Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Break writing

Let's be honest - work never happens over a break. No matter how far you lug your books, no matter how good your intentions, no matter if you even do bust it out while sitting at your parents' kitchen table, you are not going to be productive. I've found that it's liberating to just accept this and plan accordingly.

So I don't know why I went ahead and signed up for this Break Writing listserv. Probably because I'll do anything to finish this dissertation faster. Oh, yeah, and to make it better, too.

So far, their tips have actually been good. Nothing I didn't know already, but good reminders: better to write for 15 minutes a day than attempt 8 hours in one day, your first draft is going to be crappy, etc. I just wish that instead of sending me these reminders during my break, when I am in and out of town and not able to implement this, they would send it during the actual school year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poster guidelines

LSA is in just over two weeks, which means I need to be getting down to business with my poster. They have a page with all kinds of guidelines about how to create a great poster - it's super helpful! While some of it is specific to the conference, most of it is just general advice that works for any academic posters.

Their two most helpful hints for me:

Font sizes
"The title should be legible from at least 20 feet away. The headings and text should be legible to someone standing 5-6 feet away. This means selecting the following (general) font sizes:
Title (first line(s)): 80-120 (bold, can be all-caps, but not name(s) of author(s))
Title (affiliation, contact info): 60-80 (bold)
Headings: 50-70 (bold, can be all-caps)
Text: 24-36 (certainly no smaller than 16)
Acknowledgements: 18-28
References: 18-28"

Poster spacing proportions
"Recommended Proportions: 20-30% text, 40% graphics/visual aids, and 30-40% empty space."

Yes, you basically know all the stuff they mention, but it's so nice to have the specifics just given to you. Then you don't have to think about them, and are free to think about more important stuff, like how to make your results look more significant.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Unintentional day off

My office has been productivity central lately! It's so exciting, and I don't want to do anything to interrupt the magic in here. So when my husband the scientist asked me to finish the Christmas shopping this morning, before the crowds and snow this weekend, I was a bit nervous.

That should show you how serious I am about keeping the flow going. My husband gives me permission, actually requests for me to take a break from work and go shopping, and I hesitate?!

But it needed to get done. And now, for the most part, it is finished. Instead of just taking a few hours this morning, it has taken me until now, 5:00 in the evening. But at least I can cross that off my list.

And cross my fingers and pray that my productivity can and will resume for at least the first few days of next week!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sweet sweet affirmation

You know how I've been moaning about my issues with statistics for months now? A professional statistician doesn't think I'm doing so bad! What?! Whoo-hoo! An excerpt from his email:

Hi Elizabeth,
What a neat study! You have a good handle on stat methods. ...
It really was a fascinating study. We'll get back to you soon.

Did you read that? He thinks I have a good handle on statistical methods! And that my study is cool! I can go for months on this little bit of praise!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The productivity continues!

I made my goal and got my first two chapters to my adviser by the end of last week - yay! Nothing says "Happy Friday" and "Happy end of the semester" like getting an email with a huge attachment and a desperate plea to read it and get back to me before Christmas!

Now the work continues on my results chapter(s). I'm in contact with friends of my father-in-law, who just happen to be statisticians in the pharmaceutical industry, and who are glad to help me out by looking over my results! Finally! Some much-needed reassurance. I should hear from them soon about my listener results, so I'm trying to get a lot done on my speaker results before that.

Isn't it funny how my productive streak coincides with the time of the year that I would most like to be slacking off? Oh well, gotta strike while the iron's hot!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I've actually been working my tail off over here!

You know how I said usually when I don't post it's because I didn't do anything? Well, I have actually neglected posting the past two weeks or so because I have been so busy writing! I am thrilled with this turn of events. To give an example of how big of a change this is, it is now 4:40 in the afternoon. Usually by 4:00 I would let myself be "finished" for the day. Now I'm getting off here and jumping back into writing and not stopping until 5:30, when I have to get supper started!

Realizing that I only have 2 months has really put a bee in my bonnet!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Super model

It is so helpful for me to have another dissertation to reference as I'm putting mine together. Really, having a model is so valuable. The closer it is to your topic, the better. It gives you a place to go when all the little questions crop up - the ones that are too inconsequential to bother asking your professor about, but somehow manage to suck up all your time. Questions like "How many levels of headings should I go with, and what happens when I want one more than that?" and "How should I start out a chapter?" and "Can I at least have a ballpark figure of how long this chapter should be?"

In fact, I think having 2 models to reference is even better, because then you aren't basing your dissertation on the whim of some other grad student - you can base your work on similarities, with the assumption that that's how it's done. (I wouldn't bother with too many more than that, because then it'll just become another time-sucker.)

Another hint: check out the committee members that signed off on your model dissertation. In an ideal world, they'll be (a) other researchers in your field that you respect and/or (b) people from your own committee.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I just got dressed for my run and hurried out the door - to discover rain starting. Several other little things conspired to make me sit back down at this computer. It's times like this when God makes it abundantly clear that I need to be working on my research at this moment. Okay, fine. Who am I to say no?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Agh! It's December!

Just for laughs, I am going to share with you a time table I created in early September. Please note that I realized at the time that it was a bit ambitious, but I was a bit confused on dates, and was terrified that I was going to have to be done a month earlier than I thought. Luckily, I was wrong. I think.

September 25  Send committee statistics results
October 15      Send advisor drafts of Chapters 1-2
November 16  Send advisor drafts of Chapters 3-4
December 14   Ideally send advisor last of chapter drafts (Chapter 5)
January 26       Send final draft to committee
February 23     Tentative defense date
February 25     Degree conferral deadline
                         (This was the deadline I was confused about)
April 22           Last day to submit dissertation
                         (This is actually the one I was thinking about)
May 15            Commencement

Guess how much of that got done?

I have sent one committee member half of my results, and still have more to do. I have sent my advisor one chapter (Chapter 3), which took her a month to look over and tell me it needed a lot of work. I have rough drafts of the first two chapters, but they're very rough.

I might be freaking out. If I'm not, I probably should be.

So let's create a revised timeline, shall we?

December 11   Send advisor drafts of Ch 1-2, plus revised Ch 3
January 6         Send advisor results chapter(s)
January 29       Send advisor last of chapter drafts, plus revised chapters
February 18     Send final draft to committee
February 25     Degree conferral deadline
March 18         Tentative defense date
April 22           Last day to submit dissertation
May 15            Commencement

Why can't I just defend in mid April? Because I'm supposed to allow four weeks after my defense to make any changes the committee suggests, and go about the process of actually getting it copied and produced and whatnot.

Why can't I just send my final draft to the committee the week before my defense? Because I'm supposed to give them four weeks to read it. Yes, they probably won't read it until the day before. But that is irrelevant.

So what does this timeline mean? It means I have to have this thing completely finished by mid February - basically two months. That is actually possible if this process just involved me. But it involves other people. Who take weeks to get back to you. Oh boy.

Perhaps instead of typing on here, I should haul myself back to my real work, huh? Yes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Further proof of my nerdiness

I was so excited to create several clear charts and a big beautiful vowel space this afternoon! Things are starting to come together and instead of just cranking out numbers, I'm starting to think critically about what these things mean! Whoo-hoo!

It's inevitable

Whenever you have a lot of time to spend on your research, something outside your control will keep you from working on it. (Usually in my case, that's waiting on other people.) You will wind up twiddling your thumbs impatiently and not be productive.

Whenever you want to spend a lot of time on something else (like your husband's upcoming birthday, or Christmas shopping), that other thing will clear up and you will have an enormous amount of work that you need to do instead. Instead of birthday shopping and planning today, I'll be poring over the pages of comments I received from two of my committee members. The good thing is, I'm so relieved to have finally gotten them that I don't really mind too much!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Visual aids are the best

Especially when you do them right.

When I was compiling my results, I basically just copy/pasted from the SPSS output. I ended up with charts like the one below.

Yes, it was very confusing and I had to include an elaborate key below it - but I didn't know how to change the graphs within the program, and didn't really think much more about it. Don't those programs know best, anyway? Won't they always give me the perfect output?


Thankfully my professor suggested I revise my plot, I took the time necessary to create it, and now I have this.

Much better! I can actually learn from this one!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

One thankful grad student

I was thrilled to get an email last night from my professor. All my frustration was flung away as I skimmed her several pages worth of comments on my research. My jaw dropped when I saw her brilliant "possible interpretations" and suggestions for further analysis. It's all I can do now not to dance for joy! Thank you, Lord!

As if all that wasn't enough, my committee member thanked me for continuing to contact her, and apologized for any inconvenience in taking so long. I am brimming with happiness and relief!

Monday, November 23, 2009

When I don't post

... it's probably because I haven't done anything. Just wanted to be honest with you.

There was one time that I didn't post because I was actually getting a ton done and didn't want to stop! But usually, if I don't post, it's because I haven't gotten a lot done. Not that I haven't been working (although that's often the case) - just that nothing significant happened.

I've been very prone to blaming other people lately for this. But I really can't. Sure, certain people are super hard to get a hold of and I've been in a holding pattern for a while now as I try to pester them into looking at my stuff. But I knew this was going to be the case when I picked my committee members and when I moved away to finish my degree. So I've had enough of my whole "poor poor pitiful me" bit. I made these decisions, knowing full well what I was getting into. No more complaining. (For at least a week.) No one ever said getting your PhD was going to be easy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I'm a published woman

Again, actually!

I wrote an article for Language and Linguistics Compass that was published earlier this year. I was so excited - my first single-author publication! I could care less that it's a new online journal - it's a publication, and that's what counts! And then I was even more thrilled when the editor asked me to create a "Teaching and Learning Guide" to accompany it. This just came out, and I'm tickled pink. The guide is basically a syllabus, in case someone was just so inspired by my paper that they wanted to teach a whole course on it. I realize that's probably not going to happen, but I was pumped because (1) it gives me a second publication that I am the sole author of and (2) I already have a syllabus in hand if/when I apply for a job as a professor!

It's interesting to note the differences in publications between the so-called hard sciences and linguistics (and I assume many social sciences). In the hard sciences (specifically physics and astronomy, my husband's field), an article might have some 8 or more authors! What?! In linguistics, an article usually has one author, and almost never more than three. I guess we're just realistic like that - only one person really wrote the article, or maybe two if you have a good working relationship. My one other publication has my name along with two others. But one of the other "authors" and I are quite happy to admit that it was all this other guy's work! Sure, we did do the project together, and the two of us helped with proofing and other things, but Chris is really the one who deserves the majority of the credit.

Not that I was going to turn down having something to put on my CV!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Email from a committee member

"Hi Elizabeth! I did get a chance to look at it, but I was wondering if you would be available to come in to talk about it? I think that would be the easiest way to talk about what to do next."

My response:

"Hi X,
I would love to come in and talk about it, but that will require me to book a flight first :)
I agree that it's much easier to discuss this in person though. So if you think that's what I need to do, I am glad to fly back to Houston. But perhaps we can try a phone call first?"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A nerdy and entertaining waste of time

I just got sucked into reading PhD comics for a half hour. I barely escaped!

The answer for my research? B.

I'm at the third stage.

Yes, that has indeed happened to me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's so beautiful

I just discovered the ease with which you can create a Table of Contents on Word. I have this document that I've used headings for. All I did was go up to the quick toolbar (or whatever that thing across the top is - the options below the real toolbar), click "Document Elements," click "Table of Contents," choose my style and voila!

An outline of my first chapter! Which needs work. But at least seeing the outline of it was easy peasy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This is a test. This is only a test.

Is it possible for me to turn off the internet for the next six hours? To not give in to the temptation to turn the wireless back on? Honestly, probably not. But I'm going to give it a try. Starting now, at 10:20 in the morning. If I can make it to 4:00 without going online, I will do a victory dance that involves jumping around the room, walking like an Egyptian, and dancing like Carlton Banks. I will also have gotten a lot of work done. Here we go!

Update: I MADE IT!! Okay, I might've turned on the internet for less than a minute at lunchtime to check my email. And I might've stopped the clock a half hour before my 6 hours were up. But I'm still considering this a success!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ah, facebook

Relationships between grad students and faculty are so weird. It's like that limbo-land between being subordinate and being colleagues. Facebook helps make things even weirder. Everyone knows that young students (undergrads and below) shouldn't become facebook friends with their teachers, at least until they graduate. (I'm wary of any professors who break this rule.) But what about grad students?

I thought I solved the problem by just not friending them. And then they friended me. Should I have refused? I didn't. I hoped it wouldn't be a big deal, and it actually hasn't been (to my knowledge).

But then there are days like today when I open facebook to discover my adviser in her Halloween costume touting her new-found love of go-go boots. Really?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

More refreshment

I was feeling a bit stumped this morning, so I went back and looked at my prospectus powerpoint. I have to say, that was a nice-looking presentation. You know when you choose the right colors and formatting and it just looks good?* Ahh.

It was refreshing to look back and really look at the whole big picture, to remember that I am actually interested in this, to remember that I have actually already done a lot of the work, and to realize that this is going to get done and actually not be too bad in the end.

I'm revising my hypotheses. Does that sound bad? Don't worry, I'm not actually changing any aspects of my research or fudging so it sounds like I was going for something different. I just don't like the way I organized my research questions. I feel like if I somehow reorder/rephrase them, they'll fit in with the big picture/theoretical implications better. Now I just have to figure out how to do that.

* In case you're curious, the pptx theme was "Advantage." It definitely ranks as one of my favorites. Not too busy, no lines boxing you in, enough color to be fun but still professional.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chop chop

Today I switched my focus to chapter revising. It was so refreshing! I thought I preferred doing the objective tasks, but that had become so tedious that it was nice to step back and look at the big picture again.

I'm looking particularly at my pilot studies and hypotheses today. I had written all this up for my original prospectus, but of course am unhappy now with how that looks. I've realized that my second pilot study is only marginally related to my present research and the conclusions actually prompt me to look at entirely different things. So chop chop! and it's gone. Now I just have one pilot study that is clearly relevant and impacts my current methodology. Much nicer.

I should note that I am not usually able to delete large chunks of what I have previously written. It's a psychological hangup of sorts. I want to hang on to it, just in case, and do so by leaving it in and just putting a line through it or changing font color or some other method. However, after awhile that gets really cluttered and you're so distracted by thinking whether or not you should include that stuff that you can't move forward. So I have taken to just creating a new document every time I plan to do some major revision, making sure to include the date. That way, I can always go back and review what I've chopped. This really frees me from the fear of deleting something brilliant. And most of the time, it wasn't brilliant and I don't miss it at all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"So what do I do now??"

I try to write a tiny bit each day about what I've done that day. Usually I just jot down my thoughts as I'm going through things, so that I can look back and remember why I did something a certain way. Other times I think this might be the start of something brilliant, so I'd better write it down so I don't forget it! Sometimes I just write anything down so that I can pretend I actually did something that day. And finally, many times I just write down my complaints.

Yesterday's note ended with a melodramatic "So what do I do now??"

This morning Soothing Encouraging Me responded to Freaked Out Me.

"What you do now is breathe and reevaluate. Go through and think again about what questions you want your data to answer. Then take a break and work on something else, like writing a different chapter. Then jump back to where you were having difficulties with renewed vigor! You are smarter than this dissertation! You will prevail!"

And yes, I actually wrote that down.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's November

And I'm still not done with my statistics. Excuse me while I bang my head against my keyboard.


Friday, October 30, 2009

What kind of pesky student

... calls their professor at home on a Friday afternoon, when that professor has been out sick for two weeks, to beg them to please look at their data?

This kind. It's not something I'm proud of. But multiple unanswered emails leave me feeling more and more desperate, until I do something rash.


And thank you to my kind professor, who is reviewing my work as I type and calling me back shortly.

My sad methodology chapter and a new outline

I was so anxious to have something to show for my week that I fired off my methodology chapter (chapter 3 in the current outline) to my adviser as soon as I could. I congratulated myself for doing that so early in the week, as it had been my goal to finish it by today.

And now as I read another gal's dissertation, I'm shaking my head and moaning in disgust. My methodology chapter was not at all complete. I had basically the first half, sure, but I completely forgot to include important things like how I actually went about measuring the vowels! Ugh. I know better. I've got to get my head out of the clouds and back into my dissertation.

On the bright side, it's been good for me to go through and read another dissertation. I wasn't sure if it would be worth the time (while this one is about imitation, it focuses on accomodation/convergence, which is not the direction I'm heading), but I think it is. If nothing else, I'd been needing to remind myself what a finished product would look like.

And it's making me rethink my outline. So here is a revised version, that will probably undergo further revision a month from now.
  1. Introduction - Background, pilot study, motivation
  2. Methodology - Normal stuff (including the analysis part I somehow managed to forget), hypotheses
  3. Results - Both the listener and speaker statistics, with plenty of charts and tables
  4. Discussion - Just what it says, polished off with a brilliant conclusion
Hm. Now that's looking too short, like I'm going to have to cram in so many subheadings that it'll be almost ridiculous. Oh well, I'll just work with this for now. Like I said, it's always subject to revision!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I feel so professional! I've had two people email me with an interest in my research, based on my poster at the conference I didn't actually go to. It's so exciting! And a little nervewrecking, since I didn't think the poster was that great. But it's a start, and I guess that's what's important.

Lesson: Don't be afraid to cold-email people. (Like cold-calling: contacting someone who you've never met before.) Not that I have been - I've done that more than once and had really good results. People are flattered when you're interested in what they do! Maybe the big names won't reply, but I think most people will.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Forensic linguistics meets Hollywood

Did you see the movie The Informant! ? It looks real cute. I haven't seen it yet (is it even still out?), so I'm not sure if there's actually any forensic linguistics in the film itself, but you might find it interesting that a forensic linguist was hired as an expert consultant for the case in real life! By the defense.

And here's a snippet of what he had to say about the case:
In cases like this one there comes a point when you have to present the brutal truth to the retaining lawyers, to suggest that the best they can do is to try to get a good plea agreement, and to remove yourself from the case.

Monday, October 26, 2009

University life and starting a family

I'll save the details of my work and such for tomorrow. Right now, I thought I'd include this funny PhD comic I saw the other day.

Thankfully this is not my plan (there are very few post-doctoral positions in linguistics), but it does reflect a common outlook on starting a family in academia.

Most people (notably my father) believe that being a university professor is a dream job, and one just perfect for having a family. You're off in the summer and for federal holidays and you have more flexibility than high school teachers - what could be more perfect? Well, when it comes to community colleges and small universities, there is certainly truth in that. When it comes to prestigious universities and research institutes (the ones that the faculty in your department expect you to go to), this is not so much the case. In fact, having more than 2 kids seems to be an unspoken taboo.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Forensic linguistics (authorship)

Did you know you can do more with a linguistics degree than just teach linguistics? And I don't mean translate, because translators and linguists are not the same thing (although in many instances these titles are flip-flopped). One of the most interesting non-academic linguistic path is into the field of Forensic Linguistics (FL). I could go on and on about this at length, but then what would I blog about later on when I have writer's block and need a relief? So today I'll just give the briefest of introductions. I'm more interested in forensic phonetics (dealing with spoken language rather than written), but I'll just touch on authorship attribution here.

The basic idea is that a linguist looks at two (preferably many more) texts and determines how similar they are. So for example, if there was an extortion threat mailed to someone, and there are writing samples of a person in custody, the linguist would be asked to compare the threat (the questioned document) and the writing samples (the known documents) to determine how likely it is that they were written by the same person. Neat, huh?

I personally think Tim Grant is the best person in this field, from what I've read, and it just so happens he was interviewed by the BBC about this. Here's his explanation of forensic linguistics. Enjoy!

And if you are really interested in this, the International Association of Forensic Linguists (IAFL) is where you want to go to learn more. Get on the (quite active) listserv and go to the conference. Join so that you get the International Journal of Speech, Language, and the Law (which you can also get by joining the International Association of Forensic Phonetics and Acoustics (IAFPA), which is FL from the spoken side).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sigh of relief

I finished my NWAV poster. We made it to the store 10 minutes before closing time last night to get it printed. (Apparently the three closer Office Depots couldn't print something that large, so they had to send it to this store that was farther away.) Then I shipped it out this morning. Guess how much an overnight poster box to Canada costs? Almost $70. Ugh. But that's cheaper than flying there and staying in a hotel, so I'm not complaining too much.

While we're on the subject of costs, can you guess how much a 3' x 3' glossy poster goes for?


But isn't it pretty?

Okay, I know I have way too much text and way too few charts. It's not the ideal poster. But even my adviser commented that the colors are nice!

I don't think this is necessary, but just in case, this poster is copyrighted by me. Please don't reproduce it. Actually, if you look at it closely you'll probably realize it's not great. I couldn't put much content on there. But if you do like it or something, let me know!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some motivation

My husband the scientist is my biggest motivator to getting my PhD in a timely manner. Example: In order to advance to candidacy in our department, you have to have two "publishable papers" plus of course your prospectus. It's really a great thing. Anyway, my husband told me he wouldn't propose until I had finished both my papers. And he was dead serious.

And let me tell you how motivating that was. I worked my tail off to get those done! Not to make it sound like I sacrificed quality for speed per se - but a motivation like that will really curb any perfectionist tendencies that might keep you toiling for an extra month.

Once I finished, we did in fact get engaged.

And a few months later, I had a new motivation. Once I finish my dissertation, we can start a family. YES!!!

I think some women might resent their husbands holding out these things that they so desperately want like a carrot on a string. But I don't (usually). I know he's being practical and helping to make sure I prioritize and finish what I've started. Because once we begin these other big wonderful life events, my tendency is to ignore little things like my research. Not the best plan if I actually want to finish this PhD. Which I do. Which I will.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I'm tired of complaining all the time. So I would like to celebrate the fact that this afternoon I ran some new statistics (on a different aspect of my data) and they worked! Hallelujah!

Yes, I actually belted out Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" when it happened. I sounded like this:

Or something close to that. I was missing the horn section.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

100 words

Really? How can I possibly condense everything I have to say to 100 words? It was tough enough to get under 500 words for the real abstract. Chopping down to 100 for the short abstract is tough!

It's okay, LSA. I won't hold it against you. And you know that. You know that everyone is so desperate to present at your conference that they will gladly slash abstracts and do anything else you ask. You'd like me to stand on my head while I speak to people at my poster? Gladly!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Second time around

I keep getting asked what I'm going to do when I finish. I don't have a good answer. At all. I waver and hem and haw, because I really truly do not know. I know what I would like to do. Actually, there are many things I'd like to do, and they bounce around in my head sometimes. But the one thing I really want is probably not what people want to hear when we're talking about a soon-to-be doctor of philosophy.

In linguistics the go-to place to start your job search is the Linguist List. Pretty much all the jobs are posted there, and I get a daily email that tells me everything that's going on in the linguistics world: job openings, conference calls, journal table of contents, and so on.

Today was the second time I saw an announcement for a teaching position at Mizzou. I'm from Missouri and would love nothing more than to move back there and be as close to my family as possible! While the job isn't quite perfect for me (I'm not a phonologist, but might be able to fake it with my phonetics background), it is still an excellent opportunity. Plus my adviser knows one of the three linguistics professors there, and that could help, right? Although she said that I probably wouldn't get the job, because the market is so fierce right now that a true phonologist would be easy to find. Great.

My husband the scientist is not adverse to moving there. He's even looked into what jobs he could get there. But they aren't in Columbia. They're a couple hours away from that, and that kind of commute just won't cut it.

So the question is, do I even bother applying? Part of me thinks I should apply for any and all jobs because (a) the market really is tough right now and (b) it would be good experience. But I've also heard you shouldn't apply for a job if you wouldn't seriously take it, and I'm not sure if I would if I actually got it. So then is it worth the time and effort to put together all those application materials?

Well, this week it isn't. I've got too much other stuff to do. Applications aren't due until November 2. That's plenty of time to sit on this, right?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Warning! Danger!

The alarm started buzzing a few weeks ago. Last week it upgraded to a ringing level, but I was able to ignore it with family distractions. This week is has exploded into a piercing siren and I can no longer brush it off.


Last night I actually worked after supper.

This doesn't seem like a big deal, I know. I am a student, after all, and doesn't that mean studying at night?

Well, no. At least it doesn't have to. Yes, it did when I was taking classes (although I think that with discipline even then it doesn't have to). But after I was finished with that and could move on to doing my research on my own schedule, I didn't anymore. I started treating my research like a 8-5 job, and it actually worked really well for me. The motivation of spending every evening and most of the weekend relaxing with my then-boyfriend now-husband helped me to really work hard during the day and get stuff done. It also helped that I had an office to go to: once I was on campus, it was basically linguistics time until the 5:00 whistle.

But I am no longer on campus, and working from home has drawbacks along with its benefits. For quite a while now I have been letting other things interfere with my work day, to the point where I now spend more time blogging, working out, cooking, reading, doing devotionals, and grocery shopping than actually dissertating. This has got to stop.

Ideally this will make me start using my time more wisely and I can go back to having a disciplined work day. But with a conference next weekend (!) that I have not yet made my poster for (!!), I'm seeing more evening work in my future. Ugh.

But once that is over, here is what I'd like my schedule to look like. I've got high hopes that it will be a really good and productive routine. The key will be keeping myself off the internet once 10:00 rolls around, even if I didn't get to read/write all the blog posts I wanted or look at so-and-so's new facebook photo album.

8:00-8:30 Prayer/devotional time
8:30-9:00 Run
9:00-10:00 Shower and Internet time
10:00-4:30 Research!
4:30 Reward with more internet if was productive
5:00 Start supper

Friday, October 9, 2009

Slow going

My poor old laptop is painfully slow. When I bought it I thought it would last me through all five years of grad school - ha! Last year my husband the scientist convinced me to get a new one, and I'm so glad he did. Because trying to do my research and write my dissertation on that thing would be, as I said, painful. I'm actually writing this whole post as I wait for it to open up a document within a folder. Yeah, it's that slow.

But I shouldn't rag on it too much, because I was able to put a trial version of SPSS on it, and it worked the first time! Yesterday was a really productive day - I was able to run all of my tests on that, despite the slow going. All the chi squareds for independence were disappointing - very few significant findings. But my binomial tests were beautiful, with most p values registering at .000!

I was also able to talk to my adviser yesterday and discuss the results I did have. She suggested I make sure and call my committee members (not just email), because they need to be constantly reminded. She's told me more than once to just keep calling and bugging her, or I'll never get in touch with her. It's weird to have to pester the person who's supposed to be guiding you, but you get used to it. That doesn't mean I like to feel like that annoying student who keeps calling, but I'll do it out of necessity.

Oh, the file finally loaded! Off I go!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I thought I'd be done with this a month ago

Actually, my plan was to be finished with data gathering and statistics by the end of August. Data gathering was done. Statistics still are not. Who knew they'd be this much work?

I do have to say I'm learning a lot. Depending on what I do after graduation, that may or may not ever come in handy for the rest of my life. Maybe I'll tell myself that I'm not just learning about specific tests, but learning valuable lessons in perseverance.

I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, though. I found a trial version of SPSS that I can put on my old laptop. So today I created a bunch of data files and put them on my jump disk, so first thing tomorrow I can plug those in and start testing! I'm hoping I can finish that all in one day, so I can type it up on Friday and send it on out to my committee members. Time is getting short after all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I didn't post yesterday. Did you notice? It's because it was MY BIRTHDAY!

At first I told myself that the best gift to give myself would be a good morning of solid work - then I would feel great the rest of the day! Then I decided that I should really spend some time indulging in the blogosphere and facebook. And then I'm not sure what happened after that, but it was lunch time. And then I did work for an hour or two, and then got a call from my friend Jenny and we always talk for a while. And then I had to hurry just to get in a run and shower before it was time to go out for dinner! So yeah, not much got done in there.

Oh, and remember how I said I didn't mind family responsibilities interfering with my work? I still don't really feel guilty about that. But it turns out I only like to be helpful when it is on my schedule. I need to work on that.

I don't think I mentioned that I did hear back from one of my committee members! He suggested a logistic regression, so I ran that. I see some very nice p values, but I don't know which (if any) of them are applicable. Today I also ran some loglinear models. I think they said I have significant three way interactions. I'm not really sure what that means, either. I think I'm trying to complicate things too much.

I really need to create my NWAV poster. But that's based on my listener results. And those are the very statistics I'm struggling with. But I will prevail!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Oh dear

Now I have to confess that I didn't really do anything today. Darn. Apparently the threat of having to admit this to you all wasn't enough to make me do my research.

Honestly, when it's because of other family responsibilities, I don't feel guilty in the least. Of course that's more important! When it's because of other time-suckers like the internet, that's when I feel guilty. Today was a combination, but I'm going to say that it was mostly family, so I don't feel too bad. I mean, I didn't even have time to post on my other blog.

And actually, I did maybe an hour or so of work. And it's only 4:00 now. If I can get in another 45 minutes, I'm going to feel good calling it a day. I can't believe it's already the weekend again!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dear SPSS,

We are no longer on good terms. I used to think you were the answer to all my statistical problems. Actually, I still believe you hold the key to beautiful p values. You can make my research significant!

But then you had to go and hold my Mac against me. I'm sorry. I honestly would not have purchased this computer if I'd realized you weren't fulfilled by it. I didn't know you could give me more on a PC. That "exact" button is all I'm looking for from you now. And you can't give it to me here.

I'm not sure if we can still be friends after this. It's going to take time for me to reach out and meet new people, to find someone who has your 16th (or later) version installed on their laptop who is willing to let me use it free of charge. Because we both know you don't come cheap.

This is painful for both of us. I'd like to say it's not you, but, well, it is you.

Your former friend and fan,

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How exact?

Well, things are looking up. I sat down all refreshed and ready to do the Chi Square tests. I made beautiful little tables and was able to put everything into SPSS. I'm feeling very happy about that.

My book walked me step-by-step through each click. I realized I needed to do an extra step at the end, and went back to do it. Then I realized that the button I was supposed to push was MISSING. It was not there like in the handy picture. It was nowhere to be found.

I decided not to panic and went to the help menu. That's where I saw this:

Can you read that? It says "Note: Exact Tests is only available on Windows operating systems."

Of course - that's what I get for having a husband who convinces me to get a trendy Mac. (You like how the blame is immediately shifted?) Still no problem, I thought. I'll just put this on my old PC.

So I went to my university's IT website and then it hit me. In order to put it on my PC, I have to go to the IT building and use the installation cd. The IT building that is currently 1,590 miles away. (Yes, I just mapped that online.) That's a problem.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Over 200 pages later...

And I still can't figure out what kind of statistical test to run on my listener responses. Ugh. I guess I'll just do a bunch more Chi-Squareds and call it good. Then if that's not correct, at least I can ask my committee what would be more appropriate. In the meantime, I made a pretty outline of a table to show them when they tell me what I did was wrong :) Then again, they're the ones who told me to just do that test in the first place, so maybe just maybe I'm worrying over nothing and it will be right!

On the plus side, I have finished my statistics for the speaker results! And I have several nice p < .001, which makes me quite happy. I spent a couple hours yesterday agonizing over which tests to use for these, then as I was browsing through powerpoints I found online, I discovered that while in theory it's better to use a certain type of test (the one I couldn't figure out), in practice most people just do this other test twice (which I had already figured out and successfully ran). Sweet! So I did, which is how I got my results. Now I just have to be able to explain exactly what they mean.

Monday, September 28, 2009

To all of you professors out there...

who put your powerpoint slides from class out on the web, free for anyone to learn from:


Friday, September 25, 2009


So many reasons to rejoice on this beautiful afternoon!

1. My LSA abstract was accepted! The Linguistic Society of America's annual meeting in January is the official big conference for my field, and it looks really impressive to have presented there. It's also where all the academic jobs interview, so if you're planning to graduate, you basically have to go whether you present or not. I got accepted as a poster, which is great. I know in some other fields, everyone does a poster; but in linguistics, a poster is a step down in prestige from a presentation. But I'm actually quite happy doing a poster, because (a) only people who really actually are interested will check it out and talk to me, and (b) I wasn't expecting to be accepted at all :)

2. I got the book I've been waiting on!

I was hoping and praying that it would be able to give me the instruction I needed to do the appropriate statistics for my research...

3. And so far it has! Today I was able to run the mixed method ANOVA on my duration data. It was an A x (B x C), if that means anything to you. It does to me now! And two (of the possible six) factors/interactions were significant! Whoo-hoo!

Now I just have to figure out what exactly that means :)

4. It's Friday! And I know this isn't the case for many grad students, but I take the weekends off! In fact, I've got to run and shower now - I have a hot date with my husband tonight!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm blue, da ba dee da ba die

(Confession: I had to google that title, because I wasn't sure of the order of the das and dees and so on. Now that I've got it down, I am sure it will stay in my head for a minimum of six hours.)

This afternoon was surprisingly productive! I worked on Chapter 2, specifically my pilot studies. This is still rather easy going, as I'm just copy/pasting from the prospectus and then changing. But hey, that was the goal of the prospectus - to have as much written as possible so that the dissertation writing could be that much easier! So no need to feel bad that I wasn't slaving over writing this stuff from scratch!

I can be a bit indecisive sometimes, and when it comes to what I've written, often I'll want to change something but not be sure exactly how yet. But I don't want to just delete what's already there - that's the basis for what needs to be changed, and I don't want it to just disappear! So I change the font to blue. Anyone looking at these drafts on my computer would be shocked at how much text is in blue. Sometimes when I have too much blue, I'll start using both red and blue - red for more superficial changes and blue for big content changes. About the time I need to start adding a third color (which varies between green and purple and pink), I need to think about just starting over. After awhile, it gets a bit hard to read! (In fact, I was going to change all the font colors on here to demonstrate, but I was afraid I'd give both you and me ADD.) Anyway, that's the method that works for me. I know some people like to use the comments feature, and others will highlight. Let me tell you - the highlighting I save for the REALLY important changes.

Right now, the pages are just black and blue. Which is appropriate, as they're just a little beat up and bruised, but they should pull through okay.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One chapter down, five to go!


This morning I finished the draft of my methodology chapter (which was basically copy/pasting from my prospectus, changing fonts, and slightly updating). It's not perfect, but it does feel nice to have that done! I haven't decided yet if I should go ahead and send it to my adviser or wait until I have another chapter also. I think I'll wait for now - there's too much unfinished (links to the unwritten chapter containing my hypotheses, for example).

Now to figure out what to do next. I mean, I have all kinds of other things I could to do next - go to the gym, workout, have lunch, run to the grocery store, read this other book that I'm really enjoying... But back to the dissertating part.

I really really really want to get my statistical tests done. As soon as I've got that, everything else can fall into place. I'll have results and then I can figure out what they mean theoretically. I'll have beautiful charts to send my committee. But I'm waiting on a book in the mail and/or an email response.

For a minute there I thought I was gonna get away with calling it quits for the day. But after reviewing my outline, I've found more writing I can do - hello pilot studies.

And good-bye internet.

The Outline.

Here it is - a simple version of my outline, in all it's glory!

Chapter 1. Introduction
Background, previous work, theoretical implications.

Chapter 2. Initial Research
My two pilot studies, hypotheses.

Chapter 3. Methodology
Just what it says.

Chapter 4. Results - Identification and Authenticity
Remarkable significant results from listeners' responses. (crossing fingers)

Chapter 5. Results - Vowel Modifications and Cues
More astounding significant results from speakers' phonetic changes. (crossing fingers)

Chapter 6. Discussion and Conclusion
A brilliant discussion that makes people marvel at my conclusions and think this was the most important research done this year and perhaps this millennium in the entire field of linguistics. Or at least something intelligent that connects my experiment to something theoretical.

No, these aren't the actual titles - just what'll be in them. More or less. Ish.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reason #47,693 why I have the world's best husband

Last night he went over my outline and my statistics with me. And since he's been in grad school, he actually knows how to help. He wrote all kinds of helpful notes on my chapter outline, and got me fired up to start strong again today. I love that man!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Productive yet disappointing day

This morning I spent another two hours going over statistics one last time before giving up and emailing my questions to my committee member. I'm not sure that he'll actually email me back, but it's worth a shot. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to run the Chi-Squared. Actually, I know how to run it in SPSS, but I can't figure out what to put in each cell and suspect that it's actually the wrong test to use.

The good news is, I wrote a chapter of my dissertation this afternoon! The bad news is, it's really bad. I didn't think it was possible for a methodology section to be bad! And don't be impressed by the speed - I basically cut and pasted from my prospectus.

Oh dear, what a depressing first entry for this blog! I need to put something positive in here... Does having fun starting this blog count? I say yes.

About Me

I'm Elizabeth, a fifth-year PhD student. I'm ABD, but sometimes that D part seems quite far away! This blog documents my process of dissertating - working on my dissertation. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's exciting, sometimes it's just mundane - but it's all necessary!

I'm a linguist, which does not mean I'm a translator. (Don't worry, that's a common misconception and I won't hold it against you.) I currently live 1500 miles away from my university. It wasn't always that way, but it's working out that way for me to write. This means I can live with my husband - yay! I plan to finish in May of 2010. The money runs out then, as does my patience and commitment!

My research is actually somewhat interesting! I'm looking at foreign accents and whether listeners can (a) determine the accent they hear and (b) tell the difference between authentic and imitated accents. In addition to this, I'm looking at the imitated accents I gathered to (a) investigate the difference between free (spontaneous) imitations and modeled imitations (spoken after hearing an authentic accent), specifically exploring vowel differences, and (b) examine how this reflects on salience and stereotypes.

Feel free to comment, and thanks for stopping by!

(This should go without saying, but just in case: Everything on this site is copyrighted by me. Please don't steal anything - ideas, data, etc. It's probably not that great anyway. If you're interested in what I'm doing, please contact me at egbrunner [at] gmail.)