Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Untold Secrets of a Dissertation Defense.

Just a very quick post to let you know I'm still here.

I'm here...but very, very busy.  Let me count the ways.

1.  Dissertation (which is becoming exceedingly stressful as the end nears...I swear it's like mile 24 of a marathon).

2.  IU is back in session, and I'm teaching again.  I love it, but it adds to the busy.  Things like getting my CPR re-certified and proving that I don't have TB also take up some time.

3.  Rowan turned ONE!  So I was, of course, obliged to have him a throw-down of a Mickey Mouse birthday party.

4.  Amelia is in fourth grade...and soccer...full-swing.

5.  You know, that running thing that I do.  We are almost into the peak training for Chicago, which means lots of early morning and late evening miles for me.  Again, it's something that I love, but it cuts into my time.

Once the dissertation is out of the way, I will be able to take a HUGE deep breath and relax.  But right now, it's stressful.  It's funny, every time I'm really stressed out and need to be super productive, I start thinking about all the non-school (or work) things that I want to do.  I want to re-do our kitchen.  I also want some new landscaping.  I need to update Rowan's baby book and organize Amelia's keepsakes from third grade.  And you know what?  I want some new siding....why don't I spend time online looking at the different colors of siding.  Oh, and we SO need a new mailbox.  You wouldn't believe the variety of mailboxes that exists online.  It's also the time during which you could email me a 3-hour survey on cat food and I'd happily answer every single question.  How could I not respond to the need of a friend?  Sorry, dissertation, I feel like I MUST answer these cat food questions.

I swear it's my brain's way of protecting myself from the task/stress at hand.  It's distraction.  Nay, it's escape.  At least I can admit that I have this problem.  It allows me to understand that mailbox shopping is not enhancing my productivity.  Now, if you're smart, (and I know you are), you're saying to the screen "Then why are you blogging?  Does BLOGGING enhance your productivity?"  Directly?  No.  But it's a coping mechanism of mine.  I feel so much better just getting it all out there.

So...anyway...I'm on the home stretch of the dissertation writing.  What they DON'T tell you about when you decide to get a PhD is that you're not done when the writing is done.  Oh, no.  Not only do you have to defend it orally, but you must then get past the Graduate Recorder.

What is a graduate recorder, you ask?  Sounds kind of archaic, doesn't it?  Well, it is.  The graduate recorder is the person who guards the gates to the PhD degree.  After you defend, he/she goes over your entire dissertation (which, btw, doesn't just include what you wrote...there are like fourteen different acceptance pages, abstracts, CVs, etc. that must also be attached) with a fine-toothed comb.  It must be on a certain type of cotton paper (yes, really).  It must be formatted exactly to the university's guidelines.  These persnickety (though, in IU's case, very helpful) graduate recorders...they know everything.  They have the APA and MLA manuals memorized.  They can look at your dissertation from 100 yards away and spot an inappropriately-bolded exclamation mark.

In short, they can really hold up the graduation process.  I always thought that you went through the oral defense, passed, and then went on a cruise or something to celebrate those three precious letters finally being behind your name.  I'm actually beginning to think the defense is the easy part, and the graduate recorder meeting may be the hardest thing I've done in graduate school.

So what's a girl to do?  Well, I talked to some of my colleagues, and they said "Hire someone to format it.  It's expensive, but do it." is expensive....but, yes, I've done it.  All I have to do is type my stuff.  And she will format it.  Hallelujah.

Of course, having a formatter doesn't guarantee first-time success at the graduate recorder review.  The formatter I've hired said that recorders will always find something that needs to be changed.

People often ask me about graduate school--should I go?  Do you like it?  Are you glad you did it?  Sometimes, when people ask me those things, I have to keep myself from collapsing on the floor and rocking around in the fetal position, begging for mercy.  What I mean is--graduate school is hard.  And it's made even more difficult when a document in which you've been immersed for the better part of a year is evaluated with a ruler and a magnifying glass.  I am really, really, REALLY tired of being in school.  I love my research, but I'm ready to start getting paid for doing it. 

I want this to be over.  I'm tired.  I'm never doing this again.  Three phrases which I've never uttered more than during child birth, the last six miles of a marathon, and while finishing my dissertation.  The former two were so worth it.  I'm having faith that this endeavor will be, too.  Plus, I can't afford a new mailbox or new siding until I'm working full-time.  Okay--back to writing.

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