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 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.

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.


Hitting The Wall

Looking back at my PhD pursuit so far, it seems like I’ve been a student forever.  The end of this semester marks 2 1/2 years here at the School of Public Policy and 3 years at George Mason.  (I studied at the Institute of Conflict Analysis and Resolution for a semester.)  It’s not a long time in the grand scheme, but retrospect has made it seem that way.  It has been both rewarding and challenging thus far with all the accompanying peaks and valleys.  Academically, this semester hasn’t been any more challenging: the courses are interesting.  But for some reason, maintaining motivation is becoming more difficult.  I liken the whole process to running a marathon and I think I’ve hit “the wall” or at least “a wall”.  In marathon running, “the wall” is a phenomenon runners experience around mile 20 when their bodies begin to react to prolonged exercise.  They have used up their available energy and it takes a concerted effort to finish the final 6.2 miles.

I’m finding the transition from coursework to field statement is my “wall”.  While I enjoy coursework, It’s time for me to move beyond it and focus as much as possible on field statement/proposal/defense work.  This is good because as of the end of this semester, I’ve fulfilled all my coursework requirements.  In this program, PhD students write a field statement in preparation for the field exam.  This exam is proctored by the field committee: a panel of (usually) three faculty members who then become the dissertation committee.  The PhD student works to put together the committee of faculty members who have interest/expertise in at least one aspect of the student’s fields.

I’m ready to push into this phase of the program once this semester ends.  In the Spring, I will be taking 1 or 2 directed reading courses as an aid to prepare for the field statement and exam.  My challenge is, however, that I am still working to put my committee together.   I’m very happy with my committee chair, but have not been as successful at identifying the other two committee members. If you’ve been following my posts over the years, you’ll probably remember that at various points along my path, I’ve thought I had my committee finalized only to realize later that perhaps a different mix would be more appropriate (for one reason or another).  Now it is getting to crunch time and in order to move forward with the field statement and exam, I will need to quickly assemble my committee.

This is my “wall”.  I’ll let you know how things go.

No Plan Survives First Contact …

As I look back on my most recent post, I note to myself just how aggressive the plan I laid out 2 months ago really was.  Although I’m theoretically working only 20 hours a week and am theoretically able to dedicate the rest of my time to my studies, the theoretical and the actual don’t always match.  I’ve “donated” a lot of extra time to my employer over the past two months and I’m struggling to figure out how I can more efficiently organize my time.  As a result, I’m nowhere near as far as I’d like to be on my field of study plan, and will need to be more creative going forward.  After speaking with a classmate, I learned a couple of important pieces of information I will need to work into my plan.

What did I learn?  After completing all required courses (both core and elective), PhD students need only 6 credit hours to remain full-time.  Awesome!  I have carried 9-11 credit hours every semester since I started the program and, after this semester ends, I have completed all required courses.  Great news!  I also learned that I may be able to take those 6 credit hours as directed readings since I’ve not taken any directed readings yet.  A directed reading is an individualized course put together by agreement between the student and a professor with a syllabus and agreed-upon deliverable(s).  So, the combination of a reduced hours requirement and ability to take directed readings should definitely help.  I will be checking with the university staff to make sure everything works, but things are looking up.

Back to my plan … given the slow progress this semester, here is my updated plan:

201211 – 201304 – Write Field Statement / Finalize Field Committee / Finish Coursework (including directed readings)
201304 – 201305 – Finish Field Statement / Obtain Final Concurrence from Committee
201305 – 201305 – Take Field Exam
201306 – 201307 – Propose Dissertation
201308 – 201403 – Write Dissertation
201404 – 201405 – Defend Dissertation

We’ll see how well this plan survives … 🙂

Year 3, Week 1 – Complete

I posted early last week about how the summer months flew by and how I found myself back in class without having posted much in the intervening time about where things stand or where I’m headed this semester.  The first week of the semester is now complete and it’s (past) time to update you on what courses I’m taking.

So without further ado, here’s the list:
1) PUBP 705 – Advanced Statistical Methods for Policy Analysis
2) PUBP 820 – Technology, Science, and Innovation: Institutions and Governance
3) PUBP 880 – Doctoral Seminar in Global and International Public Policy

This is a great lineup of courses and I think they fit very well into my planned way forward.  I need to spend a little more time on my Field of Study Plan to define the lenses through which I will be analyzing nuclear nonproliferation policy in both my fields and my dissertation.  I think these courses will help me flesh out those areas in order to then define my fields.

While I am on the topic of fields, let me take a moment to provide a rough schedule for the next two years. As I was preparing this schedule, I took into account where I am in the program today and the fact that I must continue to take coursework until I have passed my field exam.

201209 – 201212 – Write Field Statement / Finalize Field Committee / Take Coursework
201301 – 201302 – Finish Field Statement / Obtain Final Concurrence from Committee
201303 – 201304 – Take Field Exam
201305 – 201306 – Propose Dissertation
201307 – 201402 – Write Dissertation
201403 – 201404 – Defend Dissertation

The schedule is in rough draft form right now.  It will change some here and there, and I will add more detail as time progresses.  I will also need to run my dissertation through a prepublication review by my employer, so I will need to build that in to the process.  As I am writing and submitting chapters to my committee, I will be able to submit them for prepublication review at the same time.  As the schedule is built right now, I will also need to take coursework next semester (as a result of not having completed my field exam before the semester begins).  Because I will have met all the coursework requirements, however, I may be able to take only two courses instead of three.

Well, that’s all for this update – stay tuned for future updates (which should be more frequent now that the semester has begun).