It's been awhile since I've put up a post on recent-ish articles having to do with graduate school, graduate students, or having to write your thesis or dissertation. I recently came across a couple of pieces that I found to be good reads, so I decided to share them with you.
"The No-Fail Secret to Writing a Dissertation" by Theresa MacPhail
MacPhail tells us that the secret to writing and finishing your dissertation is -- get this -- to sit down and write. She offers essentially the same advice that I wrote about in an earlier post on writing groups:
"Sit your butt down in a chair, preferably in a quiet and distraction-free room. Disable your internet and turn your phone on silent. Come into your writing space having already done the research you need for that day's writing task. You will not be researching or looking anything up during your writing time (researching and editing are discrete tasks, believe it or not, and should be done in separate blocks)."
She recommends writing every day, five days a week, 50 minutes a day. Don't write in ten minute chunks. Such a strategy does not accommodate deep thinking when writing.
Her style is conversational, making it a quick and easy read. I like a lot of what she has to tell her audience, such as: "[T]he dissertation is best thought of as the lousy first draft of an eventual book. No one but you expects your dissertation to be perfect." My director, my boss, and my committee have all told me this exact same thing. For some reason, it sinks in when I read it in MacPhail's piece.
"Your Dissertation Begins in Your First Seminar" by Rebecca Schuman
Schuman tells us that writing a dissertation is no different than writing the all-too-familiar 20-page essay for one of your seminar courses. She outlines strategies -- researching, writing, revising -- graduate students should be using to write an essay for a seminar class, as opposed to throwing something together a couple of days before the paper is due. I don't know anyone who would -- wait a second . . . oh yeah. I may have committed this egregious sin. It is actually good advice, and it reminded me that a couple of my peers in the English department expanded some of their own seminar papers into master's theses and dissertations.
Schuman's essay is a quick read, reeks of common sense, and I like her approach to the topic -- i.e. the dissertation is not some holier than thou document; it's just a longform version of a seminar paper. It made me wish I had read this back when I first started out in the graduate program.
"Master's Degree Programs Specialize to Keep Their Sheen" by Jennifer Howard
Howard's article focuses on graduate schools and how "master’s-level programs have had to adapt to keep up with students who
seek an educational experience customized to their particular goals, and
who put a premium on skills and experience that prospective employers
will find valuable."
According to the Department of Education, 751,000 master's degrees were awarded during the 2012/2013 academic year. Approximately half of these degrees were in health and education. While students continue to pursue higher degrees in fields like Math, computer science, and engineering, fewer students are pursuing master's degrees in subjects like education. There are a number of reasons for this drop in enrollment.
What Howard notes is that this generation of graduate students desire more specialized degrees that will be appealing to potential employers and to be taught a diverse skill set that will enable them to have an impact on the community. This is being attributed to an "activist air" among grad students. Because they want more from their higher education, graduate school programs are readjusting in order to be more appealing to future students.
It is a fascinating read.
One last thing:
I want to remind everyone that the next session of Write Place, Write Time is coming up -- Thursday, April 14, 2016. Once again we will be meeting at 6pm in Founder's Library. Be there or be a dodecahedron. If you are still a bit confused about the group, you can read up on it by clicking here.
As always, please feel free to share your comments, concerns, random thoughts, hopes for the future, jokes of the day, etc. on our Facebook group page, or feel free to post in the comments box below.