Progress!

Yesterday’s meeting with my committee chair went really well.  We had discussed the four case studies in my proposal previously and my task was to develop and more fully explore it using the various lenses I’ve chosen for my dissertation.  Focusing on only one case this month has helped to refine the research problem.  It has taken many months for the proposed research to develop into something that can be acted upon, and we’re almost there.  Now that we’ve worked through the methodology, it’s a matter of maturing the other three cases and rounding out the proposal.  It will still take quite a bit more work to finish, but we’ve had a breakthrough and I’m feeling better about defending by the end of the year.

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Ever Forward

It has been a couple of months since my most recent update, and I wanted to make sure I posted before the semester begins.  As a PhD student in the dissertation proposal stage, I find it challenging to track when the semesters begin and end as I have no formal classes to attend.  I noticed this has also caused the length of time between blog updates to be longer than when I was in coursework.  I will try to  be more diligent about posting here as progress is made.

I’ve spent quite a while working to scope my dissertation proposal so that the actual dissertation is achievable.  As a result, I’ve traveled down windy roads that have caused me to come back to my original idea and I’ve traveled down dead ends that have required me to backtrack, again to my original idea.  Where am I now?  I’m pretty sure I’m still moving forward, though I would never have imagined that it would take as long as it has to finalize a proposal.  I’ve walked away from the “choosing one of the case studies and exploring it in depth instead” approach from my most recent update.

So where am I now?  I am still focused on Bureaucratic Politics and the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.  The dissertation is a historical analysis of the program and has expanded to four cases.  The cases are much narrower in their focus and will examine the coordinator’s role in the program.  I have a more robust list of players to interview and it seems like the proposal is now on the right track.  I meet again with my committee chair next week for feedback.  If you remember from the most recent update, I planned to defend my proposal by the end of this month.  As I have learned throughout this process, from coursework through proposal work, plans have a habit of moving to the right.  Proposal defense will not take place this month, and I have set a revised deadline of December.

In other news, our school now has a new name!  The School of Public Policy (SPP)  and the Department of Public and International Affairs (PIA) have merged to form the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs (SPGIA).  This happened some months ago and I think it’s great news for everyone involved.  I took two PIA courses, and I have some familiarity with the faculty.  Our new website is spgia.gmu.edu.  Check it out!

Still Plugging Along

The month of April has seen a couple of rewrites of my dissertation proposal and the addition of a PowerPoint presentation to accompany it.  After getting a couple of new sets of eyes on my work, it looks like it will be necessary to scale my ambitions back a bit.  Currently, my intention is to write a historical analysis of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program using a case study approach.  I have three cases in mind and would explore them using bureaucratic politics as the method of analysis with the rational actor model as the foil.  One of the professors I asked suggested that the project, while very interesting, might be a bit ambitious.  He said analysis of this sort lends itself to depth more than breadth and exploring three cases could very well take longer than tenable to complete.  He suggested choosing one of the case studies and exploring it in depth instead.  So I’m going to write an executive summary reflecting this modified approach and submit it to my chair to see if he thinks it’s doable.

I’ve also worked to complete my dissertation committee.  I’ve had preliminary discussions with a couple of professors to gauge their level of interest and availability.  I will continue the conversation with them over the next several weeks to see if I can stay on track to defend my proposal by the end of August.

That’s all for now – see you at the next update!

Closing Semester 7

The semester officially ended a couple of weeks ago, but I’m just now getting to this.  Time has just flown by these past several months!  As of this month, I will no longer be taking coursework and will be fully focusing my academic time on my dissertation proposal and research.  The Arlington Campus Library has established a Dissertation Writers’ Room and I was fortunate enough to obtain a slot.  Great news!  This means I will be able to work in a dedicated space and plan to use the time I was attending class to work through my proposal and research.

I plan to be ready for my defense in April as long as all goes well.  As I’ve mentioned before, I will need to recruit another committee member as one dropped out.  I have some ideas I will be pursuing after the next semester begins.

As for my progress, slow and steady is still progress.  After working on my question for the better part of last semester, I think I’m “there”, I just need to polish it, place it in the literature, justify it, and determine what I want to generalize it to.  Oh yeah, and write a 40-ish page paper and PowerPoint presentation to capture it all.  I’ve got my work cut out for me – back to the grindstone!

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 …

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.