit odd at first, but it will actually help me get where I would like to go.  It would be my third course outside SPP, so it may or may not count toward my degree, but I have taken enough other courses to cover all my coursework requirements already.  Why would I even sign up for the course, let alone take it this Fall?  This whole “PhD Experience” (as I’ve entitled it) has done much more to educate me about where I see myself in the future than I ever thought possible.  When I first started the program, I was convinced of where I was headed.  Now, I’ve “found” a new direction that still involves earning this PhD in Public Policy and focusing on international nuclear threats.  I’m happy to say that it also involves Virginia politics … but that is a post for another day. 🙂

Field Statement Update

It was always my intention to complete this PhD program in four years.  I still have that goal in mind, but am also coming to terms with the reality that the original overall time schedule might have been unrealistic.  Some students enter the program knowing exactly what question they would like to explore for their dissertation and have a data set in mind.  It took me some time to narrow my area of focus as being back in school was, to me, like being a kid in a candy shop.  I had difficulty making a decision on what specific area I wanted to explore as I had several and brought no data set with me.  I also took three foundational courses that would not have been necessary had I studied public policy through undergrad and graduate school.  (I have a BS, MPA, and MSIM.)  Those three courses did slow my progress a bit, but I had taken them into account in my four year plan.

Writing a field statement has turned out to be much different than writing a paper for a course and it has taken some time for me to adapt.  I think I’ve finally got the hang of it, but the steep learning curve has pushed my schedule somewhat to the right.  I began the semester with high expectations and an aggressive (but modified from the original) schedule.  In the most recent draft of my plan, I fully expected to have all three areas of my field statement completed by May 2013 so I could take the field exam and propose my dissertation by July 2013.  I have one area written at approximately the 60-75% level and the other two are mere skeletons (not yet even outlines).  I think I’ve finally learned the art of the field statement, so I’m counting on finishing the first one soon.  Hopefully the next two will go more quickly as I plan to write them concurrently.

With that in mind, I’ve updated my schedule:

201304 – 201307 – Finish Field Statement / Obtain Final Concurrence from Committee
201307 – 201308 – Take Field Exam
201309 – 201312 – Propose Dissertation
201401 – 201412 – Write Dissertation
201501 – 201502 – Defend Dissertation

Great advice for both part-time and full-time students!

The Thesis Whisperer

Last week @lanceb147 contacted me on Twitter looking for advice on doing a PhD part time. There’s not much published advice considering there’s a surprising number of students doing their PhD part time. At RMIT where I used to work 50% of research students were enrolled part time and this institutional profile is not unusual in Australia. Some are self funded students from the beginning; others have been forced to take up part time study after their scholarship rans out.

clocksMany academics have the impression that part time students are troublesome and take ages to finish, but a study by Pearson et al (see reference below) showed that students who study part time for their whole degree finish sooner and have better results than full time students.

Clearly they are doing something right!

I did my research masters over three years part time and worked for 2 days a…

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Progress …

The transition from coursework to the next phase of the program does seem a bit overwhelming (see recent posts).  However, even small steps toward my goal help provide a sense of accomplishment.

The reportable “small step” in this update is that I now have a complete committee.  Woohoo!  I’m now officially off of the recruiting trail and can now focus more fully on writing my fields and completing my directed reading.  I was pointed in the direction of a professor in PIA (Public and International Affairs) within GMU who is an expert on Russia.  After having a good conversation about the process in SPP and my research interests, he agreed to be the third member of my committee.

So, the phrase that pays is “progress” … now, it’s back to writing.

Semester #6 Begins

Yesterday marked the first day of the Spring 2013 semester here at George Mason University.  It’s a bit different this time around in that I have no classes with other students.  I’m taking a directed reading (a.k.a. independent study) to round out my knowledge of bureaucratic politics in anticipation of my field statement.  The deliverable for the course cannot be a field statement, so I will have to work on the areas of my field statement separately from this course.  I’m starting with an approximately 1000 word prospectus to describe bureaucratic politics and which parts I will focus on as I continue my studies.

This is the first semester I’ve set my own schedule – it will definitely take some getting used to.  I plan to be on campus 2-3 days a week as has been my habit over the past 2 1/2 years, but I’ll no longer have to commute back home at 10:00 PM!

As for my field statement, it’s coming together, but I’m still not where I want to be.  My three areas of concentration are:
1) Bureaucracy and Foreign Policy
2) Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction
3) The Relationship of Russia with its Neighbors (this one may need to be fleshed out a bit more)

I have two members for my field committee, but am still looking for a third.  This means I’ll have to write and recruit simultaneously.  If I continue down the path of the three fields above, I will need a “Russia Expert” to round out my committee.  At this point, I’m still looking.

I still intend to follow the schedule in my revised plan: I’ll keep you informed as the semester unfolds.