Effectively ABD

And so begins a period of reflection and regrouping. Three weeks ago today I passed my comprehensive examination defense and, very soon, I will officially be ABD (the conclusion to a short and extremely straightforward bibliography course is all that stands in my way…more on that later).

Obviously my great scheme to blog the comps process sort of tanked, and for many reasons. For one, as I have said, once September picks up, there are only so many workable hours in a day, and those hours need be applied to reading and note-taking before they can ever be used to articulate budding brilliances in blog form. Which is not to say that, while writing the two examination papers, I didn’t often wish that I had blogged more, or at least written more (beyond summarizing) throughout the comps year, instead of leaving most of it to the end. It’s an easy thing to say now, but when newbie comps kids approach me in the coming months and ask whether or not they should try to write as much as possible while they read I will definitely be telling them to shoot for the moon (in other words, YES, write as soon as you can, even if the product of your efforts seems unworthy of the task).

Of course, there were other reasons my social media comps experiment dropped off. I was busy with the reading, but I was also busy with conferences, publications, teaching and applications. Living the deadline life means prioritization of tasks is always already determined by when they are due. It is difficult to put down a conference paper to be presented in a week for a comps paper to be submitted in a month or two. The comps taught me a lot about balancing multiple deadlines and assignments but, as it turns out, I still have a lot to learn.

While each of these reasons-for-not-doing-as-well-as-I-might-have are certainly accurate, the biggest challenge of the past few months had nothing to do with the several conferences I attended or the tutorials I had to prepare and the papers I had to mark. Sometimes we just…kind of…break. I would never presume that personal collapses are exclusive to academia, but the relation between high stress times and mental and emotional breakdowns is compelling. In the name of brevity and discretion, let’s just say I went through a “bad patch.” I don’t think the simultaneous occurrence of this difficulty and the comps examinations was a coincidence, but I stand by the assertion that the cause of it had nothing to do with comps. Fortunately for me I am part of an understanding and unfailingly supportive department willing to give me the time I needed to work through everything. As I understand it, this is not always the case. It’s nice to be on the other side of it now, though there remains residual considerations and lessons through which I will be working in the coming months.

Okay, enough about what I didn’t accomplish in this, my comps year. What about all of the things I did, and all of the things I learned? A year ago I had never attended an academic conference. I have since been to five. (A year ago I had never been outside Canada. I have since visited three states.) I have a better sense of my field now, not simply on paper, but in actuality, the day-to-day goings-on of academic scholarship. I have shared my work with discerning strangers; my ideas have been and are soon to be published. I have had, amidst months of seeming failures, a complement of successes. I’m just going to say it: in one short year, I’ve come a long way, baby.

Which brings me to now. What’s the plan for summer term? It remains in the works, but I think I’ve fairly certainly determined the bullet points. One: RELAX. I need to take some time off. Not off off, as it turns out; I still feel ready to work, just at a significantly reduced pace. I plan to work in some full-on vacation time, but I don’t foresee a full summer of it. There are many things to do and, perhaps surprisingly, I’m feeling fairly ready to do them.

Two: Get organized. Organize all of the stuff that has come and gone and organize all of the stuff still to come. I do not intend to begin serious “thesis work” until the fall. In the meantime, I want to formalize those vague lists floating around my head as to what I need to read and research before I can get down to writing (and do some of this reading, too). I would also like to prepare some kind of writing plan/schedule, so when “writing time” officially arrives, I’ll be ready(ish) for it.

Three: Send in some of those papers I’ve got kicking around for publication…and hope for the best. I’ve also begun preliminary work on a collaborative paper with a colleague. So far, so good, but I will reserve the dissemination of any details for a future time…when the work is further along…and hopefully still happening.

Four: Reassess my own social media involvements. Optimize them, if you will. And here’s where that bibliography course comes in. In order to pass the course, we are required to prepare a final presentation and paper on the topic of our own research databases and archives in order to answer the question of how bibliographical resources, archives, and communities relate to/enrich our dissertation projects (let’s be fair: an intensely, almost embarrassingly relevant question for my own project)? My own answer will be communicated across four blog entries (all available right here!) on the following topics:

1. Managing my online academic profile (on Academia.edu, our department website, etc.)
2. Evaluating my Twitter presence (what kinds of contacts can be made in this space, who to follow and stop following, etc.)
3. Improving my “academic” blogging practices (developing a reasonable blog schedule, preparing short “response papers” on current issues and news stories relevant to my research, etc.)
4. Optimizing my use of Google Alerts, Reader and Bookshelf

I am set to present on these topics in a week, and am off to Niagara Falls this weekend, so expect these entries to appear in the  near future.

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~ by pamelaingleton on 9 May 2011.

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