Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I think...

I think we do not spend enough time thinking.
I think we should all set aside some time, every day and try to calm our minds and think a little bit.
I think it really doesn't matter what we think about, just that we take the time to do it.
I think our minds are cluttered by a disarray of expectations, judgements, desires, internal and external competitions, and emotions...none of which are inherently bad for us. They all just seem to cloud our ability to think clearly and purposefully.
I think if we took the time to stand apart from the disarray and think objectively about ourselves, about others, about the world we construct and the world that has been constructed for us, we can understand it a little better.
What is Indy thinking about?
I think we can change if we want to.
I think changing begins with the desire to be different than we are.
I think the desire to be different than we are begins with thinking about who we are in relation to who we want to be.
I think that we don't have to change at all if we don't want to, but that we can't really know if we want to or not if we don't take the time to think about it.

What do you think?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Status Post Comps, Part 1

Five days, 47.5 hours and 50 pages later, I emerged from the office after sending off the answers to my comprehensive exams. What did I learn from that experience and what would I suggest? 

These are in no particular order...

1) I actually was prepared to answer most of the questions. I guess those past two years and a half of coursework and practica helped after all....

2) Sitting in one place with the only movement being your fingers typing and your eyeballs darting back and forth for 4-5 straight hours at a time causes horrible pain in your back, legs, hips, wrists, arms....well, pretty much your entire body, I guess. It's best to either transfer to a standing position for a few hours at a time, or take frequent breaks to walk around, do some stretching, and basically look away from the computer screen.

3) Google is your friend. It really, really is a repository for anything and everything for which you could possibly need to search. 'Nuff said.

4) Reference management software is also your friend, but only if you treat it nicely and give it some guidance. When I was compiling all of my references, I categorized them into different sections (e.g., measurement, theory, effects, study design). This came in super handy when I was looking for references on a specific topic. You don't necessarily have to put them in separate folders in the program (I use Zotero or EndNote). You can also tag them by putting a keyword in one of the reference fields (I like "Tags" in Zotero or "Notes" in EndNote). Then you can search specifically in that field for that term.

5) I actually feel more prepared to work on my dissertation after answering the questions my committee provided. They weren't questions that were designed to completely stump you and make you feel like and idiot. They were questions that were thoughtful, with no clear answer, for which you could provide evidence and make a solid argument. They were questions that challenged me to read beyond what I'm familiar with and synthesize the material into a cogent answer. They were questions that made me think about potential flaws and threats to validity for my study design and research plan. They were questions that were designed to make me think about what I was proposing to do and how I was proposing to do it. In a nutshell, they were questions that were essential to expanding my knowledge and making me a better researcher. 

6) Organization is key. I had 8 questions to answer in 5 days. I don't think I would have been able to do this without a little organization. Prior to the start of the exams, I had taken all of the articles that I thought would be pertinent and separated them out according to categories (similar to what I did with the citations). I had read through each and made a word document of notes in table and narrative format. I highlighted the key points of each article. I took those notes and placed them with each category of articles in little piles all over the room. Okay, so I had a stack of papers covering the floor. But I knew exactly what was in each stack and had summaries of the stacks. So, it was all organized my way. This made searching the papers for information so much easier and didn't take tons of time. I think organization should also extend to the writing portion of the paper. For each question, I wrote a very short outline of the topics that were absolutely essential to cover. This helped me organize my thoughts so I could fill in each outline section with the appropriate material. Again: organization is key....and save soooo much time.

7) You can still go out and do things you like/need to do while doing your comps. Don't be a shut in. As a matter of fact, I think getting outside every now and then can be refreshing and give you a better perspective when you return to sit/stand at your computer. A little hour here and there won't decrease your productivity. Beside, you have to eat sometime, right?? I took some time to go to yoga, do the usual grocery shopping, and clean a little bit around the house. Each time I returned to my computer to write, I felt rejuvenated and more relaxed. 

8) It seems simple, but stay hydrated. This will help you take breaks anyways ;)

9) Let other people know what you are doing - It's good to have a support team to cheer you on, and to celebrate with you when you finish 

10) Despite my relief at being done with the written portion, I'm not done yet....so this feeling is sort of anticlimactic. I have the oral defense in about 4 weeks. So now I get to sit and stew a little before I go before my committee. Had I thought this out a little better, I think I would have tried to schedule this as close to the two weeks post submission as possible. Oh well....I guess I'll keep busy with other projects, for now....

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


It's a new year and as is customary, I am pondering a few different resolutions. In thinking about resolving, or maybe about being more resolute, I began to wonder why we equate a new year to new hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Is the new year really a reset button? A chance to start over? If making resolutions is linked to the start of a new, fresh timeline, why not decrease the time it takes to make us feel excited about change to 24 hours? Why not make resolutions every day? The answer is that it would really get tiresome. Imagine getting all ramped up to plan for a new day, every day, every week, every month, 365 days of the year. Where's the excitement in that? Better to reserve that energy for a big milestone, not each 365 days of the year, but each year of 365 days...

With all of that rationalizing out of my system, on to my resolutions. When setting goals, or making resolutions, one should adhere to the SMART criteria: set goals that are SPECIFIC, MEASUREABLE, ATTAINABLE, RELEVANT, TIME-BOUND. My resolutions are two-fold: a little something the body and the mind!

For my body, I resolve to train for two half marathons this year. I've been working on building my mileage and doing some weight training despite the hectic holiday season. I've already signed up for one that is (seemingly rapidly) approaching in early March - the Seaside Half Marathon. It's a slightly hilly run along scenic 30A in the Gulf Coast of Florida. It's also sponsored by Vera Bradley, and I suppose that is a partial motivator for signing up for this one! The second half marathon will be in the fall - the Pensacola Half Marathon. Unfortunately, this will involve training during the warm summer months. Thank god for the occasional air-conditioned treadmill run...

I had a low motivation semester this past Fall. So, for my mind, I resolve to remain focused on this doctoral program with planned graduation 2014.  Specifically, I'm preparing for my comps for late January. Here's the kicker though, I won't be done with my comps until mid February! I have a written part (January) and then an oral defense (mid February). I get to wait in anxiety for almost 4 weeks in between. Yay. Oh, wait, I'm already sounding downtrodden. Hold on, let me put on my excited, resolute tone....When I'm done with my comps, I get to (drum roll) work on my dissertation! Yipee! No, actually, that is real excitement. Partially because I already have a specific timeline prepared (with milestones!) for this phase of my program. Also, for the past few years, I've been working on courses that have been preparing me for this period....and soon (fingers crossed), I'll get to be in that phase. Just...a ....few....more...hoops.

So that's it. Two resolutions. Of course, there are a number of little resolutions that lead to the accomplishment of the two big ones. So maybe we don't get out of making shorter-term goals along the way. They may not be every 24 hours, but perhaps we'd consider every few days? These little resolutions and any related, small successes or failures can be documented along the way....and I'll be able to look back at the end of this new year and say that I've made the progress I had once resolved to make.