July 30, 2005
The *New* Dissertations
I just got back from a quick trip to Madison, WI, to take in a very small segment of the 14th World Congress of Applied Linguistics. It was definitely intellectually invigorating, and I'm coming home wanting to read more theory, which is always a good thing, I think.
One of the most interesting presentations I attended was done by a woman who teaches a dissertation writing class at a university in New South Wales, Australia. She looked at recent sociology and history dissertations completed by new PhDs at her university to see how dissertations might be changing. She described the sort of APA style dissertation (Introduction, Lit Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion/Conclusion) as a Traditional dissertation, and she found that of the 20 they looked at, few followed this format. Most used what she called a modified traditional, meaning that they generally followed the format, but made modifications, most significantly (and not surprisingly), interjecting their own reflexive sense of self into the text (this includes using the first person pronoun, but she also made clear that every use of the first person pronoun is not reflexive). Some dissertations used unusual fonts, including colors. Others had different chapter breaks, and some even included personal reflections in every chapter.
The presenter talked about the risks involved in doing a *new* dissertation--that one's advisor must obviously be in support of such a writing style, and also, it was hard for some to find a committee that was also supportive. I think this issue of support is critical. My MA thesis was much more along the lines of being personal and reflexive, but with my current committee, I'm having a hard time imagining how that would work. On the other hand, maybe I'm not giving them enough credit? We'll certainly see, as I'm bound to bring myself into the text more as the process gets underway.
An interesting point of note from this presentation also was that she told us the most common theorists referenced in the dissertations she examined. Who were these theorists, you wonder? Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, and Guattari. It would be interesting, I think, to examine this question on a much larger scale, given that this list was generated from only 20 dissertations completed at one university in Australia.
Who are your top five theorists? Feel free to post them in the comments section. Stay tuned for another posting when I'll reveal my top five.
July 18, 2005
Dual (or more) goals
Recently, I have been contemplating the fact that I'm nearing the home stretch of a lifelong goal of getting a Ph.D. I realize that I still have the dissertation to accomplish, and that many, many Ph.D students never finish the dissertation. I will NOT be one of those students! I have my experience from my Master's thesis to remind me that it can be done. Here's how it went back then:
I got this great idea for a qualitative study, collected way, way too much data, and then, decided it was time to start a family. No one told me that the first trimester of pregnancy can bring unfathomable exhaustion! I spent much of that time, especially the time before the test came back positive, wondering if I was narcaleptic. I had visions of nurturing my pregnant self by channeling my energy into finishing my thesis, but alas, after the exhaustion ended, a bacterial infection set in. I spent 9 months wishing I had written my data analysis. Around the 8th month or so, I settled into reading short essays by Gloria Anzaldua and daydreaming about how when the baby was born, I would spend countless hours at the computer, typing away, with one hand rocking the babe in his cradle. I'm sure by now you realize that never happened either. No, in fact, our lovely child entered the world, after a long and hellish labor that I won't describe here (but for the really curious, I've included it in the Extended Entry below), and we discovered that he had a condition that required immediate medical attention: he was born without a butt hole. Naturally, no one at the hospital he was born at could give him one, so he was sent across town, to another hospital. It turns out he had to have a colostomy for the first 8 months of life, and with it, countless extra medical visits, etc. When Jurgen was resting peacefully in his little hospital bed after the final surgery, I received official word that I was coming to Minnesota for the doctoral program. So much for the happy, ideal family we had imagined. (Before I continue, though, I want to add that at this point, and even then, really, we wouldn't want it any other way. Jurgen is such a constant source of joy and surprise for us, and we definitely appreciate the struggle we've all gone through together.) Getting the thesis done required more effort than I expected, and Jurgen was actually one before it was approved and turned in.
So, I know it can be done. And, I will do it again, even though right now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by the little details of General College transitions, preparing to teach in the fall, and articles I'm churning out for publication.
As I contemplate this life transition of being ABD, I've decided to add a new life goal to the list, and that is to walk a marathon. If you know me personally, you can imagine this is a big deal because for the past several years, I think I've nurtured my mind a little more than my body. However, inspired by Oil Is For Sissies and Pema Chodron, I've started walking. And I don't plan to quit until I reach the finish line of the 2007 Portland Marathon.
The labor? It was everything it shouldn't have been--induced, too long (56 hours!), 3 hours of pushing, and then a c-section, no less. Just enough progress all the way through to keep going, but not enough to make much difference. I think in many ways, it was the medical model at its worst.
What's your favorite season in the cities?
It seems like I've spent all summer complaining about how hot it is here! Yet, we all know winter is around the corner, and then I can complain about cold temperatures and people who don't know how to drive on snowy roads. If only fall and spring were longer! It's probably why I miss Portland so much--the seasons there are primarily fall and spring.
Anyway, what's your favorite season in the cities? Let me know!
July 15, 2005
Coming into my own geekness
As tempting as it would be to complain yet again about how hot it is in Minneapolis these days, I won't. Someone pointed out to me recently that I should really change the name of the blog to reflect that it's hot outside (although winter is not far behind). However, my answer to that is that the title is meant as a metaphor, not a statement of fact.
Anyway, I haven't updated this blog much lately, and I wish I could say it was because I have been working so hard on the next stage of my dissertation process. Alas, that is not the case. In fact, I've hardly even thought about my dissertation the last couple weeks.
If I haven't been shuffling my child from Spanish class to his childcare center (yes, he's almost 4 and taking Spanish--he told us he wants to be bilingual, so we HAD to do something), I'm busy working this summer. It's fun work--check out the blog that is the ongoing result of my efforts. I've also been learning a few things about web design as part of the process. The web has been demystified, as John, my web tutor, tells me. And Shane has officially welcomed me into the world of geeks! I've arrived! I think I'm going to run out of excuses for not getting to my dissertation...