Friday, April 9, 2010

This thing just keeps taking longer than I thought

I finally was able to have an unhurried phone meeting with my adviser - hallelujah! When I can get a hold of her, she really is helpful.

Maybe too helpful. She had all kinds of comments about stuff I should add, further measurements and tests I need to do. Oh, and it should probably be around 200 pages, at least. I've probably got about 120 right now. Ugh.

As she said, I probably could get it done quickly, if I had to, but she wants me to have "a really kick-ass dissertation" so it's worth taking an extra month to get it done. But I'm fairly certain her one month will at least double, if not turn into August.

I wonder if I told her that I never plan to get a job in linguistics, she'd feel better about it not needing to be completely kick-ass? Somehow I don't think that'd be the best idea.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Quick reminder

I got a friendly email today reminding me that there are only 4 weeks left for thesis submission for a May degree conferral. Ha. That goal went out the window. Now I'm just trying to defend by May!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Motivate! Motivate! Motivate!

Well, I finally badgered my adviser enough so that she got a chapter back to me! (Supposedly all three were going to be back yesterday... I still hadn't seen them this morning, but by noon she had at least got one back to me. Will I get the other two today? It's anybody's guess!)

Basically the only comment she wrote was "Why?" Over and over again. Apparently I need to motivate why I'm doing what I'm doing a lot more. She had actually told me this earlier, so I added nice little c.f.'s back to the first two chapters. Apparently that's not the right way to go about it.

I would complain, but I'm just so happy to have some work to do that I think I'll just do that instead.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Still waiting

It's been forever since I updated, and unfortunately it's not because I've been working hard. I did finish chapters 3-5 and sent them to my adviser, so now I'm just playing the waiting game again. I'd like to go ahead and write my sixth and final chapter, but I'd really like to get her feedback on the thoughts I present in 4-5 before I expand on them. In the meantime I should finish revising the first chapter, but have to figure out what my conclusion will be before I can really write a good intro for it.

In other words, I'm blaming my lack of writing on my adviser, and content myself with calling her every other day.

On the bright side, my amazing husband has started reading through what I have and making lots of helpful comments. He's always been able to motivate me more than any professor!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The gift of pestering

I sent my adviser the next two chapters of my dissertation on Monday - whoohoo! Of course I haven't heard anything in response from her, so I called her home phone and cell phone first thing this morning. Of course she didn't answer, but I left a message urging her to read them and get back to me, seeing as I kind of need to graduate in like 4 weeks.

Then I logged on to facebook and discovered that today is her birthday. Whoops. I'm sure seeing my name pop up on caller ID was the way she wanted to start the day! Guess I won't be hearing back from her for another week...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I actually get paid to do this

My only comment is that the folks in the hard sciences get paid more - I'm one of the grad students who brings that average down :)  But who can complain when you get paid to go to school?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Smartest thing I've done while dissertating

Hiring a statistics grad student to run my numbers. You know, the ones I've been struggling to figure out since SEPTEMBER? The ones that could've been done then, if my husband I hadn't been so reluctant to hire them out, and therefore potentially have been done writing this thing by now?

I didn't do it earlier because this is part of getting your degree, you'll need to know them in the future, yadda yadda yadda. Guess what? When none of the professors know it, that's a sign that you won't actually have to know it. And when you aren't familiar with research methods and setting up an experiment so you know what stats to run ahead of time, you end up with much more complicated tests to run. Complicated things that even your psychology committee member, who teaches a stats class himself, can't do.

Then it's time to bring in the big guns. Well, not the really big ones - I checked with an online company that wanted to charge me $2400 to do it. $2400! What a joke. Then of course they said they could do less for half price (which is what I wanted them to do anyway - I don't really want someone else to write my results chapter), but that was still way over the top. Enter stats grad student - smaller guns but the bullets are just as effective.

The happiest day of my dissertation so far was when she emailed me the results.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing dreams and writing desperation

I read a literary agent's blog for fun. I daydream about a time when I can write just for fun and become a published author, writing about things that are completely unrelated to this dissertation.

I've wanted to be a writer since grade school (yup, I was that cool), and it wasn't until I got my first B in college in a creative writing class (taught by a teacher that absolutely appalled me) that I thought it might not happen. I promptly gave up my dreams of the next great American novel, eschewed the literature part of my English degree in favor of linguistics, and moved on. And in the process of grad school, discovered something: I really like writing non-fiction. I'm also probably better at writing it than fiction. I love learning, I really like sharing what I've learned, and I've learned how to do that clearly. Score!

How did I get on that tangent?

Anyway, the other day the agent wrote a post about not writing for money (which I don't plan to do), and I was surprised at how much it resonated with my dissertation writing. Of course I'm not making any money off it, but I am approaching it with an almost palpable sense of desperation. She notes:

I've found that when the writing is all mixed up in your mind with a financial need, especially a need that's fraught with anxiety, the writing suffers. Not only that, but the joy is diminished, because the goal has changed (maybe without your even knowing it) from "write a great book" to "pay off my MasterCard."

How do I relate to that?

I've found that when dissertating is all mixed up in your mind with finishing, especially when deadlines are extremely close, the writing suffers. Not only that, but the joy is diminished, because the goal has changed (maybe without your even knowing it) from "write a great dissertation" to "finish the stupid thing."

I imagine most grad students feel this type of desperation at some point or another, and it's a rare grad who is able to balance the desire for perfection (feeling that their dissertation must be their masterpiece) and the desire to move on (feeling that their dissertation is just another hurdle to pass). Most of the time, I'm afraid my desperation shines through to my committee, and I fear that this is a little insulting to them. It's time for me to remember that I can find joy in writing my dissertation.

So today's goal is to rediscover the joy in dissertating. There is some there: the satisfaction of a well-written paragraph, an eye-catching chart, a brilliant point. Today I am focusing on that.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nothing like a snow day or two

Today is snow day number two. On Saturday we got a good foot, last night we got 5 inches and another 8 inches is predicted for this afternoon. This is the best time of the year to be in Houston (i.e., the worst time of the year to be someplace besides Houston!). But if it's going to be cold, I do like having the snow along with it!

The good thing about snow days is that you're confined inside. Thanks to the trash on tv, you're more specifically confined to your computer, which allowed me to finish my revision of chapter 3! I don't actually think it's that great, but it's great that I finished it!

That means I've now sent revisions of chapters 1-3 to my adviser. Cross your fingers and say a prayer that she gets around to reading them at some point!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Now taking bets...

On whether my adviser will read the drafts of my first two chapters by the end of the month.

Specifically, by February 26, the degree conferral deadline. If she gets back to me and says they look good, there is hope for actually getting my degree in May! If she doesn't get back to me or says they need more work, I will likely not defend until April - therefore still finishing this spring, but not technically getting my degree 'til December. Either way, I will finish by May, but I'd really like to push and be completely finished by then.

The plan is to call and email my professor every other day, starting Monday. Literally. I contemplated giving her the weekends off, but she might be more likely to read it then, so I probably will continue pestering her. She's told me to do it so many times that I'm really going to take her up on it for the next couple months!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What's the point?

I am having a hard time putting together the opening paragraph of my dissertation. I realized this afternoon it's because I have no idea what point I want to make. I barely knew it before, but now that I've reorganized I'm having to think even harder. What is the overarching goal? What's the big question I'm trying to answer? (Do I even have one?!)

Hm. Is it a bad thing to be writing a dissertation when I don't know what I want to say?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Put the scissors down

I may be getting a little happy with the "cut" command. I have now deleted so much from my first chapter that it's a little over half its original length. I keep telling myself I'm just making it tighter? (Even though my adviser told me to pad it...)

Usually I can't bear to part with these major cuts. So to make it easier on myself, I made a second document, where I'm pasting everything that I cut, with a sentence above saying why I cut it. Just in case my adviser says "What about where you talked about X? Why'd you take that out?" Then I can just paste it right back in. Better safe than sorry!

Friday, January 29, 2010

2 pages, 2 hours

That's basically been my rate this week. Each 2 or so page section takes me more or less 2 hours, even though it's already written.

Also, I feel like I'm cutting a lot, which kind of worries me. My adviser actually told me I needed to pad what I'd written! And yet, with this major revision, I feel like it's a stronger paper and I can get rid of several paragraphs, perhaps entire sections. And it's not like it's too short: what was 25 pages (1.5 spaced) is still 18.

Anyway, the chapter is so much better now that I think this is all worthwhile. But this pace is not promising. In an ideal world, I would have revised chapters 1-3 by now. I'm halfway through the first chapter...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

About face

I'm taking my adviser's advice and completely reordering my first chapter, which basically means rethinking the whole thing conceptually. I'm now basing my entire work on Preston's concepts of linguistic awareness and folk artifacts (1996), instead of perception and salience. I was a bit reluctant to do this because it's a lot of work, but I have to say it's looking so much better. That's the thing about my adviser - she's horrible to get a hold of, but once you do she'll have some gem of advice that makes the waiting (almost) worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Roller coaster

I'm back on campus and have taken these past couple days to meet up with all three of my committee members. Within every meeting there have been ups and downs, but here's a broad overview:

UP: My adviser finally got me comments on my first two chapters.
DOWN: The first chapter needs a ton of work.
UP: The second chapter is basically good to go!

UP: My within-dept committee member was quite helpful going through my statistics with me.
DOWN: That afternoon I had another statistics breakdown, and (again) was unable to follow her suggestions due to requirements of the tests.

UP: First thing this morning I found a way to make one test work! It showed exactly what I wanted to be significant!
DOWN: My outside-dept committee member informed me that none of the statistics I'd done were valid, because they were all violating an important assumption. The tests I've been fretting over for the last 4+ months? Basically toss 'em.

And that's not even including the personal side of my trip so far.

Who knows what tomorrow might bring? Hopefully a meeting with yet another guy who can finalize stats stuff. And oh yeah, giving a colloquium to my dept and presenting my research to all them for the first time. I should really put together that talk, huh?

Saturday, January 16, 2010


It's Saturday and I'm sitting at my computer to work. I like to take the weekends off. But since I spent too much time blogging and slacking off didn't get enough work done this week, I have to sacrifice my Saturday afternoon for a powerpoint presentation.

I am so done with grad school.

If I (a) hadn't put in so much time already, (b) wasn't sure that I was supposed to get my PhD, and (c) wasn't sure that I'd regret it if I didn't, I could easily say "forget it" and drop out. After all, if I'm being honest, I'm not gonna do a thing with this degree, at least for the next 10 years. I want babies, and I want them now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anything but that!

Wow, it's been a busy couple weeks and will continue to be. As I'm simultaneously writing my results draft and putting together my powerpoint for next week's talk*, I've come to the dismal tentative conclusion that I need to rework some of my statistics. These were the stats that I thought were finished and good to go. And yet, after being reminded of a different method this past weekend, I'm afraid it's more appropriate for my work. (In a nutshell, instead of testing F1 and F2 separately, as I did, testing the distance between them.) Right now I'm stalling and trying to think of reasons why I shouldn't have to do that. So far all I've got is that I won't have time to do it by next week, and if no one in the audience suggests it, maybe I can get away without it.

And yet... for all my wanting to hurry and get this done as quickly as possible, I just don't know if I can let myself get away with it. I don't want to sacrifice quality for speed. (Actually, I want to be okay with that, but I just can't.)

And while I'm complaining about statistics (as usual), do you mind if I whine that I'm still not sure about my other numbers? Even the professional statistician didn't actually answer my questions - he just suggested I present what I have and then try (yet another) test. I think this is actually a case where I will base my decisions on what the audience says. If they don't like what I did and suggest something else, I'll do it. If they can't think of a better way, I'll probably say forget it.

If I could go back to Undergraduate Me and give her one piece of advice, it would be to take as many statistics classes and psychology research methods classes as possible. (Actually, I'd probably talk to Undergraduate Me about a few other things as well, but those are unrelated to linguistics.)

* I've found giving presentations on your work as it's in progress to be a helpful way to get a handle on what you're doing. For example, in order to create my presentation, I need to write the conclusions for these sections (something I've put off doing). In figuring out what the most important things to say are, my presentation and my written draft inform each other.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How could I forget?

The most important thing I could do to ensure that my adviser finally gets back to me is not to call and email her incessantly (although that's a close second). It's to pray for her. Duh.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Where oh where has my jumpdisk gone

Can anyone else never find a USB stick when they need one? There used to be three of them in this 20 square foot space.

Looks like I'll be heading out to the store shortly...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting down to business

... hasn't happened yet today.

I told myself I was not going to even attempt to catch up on all the blog posts I've missed in the past week or so - I needed to start working immediately. And somehow, 3+ hours later, I still haven't started. Yikes.

What's that you say? Conference looming three days from now, and the poster should really be printed out tomorrow? I can't hear you!

Trip back to school to give a colloquium two weeks from now, and abstract for it due one week from now? La la la, still not listening!

And a personal timeline that states I will send a first draft of my final two chapters to my adviser tomorrow? When she hasn't returned what I sent her a month ago, that's not happening either.