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.


Meagan said...

Hi Mary Beth! It's nice to see a fellow NE Ohioan-- I'm currently at U of New Hampshire, but I grew up in Stow and did my MA at U of Akron-- I'm sure we've traveled many of the same roads. Ah, I'm getting nostalgic for Ohio.

Anyway, good for you for taking on an ambitious project-- I admire your hutzpah (sp?). The only suggestion I have for you is to consider narrowing your project-- looking over your chapters, it seems like you might be able to cut one or two (put them on the backburner for future projects) and still have plenty of material to work with to generate a diss.

I just-- yesterday, in fact-- finished revising my prospectus. It's finally done! I'd be happy to email it to you if you'd like to see what one looks like, though I certainly don't claim it's definitive. I'm doing a small-scale focus group study of first year writing students-- empirical, qualitative. If you think it would be helpful to see it, let me know-- meagan {dot} rodgers {at} gmail {dot} com.

Good luck and happy writing!

chris said...

mary beth, welcome!

you project sounds AWESOME! i love it. i'm doing something somewhat similar (you can check it out over at ( my place - i have a diss prospectus abstract posted over there; actually, it's cross-posted here on diss-bootcamp as well).

anyway, as for your IRB and a rough draft of your prospectus, i think you can totally have that shit completed in 12 days! i know it's the end of semester and there's 9 million things going on, but if you've been thinking about your project for a while, then you know what lit you're likely to cite. so you can throw together a bib no prob. if you're gonna be using human subjects for a qualitative r-s project, so long as you have a really good idea about what your GTQ is going to be, you should likewise be okay.

you're not crazy! if you can manage to be a crazy person for 5 or 6 out of the next 12 days i think you can do this no prob.

my bet, though, is that the major obstacle isn't going to be whether or not you can complete the work, but whether you can get your peeps to sign off on your rough prospectus. i think that if you communicate to them the fact that you can get some free money/support so long as they agree to signing off on a rough prospectus that they'll be a lil more lenient... maybe.

however, the diss is kind of a big deal, so don't paint yourself into a corner just for the sake of getting a cool fellowship. you're gonna have to live with this mug for more than the next year or two while your researching it.

sounds to me, though, that you have a decent sense of what you wnat your project to be. you can hammer out some more details as you go along - all Dewey-like (you konw, experiential learning or something). you have my support!! good luck. let us know how it progresses.

btw, even though my chair is slacking with getting back to me about my prospectus, if you want to see my IRB and my proposal you can hit me up at cdrew1 at yahoo dot com

mary beth said...

Thanks so much for your support! Last night I had a mini panic attack, and nearly resolved to have myself commited. Today, reading your comments, I'm back on the trail. I'm hoping to have a "shitty first draft" by the end of the day. Fingers crossed that the weather stays rotten in Ohio so I won't feel tempted to go outside.

Abby said...

Hey, you said "invitational rhetoric"! So cool! I'm working on invitational rhetoric and most people have NO idea what I'm talking about.

Enough about me. More about you: you'll be fine. The dissertation will change as you get into it, so propose what you think you want to do and then be open to change. Your committee certainly will.

As for the fellowship, no harm in trying. You can absolutely put that together.

Sounds like your project is way cool. I'm doing (apparently it WASN'T enough about me) feminist rhetorical theory in the college writing classroom and am looking at invitational rhetoric, rhetorical listening, and embodied rhetoric. Maybe we should back channel. I'm at abbyknoblauch {at} gmail {dot} com.

Billie said...

Hi, Mary Beth, and welcome to DBC! Like the others have stated, your project sounds really interesting, and I look forward to learning more about it.

The fellowship, too, is something to just go for. All they can do is just say "no, thanks." There are worse things. :-)

Let's us know how it all works out.

Suzanne said...

Welcome, Mary Beth! Good luck with the prospectus.

(and I've also spent some time in NE Ohio--I did my undergrad at Oberlin.)