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.