Friday, February 9, 2007

Irons in the fire

I have a date! I'll be defending my dissertation proposal on Feb. 28th. At our institution, this is not a make-or-break moment, but more of a discussion that is (usually) pretty collegial. It's an important moment, but not as stressful as comprehensive exams or dissertation defenses. I'll email my proposal to the committee on Feb 18th. I think I'm ready for it; my friends who have been through it tell me I'm ready for it. I hope they're right. I have a bit of work to do on it before the 18th-- filling in gaps ("QUOTE HERE" and my favorite note-to-myself: "MAKE THIS BETTER"). Nothing too stressful, though.

Today I'm working on a proposal for a summer fellowship. All TAs are eligible to apply-- propose a project and perhaps get awarded $3000 to do it-- pretty sweet deal. I'm having a hard time describing my project (essentially the lit review for my diss) in 4 pages for a multidisciplinary audience. I can't just roll out the composition big guns and show how my project fills a gap-- b/c the committee doesn't care about comp big guns.

One thing that is helping is mind-mapping-- I'm using right now. I found it through Collin Vs. Blog, but I've been thinking about it for a while-- ever since Billie raved about it. It's not coming easily-- it's been a long time since I've tried to visualize my work in this way. I'm trying it out with this small project to see if it'll be useful for my diss project. If you have any insights or suggestions about mind mapping, I'd love to hear them.


Suzanne said...

First, of all, congrats on having a date set for your proposal defense! Every milestone is important.

As for the summer project with the multidisciplinary review panel, my advisor is always telling me not to say that my work fills a gap, or has never been done before. Folks unfamiliar with the field think, well, why hasn't anyone worked on this before? Maybe there's no material. Maybe it's not interesting, they might think.

So, if you can give your work a more positive spin--based on thus-and-such's work, I want to extend such's analysis--that's a strategy for outside readers. You can pull out the big guns if you can clearly show how your work is in conversation with other work in your field.

The mind-mapping stuff is really neat. I'm a very verbal thinker, though, and those pictures (Billie, your lit review is really something!) are pretty overwhelming for me. But if I ever have students again, those are great tools to have in the box.

Meagan said...

Ooh-- I hadn't thought about the "filling the gap" argument being interpreted as "there's no need to fill it"! I've got a bit of that in my proposal. Thanks for the thoughts.

I'm still playing with the mindmapping-- it was helpful once I got the hang of the software, but I really can't imagine mapping a whole chapter in it. We'll see.