Friday, December 01, 2006

The beginning of the end

I've done it. Submitted the first draft of my first pre-candidacy paper. It's a little unnerving actually, and I'm not actually sure how good a job it is. I keep telling myself that it's only a first draft, but there was a sense of inevitability as I hit the "Send" button this morning when I emailed the draft to my committee. This first paper is meant to exhibit my ability to do original research, which means I had to "showcase" all the research methods I've acquired. I basically augmented my conference paper from last year and pulled out all the stops in terms of whatever quantitative skills I have. On some self-flagellating level, I guess I do enjoy crunching the numbers and pouring through reams of data, but it's not something I anticipate doing for life.

So a couple of weeks ago, I made a potentially momentous decision with regards to what I might be doing for my dissertation. I kinda have to take that step soon since my second pre-candidacy paper- which I'm writing in the Winter- is supposed to be the lit review for the thesis. Typically, doctoral students in my position use the research they're doing for their professors as data for their dissertations, but I'm in sort of a unique situation. The professor I work for isn't my adviser, so technically, I don't have to use her data. Besides, as much as I enjoy working with Sesame Street, writing curriculum, and all those things associated with early literacy instruction, I don't quite see it as my life's work. Jude and I were talking to Eric the other day about what kind of research we want to do, and I came to the conclusion that I want to write a dissertation that is rich and generative of later work, not just something which "shows" that I can run multilevel regression models. It has to be work I can stand by with conviction and say is mine. One of my friends who defended her dissertation last year talked about how she couldn't wait to wake up in the morning everyday to write her thesis because it was something that really inspired her and that she felt passionate about. I want the process to be like that for me- if I'm going to commit the next three years of my life to one single topic, it had better be one that I can really dig into and explore, break apart, put together, basically get my hands dirty so to speak and really grow intellectually from.

Rachael shared these wise words with me over lunch a couple of weeks ago, that as an academic or a scholar, you may not get paid as much as let's say lawyers or doctors, but your work belongs to you. It's your research and your ideas- you may be accountable to your professor or your dean, but ultimately, what you create is yours. Sorta like an artisan- ok, I might be romanticizing it a little, but you get the point. Anyways, it was truly quite heartening to hear what she said, and also made me think really long and hard about what I want to do.

So like I said, I think I've made my decision. I'm not sure if I'll regret it or if I might change my mind in a couple of months, but for now, I'm incredibly excited :)

Dissertation research

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