Tag Archives: prospectus

Prospectus Success!

It has been over a month since I’ve written on this blog, and thanks to some higher power/luck, I BECAME A PhD CANDIDATE ON WEDNESDAY, APRIL 27TH!

But you might ask: What happened with your prospectus/dissertation proposal, that thing you spent so many weeks agonizing over? Well, to be honest, I got caught up in the day-to-day rush that always happens at the end of the semester and I took a break from my prospectus after submitting it to my committee for review.  Although the prospectus meeting is collaborative, it’s mainly a space for my committee to debate the viability of my project–and after I submitted my prospectus, I felt like I had no control over it. No ownership, even. Like all of my best work thus far, I knew it was going to be sort of co-authored! So I took a step back. My partner and I rejoined the YMCA. I watched Netflix and Hulu at night after work. I spent too many hours responding to those “I’m in a crisis”-end-of-semester emails. I hosted a huge Passover seder, ate dinner at my favorite restaurants, and planned some short vacations for the summer. I met with students, attended follow-up meetings for the interdisciplinary study I am working on, and went to trivia night with friends. I played with my cat, who is now more spoiled than ever and is demanding pets and trying to drink my tea as I type this. I didn’t return to my prospectus until the night before my prospectus defense…which was probably a bad idea, but I couldn’t bring myself to critique it again. I figured it would change a lot at the meeting, so it wouldn’t be helpful for me to overthink it instead of sleeping that night.

At the 1.5 hour meeting, my prospectus did change…but not as much as I expected. Going into the meeting, I was sure that my prospectus was a mess. Even though both of my advisers had read and commented on multiple drafts, I still felt unprepared. I was sure my committee would tear my revised prospectus apart and then stitch it back together. This happened with my first and second chapters, which I’m now going to combine…but my other chapters stayed somewhat the same. It turns out that my committee was not particularly compelled by my traditional rhetorical analysis chapter, in which I planned to examine scientific literature reviews to show how scientific knowledge about Lyme Disease (including naming) is constructed. At my oral exam/defense, my committee was worried that my project sounded too social science-y and not obviously rhetorical enough. However, at this meeting, the committee was excited by my use of innovative, interdisciplinary methods and encouraged me to keep them in the project. (Re: VISUAL ETHNOGRAPHY is here to stay!)

At the defense, one of the questions that my committee kept asking was, “What is this really about? Is this a dissertation about rhetoric? Lyme Disease? Illness identities? In what order do these things happen?” My one co-adviser has advocated that I make the book more about Lyme Disease, since the press that published her recent book about Autism told her that a text with a disease focus (vs. a rhetoric focus) would attract a larger audience. Her book is still about rhetoric, of course, but it forefronts Autism instead of rhetoric. After this meeting, it seems like my project is really about how health seekers construct illness identities, and that studying Lyme Disease communities is a case study of how that happens. I think.

There is still so much to panic about: How did I propose a dissertation with so many digital elements? What if the focus groups fail? How am I actually going to WRITE 200 pages that make sense? BUT, conveniently, I am giving myself a break for a week or two to focus on other tasks. Here’s the short list:

  1. Write and submit a seminar paper for my Communication class…which is due on Friday…and I haven’t written any words for it yet.
  2. Assist with WID training on 5/6.
  3. Assist with my TA class’s final exam conference on 5/6.
  4. Finish any final Writing Diabetes follow-up appointments (hopefully by 5/6).
  5. Help submit my group’s 4C17 proposal by 5/9.
  6. Write and submit a chapter (or something) for the RSA Embodied Rhetorics workshop I got into by 5/14. I was planning that this would be the same as my conference paper for COMM, but…???
  7. Finish revising, get feedback, and submit article accepted for the special issue of JMH to the editors by 6/1.

With that, I guess it’s time to start writing!

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Write now? Or wait for later?

As I continue working on the prospectus, I’ve been rustling up more and more ideas for future articles and book chapters. Some of the ideas are pretty good–probably better (and/or more exciting) than some of my planned dissertation chapters. So when do I work on these other things?

Timing is key. If I want to go on the academic job market in fall 2017 and graduate by April 2018, I need to have a peer-reviewed journal article in one of our field’s best journals in press by the time I begin applying for jobs. Since the blind-review, review-and-resubmit process is rather time consuming, I have the best chance of making this happen if I send out two articles for review in August 2016. But the question remains: Do I try to write one of my dissertation chapters and shorten it into an article? Do I try to write up one of these other ideas for publication? Or both?

This conundrum, then, begs the question: How long will I take to write each dissertation chapter, and when do I plan to finish the dissertation?

I am not great at writing during the semester except when it’s forced. (Perhaps this is also because I’ve been in 2 classes of my own each semester on top of working with the HHIVE team, teaching my own class, TAing, working at my on-campus job, etc. Not all at the same time, but I’ve done at least 2-3 of these things at once since I started teaching last year). I know I’ll need to cut down on these other activities–and that’s my plan–but can I expect to be productive while I’m still teaching? And when I really feel the economic pinch from not taking on extra jobs, will I be able to maintain my focus? In general, I try to set myself mid-semester deadlines toe force myself to write. For example, I applied to the RSA Research Network Forum (and got in!) because I wanted to push myself to finish at least one dissertation chapter or article-length version of the chapter before June. Will this stress me out? DEFINITELY. But I’m not sure it would get done otherwise. I worry that it wouldn’t get one otherwise.

I guess it would be a good time to make a timeline for how I might complete this work?

  • April 2016 – complete COMM771 seminar paper, which can hopefully be edited and sent to a peer-reviewed journal this summer
  • May – complete Journal of Medical Humanities article (due June 1st); write article/chapter #1 for RNF at RSA
  • June – write article/dissertation chapter #2
  • July – write separate but related article; finish article/dissertation chapter #2;
  • August – submit chapter #1 or #2 as well as separate article to peer-reviewed journal
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December – Chapter #3 due
  • January 2017
  • February
  • March
  • April – Chapter #4 due

Note: This will theoretically mean that I’ve completed the dissertation, but 

  • May – draft separate but related article
  • June – draft separate but related article
  • July – Job market materials…!!!!!

My challenge, of course, is that I have trouble writing until I have a clear plan about what I’m going to write about…and to complete the dissertation, I’ll probably have to write my way into it. But at least now I have a skeletal plan?

PS: Last night,  I got my first restful night of sleep in weeks! It’s amazing what low humidity can do for those of us with joint problems!


Ori, my gray striped kitty, stretched out and asleep. Her smiling kitty face is pressed up against my outstretched arm, and her little ams are crossed over mine, holding me captive and not allowing me to type quite as quickly. I’m glad that someone in our house gets restful sleep…

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Cutting and Pasting My Prospectus

So I survived my comprehensive exams. Or at least parts 1 and 2 of 3. In case you’re thinking about going to PhD school and need a reason not to, here’s a description of my exam process:

  • Part I: six 1-hour essay questions about rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies, my major field, 9:00am-4:00pm (which is supposed to allow you a 1-hour lunch break…which I clearly couldn’t take)
  • Part II: three 1-hour essay questions about health humanities, my minor field, 9:00am-12:00pm (I think–I guess it would be good to double check this since it’s happening this coming Tuesday)
  • Part III: 2-hour oral exam (two Fridays from now!)

The unspoken Part IV is the prospectus defense, which is really a meeting about your dissertation proposal and whether or not it’s feasible. (We call a dissertation proposal a “prospectus.” My partner Nick thinks this sounds very uppity, but I didn’t make it up, so…). As my dad said to me on the phone yesterday, earning a PhD isn’t supposed to be easy and that doing so requires critical thinking and answering difficult questions. But, as I replied, that doesn’t mean it’s not challenging!

IN ANY CASE, I am now (somewhat frantically) cutting and pasting pieces of my prospectus drafts in order to assemble a somewhat reasonable prospectus. This is what it currently looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 10.47.02 AM

The different colors represent different versions that I’ve written. You can see that I’ve even outlined the “new” organization scheme at the top…which is great but challenging since I’m working with at least three versions that are each in a different order… UGH. Today is a snow day, and I need to use it to my advantage, i.e. get a full draft together by THIS FRIDAY so that I can send it out to my co-directors for initial comments. I need to have printed-and-read-to-go copies for my entire committee by next Friday, 2/26, which is my oral exam meeting. (I guess I should also book a room for that…sigh).

**Okay, I booked the room now so I guess it’s time to get back to work.**

Anyway, back to the prospectus puzzle… stay warm!

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