Back on the Hamster Wheel

After vetting my proposal through another professor, there is still work to be done before my defense.  I’ll be back in the classroom next semester to remain continuously enrolled.  We’ll see where I am by mid-semester … stay tuned.

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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.

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!

Four Years

Four years ago this month, I started this blog as I looked forward to entering this journey that has become “My PhD Experience.”  It has been quite a ride and it’s still going!  I’m amazed it has been four years.  Sometimes, I look back and it seems like it was just yesterday I and my cohorts were starting this quest.  Other times, I look back and it is hard to conceptualize a time I wasn’t a PhD student.  To those who advised that the PhD is all-consuming, you were absolutely right!

Where am I in the whole process?  As with my previous update, I’m ‘still plugging along.’  I have spoken with two other professors and asked for their review of my dissertation proposal.  I received a lot of great feedback and I will be using it to shape my proposal.  The timeline is moving to the right a bit more and I will be taking my second directed reading this fall to remain continuously enrolled.  You see, I’ve used up my 6 hours of dissertation proposal credits and need a couple more months to finalize my dissertation proposal and defend.  So now I’m looking at the December 2014 timeframe to defend the proposal and advance to candidacy.

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!

Quick Update

The new semester has begun … this is number 8 … but it was difficult to tell.  This is the first semester of my PhD journey in which I have no classwork commitments – my focus is solely on my dissertation proposal defense.  I’ve been meeting with my chair every month and January was no different.  I’m still pushing to have my proposal defense completed by the end of the semester.  Tomorrow is the first day I’ll be using the spiffy new dissertation room in the Arlington library – woohoo!  (That’s as close to “shiny and new” this semester is bound to bring!)  Onward and upward!

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!