Thursday, April 26, 2007

How much does this suck?

Yeah, I've got bronchitis. And maybe strep throat. And apparently my Dr. is worried that it could turn into pneumonia so I'm on some hard-core meds that are really doing a number on my stomach.

The upside is the cough syrup with codeine that I got today. Hooray Codeine! (you should hear the Hooray Beer! commercials there).

So yeah, this sucks. In the grand scheme, it could certainly suck worse, but still.

I finally got my students' issue analyses back to them and have to get to their rewrites soon. Classes end here on May 7th and I get final projects and more rewrites (yipee) on the 9th. I'm hoping to have everything graded by that Friday (11th). Then it's on to the collection of student writing that I edit. That'll be done by mid June. Then, THEN, I can get back to diss land. The sort of cool thing is that I've got this (massive -- that's less cool) stack of books that I'm actually excited to read.

So that's the ups on me. Hope all y'all are healthy and productive.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Omigosh, I can't believe that I'm trying to do this (dissertate)

Hello, All. I found DBC this afternoon as I cast about the internet desperately looking for examples of dissertation prospectuses. And, am I glad to find you all.

I am a PhD candidate (I defended my orals April 16) in Kent State University's Literacy, Rhetoric, and Social Practice program, and I recently moved from my gig as a teaching fellow, and went to work at the university's Faculty Professional Development Center as a technology specialist and program developer for professional development. More importantly, I am married to a wonderful and supportive man, who is a poet teaching Creative Writing at Kent. We have three kids: a 16 year old mutt, 8 year old Boston Terrier, and 8 month old black and white cat.

I just learned of an incredible opportunity terriying prospect in my program. My program will begin awarding a new fellowship that is eligible to grads on appointment where the recipient receives a paid release from all departmental commitments for a semester plus a small research stipend. I was misinformed of the deadline, grovelled and begged to get a small extension, and was granted an extension of having all materials submitted by May 8. The problem: I need to have my dissertation proposal accepted and filed, have all IRB info filed, and some other stuff. The thing is that I only started working on my dissertation research question formally yesterday (well, as formal as scrawling some stuff on an envelope between meetings). Now, I'm scared to death, and most of my committee is out of town. The real problem is that I hadn't planned to write the prospectus until the summer break. So, I need to write the thing, and get the draft off to my chair by Friday, meet with her to discuss, revise, meet with the entire committee, revise, and then submit it (with all the signatures and IRB info) by in the next 12 days.

Am I crazy? Maybe, but there's only one other person who is eligible to apply for the fellowship this year, and next year, there'll be many, many more. I'd really like to get this done, and even if I don't win the fellowship, I'd still be ahead of the game. That's my story anyway.

My research is interested in convergences in multimodal theory and classical rhetoric, and I typically study the ways people communicate multimodally in non-academic contexts. I study research methodologies, feminist epistemologies, and composing in lifeworlds. Like that means anything. To give you an idea about my dissertation ideas, I'll transpose the text from the envelope.

My tentative title is: "What's old is new: Uniting new media and multimodal discourse with ancient rhetoric." My research question is: "What is the relationship between the communicative mode of gesture and ways of knowing (particularly embodied knowledge), and how do we express it in classical rhetorical terms?" And in no particular order, here are the very general chapters I envision where I study the ways gesture is used:

  • intersections of visual rhetoric and ancient rhetoric in public places--analyzing a sign from NYC buses,
  • ways that avatars are used in an online community to build ethos and identity,
  • representations of women's issues in 2 contemporary graphic novels written by women
  • relationship between gesture, embodied knowledge and hypertext, studying an online "cyber patient,"
  • a study of civic space and invitational rhetoric in a neighborhood's gallery/park and the online site that accompanies it, and
  • in the conclusion, reflections on the implications of multimodality and ways of knowing on faculty development and learning, and pedagogy.

Gees, I do sound insane. If anyone has any suggestions, comments, observations, remarks, or miscellaneous personal abuse you'd like to share, please do. I may be in need of some tough love.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Any New Boot Campers Out There?

Occasionally, I'll post a message that will invite dissertating lurkers to join in dissertation boot camp for real. This is one of those messages.

Please delurk and join us!

All you have to do is send me an email, and I'll send you an invitation to join. It's that simple. That way, you can comment to all the wonderful posts you find here, but you can also post and we'll give you feedback and encouragement.

If you want to join DBC, please send an email to: partsnpieces [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Not back to writing

Here's a long-delayed update on my dissertation life:

I'm a month behind on my writing, and for now I have no interest in returning to it.

I've been in my hometown, dealing with a family emergency, and now that I'm back I'm still feeling shellshocked and not capable of much except reading YA novels and hanging out with my cat.

My advisor has been supportive, but I haven't met with her yet to set a new schedule. My defense date was to be in early June, but now, what with academic summer travelers, I don't think I'll be able to get all 5 committee members in a room until right before the fall semester. Probably it will be best if I can just get a draft done and send it to readers, as long as I get the thing out of my hands. My dissertation support group IRL says I should try to do little things, like my illustrations, just to keep my hand in. I'm also still planning on walking in Commencement in May.

Strangely or serendipitiously, potential jobs have decided that this would be the best time to call me for interviews. This is exciting, since the folks that called are from two jobs that would be perfect for me, but I'm having a hard time getting pepped up about it, and I'm not sure how well I acquitted myself on the interview this week. Maybe some time in the sun this weekend will help me prepare for the one on Monday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

dissertation prospectus, baby!

ahh … a first draft of my prospectus is off! i’m not going to make it out like it was a grueling ordeal b/c, really, i’ve been composing this project for a while. in terms of hours at the keyboard – i’d say that altogether it wasn’t anything more than four dedicated hours. in fact, one of the things i’ve noticed about writing for my dissertation is that the text comes relatively easily. in part this is b/c of how much this research is “mine” and in part b/c i have quite a few notes that i’ve been taking from/about various texts for a year or two now. io, depending on how you calculate “hours at the board,” i’ve either been composing for four hours or two+ years…

below is a first draft of the abstract. the research question, the question that will guide data collection is: “How do student-athletes think about and enact literacy?”

next: onto IRBing

My dissertation will explore the reading and composing of a select group of male student-athletes at a Division II liberal arts university in the South via ethnography with the intent of gaining insights into the role of the body in acts and practices of literacy in both mind-dominant and body-dominant domains of learning/performing. The research question guiding my observations, interviews and other data collection is: How do student-athletes think about and enact literacy?

Chapter 1 of the dissertation will establish a framework for the larger study by providing a review of relevant Comp/Rhet and Literacy Studies research. While there exists an extensive amount of literature on the relationship between reading/composing and the effects of experiences based on embodiment and embodied identities, there is comparatively little on the role of the moving, “motor” body in reading/composing. This chapter will explicate this sliver of literature.

Chapter 2 will be an explication of the qualitative research methods of the study and will provide details of the (anonymous) subjects and settings from which the data will be collected.

Chapter 3 will “write up” the edited and synthesized data that will have been collected and coded. In short, this chapter will report the processed data.

Chapter 4 will be an analysis of the data.

The final chapter will consist primarily of a discussion of the data analysis and the implications. This chapter will situate the study and the findings in relationship to research and ongoing discussions in Comp/Rhet and Literacy studies literature.

cross-posted at Wind Farm

Monday, April 16, 2007


I'm in Boston right now staying with a few friends as my husband gets ready to run the marathon (which starts in about a half an hour). The weather, by the way, is AWFUL.

But that's not the point -- the point is that we're staying with a friend from grad school and had dinner with two other friends from grad school as well as a few non-grad school friends ALL of whom keep asking about my dissertation. It's frustrating not to be able to tell them much. I'm stalled in grading and grading and, well, grading and probably won't be able to really get back on track anytime soon. That's frustrating. But I might try to write another twenty pages by the end of the month. I want to start writing about the similarities and differences between Rogerian argument and invitational rhetoric. I need to figure out, too, if Rogerian argument could be considered a feminist rhetoric. I'm not sure yet. So it's stuff I'm interested in, but I don't have enough time. Or I'm not using the time that I have productively. The latter is more likely (and more like me). The first priority, though, is grading my students issue analyses. And I'm guessing grading and the collection of student work that I edit will take up most of my time until mid-June.

Better email my chair and let her know that the odds of this chapter getting done by the end of April are, well, not so good.

But, to switch over to a positive note, I'm still excited about my work and am sort of freakishly excited about having the summer and next year just to write (and apply for jobs). Such a dork.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

You Guys Will Be Famous!

Hello, everyone. I'm back from Houston and the IWCA (Int'l Writing Center Association) Conference. All went well, and my talk was well received. While I didn't mention any of you by full name (first name, yes), I did share a few of your comments during my talk about dissertation writing groups. There was a lot of head-nodding when I talked about our desire for our work to "brilliant" and how that desire can push us to an inability to produce. I spoke about one of our member's "writing process" and how that allowed us all to reexamine our own processes. I even included a snippet of one member submitting a 28-page section of work to her advisor and we could all chime in with a, "you go, girl!"

A bit of good news, I think: One woman-- a dean at a SMLAC-- mentioned that I should polish the "talk" and publish it, that it was something other dissertators would need to know. This from a woman who has published scads and scads o' stuff. I wouldn't know where to begin with a publication endeavor, but anyway, that was fun news to hear.

But as far as *my* dissertation progress: I have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with my director, and I will give him three sections of information (info not yet formed into chapters). One is a narrative about a specific student athlete and his/her writing experiences in my class and how this particular student was very effective at storytelling (and how that plays a part in this student's culture). Another section is the beginnings of a section on learned helplessness, and how this particular section of student athletes can exhibit LH tendencies. Lastly, I'll give him the beginnings of a section on teaching / coaching and how these activities overlap. (Here, I think, Chris and I have overlapping ideas.)

My director doesn't specifically want to see sections of work; he wants to see me moving forward with the writing. So . . . move forward I will.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I just dropped off my revised IRB proposal at the Office of Sponsored Research.

I've made a good bit of progress on my diss proposal revisions and have made a few small but important methodological changes that will make my project much better, I think.

I went to Barnes & Noble last night and bought Getting Things Done. I've seen it mentioned in a few places (A Delicate Boy, CultureCat, 43folders), so I've decided to check it out for myself. Anyone here have experience with it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I'm Sorry!

I'm bad. Very, very bad. But I'm writing, and it looks like an early May defense is possible.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Blogger Meet Up: Houston?

Any bloggers living in Houston? I'll be in Houston later this week for the IWCA conference, and I'll be speaking on Dissertation Writing Groups. Dissertation Boot Camp will probably be a small part of the conversation. Anyway, anyone ready for a blogger meet up? Send an email, or leave a note in comments below.

Cross posted at PnP.

For you guys: would you mind if I talked about you and your process of dissertating with this group? Of course, I would not name you, but I would talk about you in a general sense, about the community that's being formed here, how the work of the dissertation is isolating, but this forum helps us stay connected?

Crazy week

I've a crazy week this week -- 4 meetings tomorrow alone. Geez. That includes two student conferences, but still. So the odds of me working on my dissertation chapter aren't very good. The goal, then, is to get at least 10 issue analysis essays graded. They're relatively long, research-based, sort of intense essays, so they tend to take a lot of time.

I hope others are making better progress on their diss-related goals than I am. The summer, though. Oh the summer. I have grand writing plans. : )

Sunday, April 8, 2007

How I work

I've been frustrated with myself in recent weeks because I haven't been getting as much work done as I'd like. In talking through this with a few friends, I've been able to see my own writing process with a clarity that I haven't had before.

Present business
There are two major writing projects right now. One is revising my dissertation proposal and the other is revising my IRB proposal. The projects are obviously interrelated-- what gets changed in one must be reflected in the other, thought the IRB proposal is much less detailed.

In the IRB proposal, I have one question left to address: how to ethically and responsibly recruit participants. My study is on whiteness and the Discourse (Gee!) that white students use when race is a topic in the writing classroom. I am setting up two focus groups of 4-6 white students. Given my research interest for this project, and the population of students with which I am working (predominantly white), I need to restrict the participants in that way. But I recognize that this move is discriminatory. I've talked with two of my mentors, and I'm meeting with one of the IRB members next week to get another perspective on how to work this situation. I have ideas, but it's not settled yet.

The recruiting question also factors into the revised proposal. The other significant concern with the proposal has been creating a straighter and stronger line from the conversation in composition to my research questions to my method. I have already established my project more firmly in existing scholarship, and I've refined my explanation of my method so that I show how the method will provide information that is new and needed. Revising the research questions has been far more trouble than I anticipated, however. It's been hard for me to conceive of how precise the questions need to be.

Getting back to work
I've been dancing with, around, and through these problems for a few weeks now.

When I've got a chunk of free time to devote to work, I start by addressing one of my known concerns head-on. After rereading what I've already said, sometimes I know exactly where I need jump in and add, delete, or revise.

Sometimes, I don't. In those moments, I shift to indirect work. I'll pull out an article or book that is related to the direct concern. I'll read and take notes, but it's not with the aggressive purpose of answering the immediate question. It's more like letting the roast simmer in the crock pot while folding the laundry. It's useful, it helps in the long run, but neatly folded t-shirts don't make the roast taste any different.

Sometimes that tangent will lead me back to the more immediate concern. If it doesn't I will continue to work around what needs to be done-- more reading, freewriting, rereading. I may also switch gears and grade or plan for class-- because there's always work there to be done. Again, I'm being productive, but it's not directly helping me answer the biggest questions.

My process is unreliable, though, in that I don't know how much working around it will take before I'm ready to address the direct issue. I'm still in the middle of working around these questions I described above, and I've had to do more working around than I usually do. I'm anxious to answer my questions.

- - -
(Today's indirect work is this blog post-- it's not helping me rewrite my research questions or describe my participant selection, but it does help me recognize my own tendencies.)

Cross-posted at Intent/Effect.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Final Countdown

Who was it that sang that awful song from the 80s anyway? Was it Asia? I can just hear that synthesizer!

So, yes, eight days until my dissertation must be in the mail. Last night, I wrote the conclusion, which means I now have a complete dissertation that just needs some good, solid revising, editing, and formatting before it can be on its way. That was a very good feeling. But then I woke up this morning and realized I had to get all that good, solid revising, editing, and formatting done in just over a week. Then I felt sad.

But it's definitely within the realm of doableness. And so I will do it.