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!

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,300 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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!

The PhD Balancing Act

Over the summer, I was asked to write an article for SPP Currents – the online publication about life at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy.  Well – today, it was published!  Woohoo!

I’ve cross-posted the link here: Finding Balance | SPP Currents.  Read it over and let me know what you think in the comments section below.

How do you find balance in your PhD experience?

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.