I’m ready to be a doctor. Mentally ready, that is. There are a few little things like qualifying exams and dissertation, wrapped in various strands of red tape, that are currently preventing me from saying grad school is done.
When I originally left TicketsNow to return to school in 2004, the idea was to complete a masters degree in human-computer interaction and move on. Instead, my family and I deliberated for a few months and made the commitment to get my doctorate in a new program at Indiana University. There have been positives and negatives to that decision, the largest of the latter being the complete exhaustion of funds. Our limited savings didn’t last the first year of the master’s program, and we have already gone through four of the five stages of financial grief: savings, loans, eBay, retirement fund, and selling plasma. Although there are other factors entering into the decision, the lack of bucks is a prime motivation for an aggressive dissertation path. (All the more ironic, given TicketsNow was sold in January.)
I have spent the past few weeks getting organized for a push to finish by September 2009, the absolute soonest I can do so. The process has included a number of faculty consultations and more detailed day-to-day planning than I have done since returning to school. Among the more impacting advice,
- Start writing something now, knowing it will change radically.
- Know where you want to go, and shape your research around that destination.
- Prioritize based on publication schedules.
- Choose a thesis you will be interested in two years from now.
- Write grants for practice and the hope of spending more time on your own research.
- Stop taking classes.
- Take a day each week to work on cultivating job prospects.
I’m struggling to find an early rhythm, but making progress. I had to cut a wiki project that I was hoping to demo at WikiSym, and I’m delaying decisions about how theoretical my dissertation will become. I may build something to evaluate, or I may spend my time figuring out how to apply relational-cultural theory to design. Complicating matters is that I don’t know what that post-dissertation destination will be, industry or academia.
All I know at the moment is I’m investing my summer in getting a foundation laid with research projects revolving around Twitter. I was very relieved the service didn’t break on Monday. I got 2/3 approval of my coursework plan today and intend to take qualifying exams in January. That’s a world away still. I’m trying to just worry about tomorrow.Tags: academia, dissertation, graduate school, Indiana University, industry, job search, Ph.D., planning, qualifying exams, School of Informatics, TicketsNow