Episode 32: Episode 32. Grad Student Committee Event on Writing and Academia

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In this episode, the QR SIG's Graduate Student Committee hosts a conversation with Dr. Cassie Brownell, Dr. Stephanie Shelton, and Dr. Sandra Guzman Foster about how to successfully navigate graduate school, dissertation reading and writing, and the job market. Below is a transcript of the conversation.
Carlson Coogler 0:11
Yeah, so everybody, welcome. Thank you so much for coming to our first but hopefully not our last invited speaker about this hosted by the graduate student committee of the qualitative research SIG of AERA, my name is Carlson and I'm the chair of this wonderful group of people who make up the graduate student committee. And so first and foremost, I want to acknowledge them and around a virtual applause. Thanks for all their hard work. This would not have happened without them as what our groups are initiatives not happened without them. So thank you so much to Amir, Deleasa, Jen, Kristen, Ashley, and Mariia for the incredible job y'all have done with all of this and running and supporting our three initiatives, the reading group, the writing group, and the dissertation slash add group while being yourselves graduate students and therefore very busy. Second, I want to welcome our attendees and encourage you to participate in our initiatives. And so if you are not already on our listserv, you can send us an email and that qrsiggrads@gmail.com. And then we can put that in the chat, but also that's on the flyer. So if you if you're interested in joining the reading the writing of the dissertation group finding out more about, then we encourage you to join our listserv for that. So, and groups will be meeting soon. So if you have you're not missing anything if you haven't gotten started yet. Third, and of course, very importantly, I want to thank our speakers. We are so grateful for your time and energy and are eager to [...]. Thanks so much.
So first is Dr. Cassie Brownell. She is an assistant professor of curriculum teaching and learning in the Ontario Institute for Studies and education at the University of Toronto. Her research takes up issues of educational justice and equity in early childhood. Drawing on critical socio cultural theory, Cassie examines children's socio political development through school based studies as well as community based research. She has received funding from the National Academy of Education slash the Central Research Foundation, Canada's Social Sciences and Human Humanities Research Council, the International literacies Association and the National Council of Teachers of education. Samples of her research can be found in the pages of anthropology and education quarterly theory into practice, Teachers College record and research in the teaching of English. Dr. Sandra L. Guzman boster earned her PhD in educational leadership and policy studies at Arizona State University, where she was also at Gates Millennium Scholar and a Spencer interdisciplinary fellow. Prior to joining the University of the Incarnate Word Dr. Guzman Foster work as an educational consultant, where she worked on several projects such as leading research and evaluation teams and fieldwork, developing course curriculum for online programs, and serving as a research subject matter expert, Dr. Guzman foster brings experienced an online hybrid pedagogy, curriculum development, teacher education, program evaluation, educational research and social justice education. Additionally, Dr. Guzman Foster has taught at the K 12 level community college level at the university level in Texas, Arizona and Colorado. A first generation college graduate Dr. Stephanie Ann Shelton is Associate Professor of qualitative research and program chair of the educational research program and the College of Education at the University of Alabama and affiliate faculty member in the Department of gender and race studies and the Gifted Education Program, research interests are often interview and focus group base and include examining intersections of gender identities, gender expressions, sexualities, race and class and educational context. publications have appeared in qualitative inquiry, the International Journal of qualitative studies and education, qualitative research journal GLP, a journal of lesbian and gay studies, the International Journal of Transgender Health, The Journal of lesbian studies, and teaching and teacher education. She has published four books, including feminism and intersectionality in academia, women's narratives and experiences in higher education 2018, which was reprinted in 2020, and the just published Encyclopedia of queer studies and education. She was the 2020, recipient of the American Educational Research Association, Early Career Award and measurement and research methodology, and the 2021, recipient of the NCTE LGBTQ plus leadership and advocacy at work. So without further ado, I will pass this over to Dr. Brownell.
Dr. Brownel 4:19
Thanks so much for having us. It's super exciting to be here with you all. And especially for this first event with such phenomenal co speakers here with me. I tend to speak a little fast, especially when I get excited. So I'm going to turn on the captions here for folks as well. So as mentioned, my name is Cassie Brownell, I'm an assistant professor just in my fourth year having just completed my interim tenure review this past year, and I have put together a bit of a slideshow to organize my thoughts and share with you all and so the link is available for you here. Just the tinyurl.com QR dash reading that you're also welcome to find me on Twitter either now or later. And I've framed this around motivation and procrastination, the lessons and overwhelm and academic reading. And I'm going to hopefully share some tips and tricks, but a little bit of my own journey with you as well. So to get us started just an overview of what I'll be talking about today, and I'm gonna begin with a portrait of a reader to be myself. And then moving forward talking about building your stack borrowing some language from NCTE, which I know Dr. Shelton will appreciate thinking about reading practice and reading as practice. And then thinking beyond overwhelm, which I think is a common thing when we're thinking about reading, at least for someone like me. So to begin, I wanted to insert a little comment here about this is really a portrait of a reluctant reader. So it felt like this image of this woman on her phone with her computer, that maybe with a text that she's turned her back to a really represents me a lot of days. And this is my reaction to how I felt to being asked to participate today was saying, what you asked me, I wouldn't say I particularly like reading. And then thinking, whenever I'm reading, I feel like I have to read a sentence, a paragraph, a page over and over again. And that's true, both as someone who is trying to often grasp ideas, theories, or in different sorts of ways remember the things that I'm reading. But it's also true in that I am someone who was recently diagnosed with ADHD. And so that sort of executive dysfunction and working memory is something that I've really been working through. And so I have a sigh here as well, in that having recently been diagnosed and started on some medications. Reading for me is something that is really quite different. And it's given me a new energy as I've moved forward with reading. So I'm coming to you today as someone who's practice reading a bit more recently in a new way, where I'm not having to reread sentences, pages and paragraphs over and over or reread articles over and over. But as someone who also has have had a lot of difficulty in reading at different times. So in thinking about those sorts of experiences, I wanted to start by talking a bit about myself as a reader, and both in graduate school and now as a faculty member. And so I have four big ideas here. The first is talking about building your stamina. And this is something that I borrow from my time when I was a first grade teacher. And we used to use this kind of program where we would talk about how you needed to build a young learners ability to sit and to read for longer periods of time. So we would start with just two minutes, two minutes of reading, and build up to having a little first grader who then is able to sit and read for 20 minutes. And this is something that I see as being really common and necessary for us in the world of academia, and learning to sit and read for long periods of time, or to pick up our reading and be interrupted by family members. But to come back to it in the same sort of way. And so in the same ways that we might build our stamina for working out, we need to do that too, for reading as well as for writing. The second sort of thing that I came into graduate school thinking about, and thanks to the wisdom of colleagues at Michigan State University who were farther along than I was in the program, as well as the wisdom of some of our faculty members who taught our initial pro seminars was to really not be afraid to divide and conquer our readings. So with a group of colleagues who are in my cohort, my first year at graduate school, we would take our readings for our Pro Seminar and each of us would really hone in on one particular reading, and then we would come together and we would share about those readings, having skimmed the other ones or maybe had more time to read some of them more closely than others. But it provided us a space to try out some of the ideas and you might want to talk about in class, to work through some of the questions you might have had in reading the different texts. But it also helped us to know that we didn't have to read every single word, which is something that I will come back to you throughout this sort of short presentation.
Another thing that I think is really important that I definitely cried the first time my friend when Watanabe, who was a Michigan State student, and a bit more senior to me asked was, don't you the parts of an article, and I definitely didn't. So learning to deconstruct an article and identify that the parts that often exist, especially with an empirical work in qualitative research would be things like the abstract and the introduction and knowing how important those are to read really closely to give you a sense of what that pieces may be about, and then taking time to look at those different headings. And so those might be things related to the literature, review, the theoretical framework, the methods, the findings, and then moving forward to the discussion and conclusion. But knowing which parts of those you might want to hone in on to bolster your reading of that particular text or your understanding or to even just begin to understand if this is a piece that you really want to spend time thinking. So learning how to deconstruct an article is something that I talk about with my graduate students, as well as my undergraduate students in the various courses that I'm teaching. And if you're someone who's coming into graduate school or has been in graduate school and doesn't yet know how to recite those parts of an article don't feel bad I was I mentioned I definitely cried when she asked me because I felt frustrated that I didn't yet the fourth thing I have is that we have these reading rabbit holes that we can go down into and I think that reading rabbit holes can be really helpful. So for myself, I read everything by him Haas Dyson, he you and Karen Rowland really early on in my graduate school career as they're folks who are really engaged with ideas of qualitative research with critical lenses in thinking about children's play writing and literacies
And those are things I was really interested in. At the same time, I also went down other reading rabbit holes where I was then able to identify things that really weren't in my area were one of the things that I wanted to spend my focus and my time on. So I think that rabbit holes are great in terms of we can really come to know a researcher or an area very well, and know how those fit for us. But we can also use those opportunities to really think about the ways in which they maybe don't fit for us. And maybe we need to think differently about them in terms of thinking about myself now as a faculty member. And with some help from Carlson and Ashley, who are on the call and providing some additional prompts for how to go about this talk. One of the things that I think is really interesting is to think about how my reading has shifted. So as someone who is working often on multiple projects, my reading at this point is very much project driven. So I'm doing a lot of work right now in child radio, working with some middle grades, kids who are engaging in radio production themselves. And so really reading a ton about radio about podcasting about how that happens often at secondary and post secondary levels. But there's less about that for children. But that also means I'm reading in digital literacies. That means I'm reading in thinking about community based literacies. At other times, too, I'm also working on other projects that still relate to my dissertation. So I'm reading things about immigration, and I'm reading things related to the various methods that I use across these different projects. And so in many ways, I come to those readings with particular ideas about what it is I want to get out of them. So I do a lot of project based reading at this point that is a bit different than maybe in graduate school when I was reading both for coursework, as well as for my dissertations. I also read a lot in terms of maybe some of my stuff, if I'm stuck in my methods, I might go back to a really foundational text. That's also true for framing any theoretical framing that maybe I want to read additional empirical articles that have made use of that framing to see the ways in which they have applied it so that I can start to think about that for myself a little bit differently. I also do a lot of review based reading. And I say that both is someone who reviews for journals. So I'm an editor of curriculum inquiry and do a lot of reading for them, as well as people reviewing for various journals in qualitative research or in literacies in early childhood. And that's a great opportunity for me to keep up with what's new in the field. And at the same time, I'm to also engage in review of students work, my colleagues work as they're working to submit things as well. The last sort of thing I have here is inspiration seeking reading, which I think is something that I talked a lot about with my colleague John Wargo is thinking about, sometimes we just need to read something beautiful to help us get through the stuck points or think through our projects, and make sense of the words and work that we want to put forward ourselves. And so that's definitely something that I have been thinking a lot about, and try to incorporate into my everyday life if that's a book on Audible, or if that's like some poetry or some other short reading, or novels as well. So the next kind of thing I want to talk about is building our stack. So I've told you a bit about myself and my reading practices and how they've evolved. But thinking about how do we start to build our own stack. So I'm stealing a little bit from that old wedding adage of something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. But I'm putting Google in talking about things that are old, it's important for us to know like these foundational scholars and texts, and I put foundational in text because we know that there's a lot of inequities that have persisted in under representation of women, Junior Scholars, people of color, queer people, and so on. And so we need to be critical of foundational texts that of course, we do need to know them to some, in some respect, even if we're critiquing them, in terms of something new I BrowZine. So browsing on impress a text online BrowZine is a tool that you can do that you can connect it to your library and see articles that are actually not yet available, even on journal websites, but maybe they'll be published there. So that's a great way to pay attention to new articles, as well as following scholars on Twitter or following hashtags on Twitter following hashtags like a cite black women, just to help to bring yourself into conversation with newer pieces and different sorts of ways borrowed reading scholars and texts that are outside of your area. I think that's outside of your area of your little niche that is your dissertation work, but also maybe your specific field. And so I'm someone that is strongly in education, but I often borrow from writing Rhetoric and Composition scholars, I borrow from sound scholars who are involved in like ethnomusicology, or an anthropology in different sorts of ways. And those sorts of things have helped to make me think differently about my methods, but also about some of the work that I'm engaged in Googled, of course, we can set up our keywords, search things with keywords on Google Scholar, we can also set up different daily alerts reading his practice, I have here this image of this woman with headphones on but with music with books with the plant, so thinking about what it is that you need to be successful. How does this change based on what kind of reading you're doing when you're reading something theoretical? Is that different than reading something empirical? How, where do you need to be? What kinds of settings do you need to set up for yourself to find success in these sorts of moments? And I also think it's important that we have a plan for reading and a plan for how we're going to connect and recall the information. So that includes creating long and short term reading goals with wiggle room, but also developing a personally meaningful kind of system for collating
Tax. So I just put up a made up little thing here in terms of planning, I think it's useful to create like a long term plan for your vaults semester or for the summer for your reading, as well as for your writing. And that might mean you're reading for coursework at the same time that you're doing things for your dissertation. But maybe you're incorporating reading in other ways in terms of listening to podcasts, watching lectures, or also reading those fun, beautiful books. As I mentioned, things like the library book on Audible is really great. At the same time, there's a ton of resources available for how you can connect this work and ways in which you can recall it to scholars here that offer a ton of different insights, our role, patto, Cecco, Vega, and just Calarco, whose book I have here, and it's really great. They talk about things using citation management systems using color coding, but I think the primary thing we want to think about as we're reading is what you're reading, how does it push you forward in terms of helping you with your argument, or maybe helping you to understand how your argument would be countered? And what can you do to help you in that way, for me, I'm not someone who uses a management system and that citation management system, but I have a notebook where I take all of my notes, and I organize things often related to projects. So you don't have to feel bad if you're not someone who color codes, or someone who doesn't use a citation management system. There's lots of ways in but there's tons of resources. I mean, it's really about finding out what works for you.
So a few recommendations to close out and help us move beyond overwhelm. And some of these are borrowed from Jeff Calarco, and others. But the first is to read like a researcher. So when we're approaching our texts that we're reading, it's important that we bring our questions that maybe we have for a specific thing I want to know about radio for in particular, but perceiving those questions or like new answers, so coming with a research question to the piece that you're reading, the next thing is just to take the first step. So sometimes it's really hard for me to just get initiated on a task. So sometimes it's helpful to just read the first chapter or just the abstract, or maybe to read a book review before you actually read a book to get a better feel for it, and to make yourself more comfortable with it. The next thing is to make decisions, you have to decide where to focus your efforts. In times, we're not going to be able to read every word, I haven't read every word of every book behind me. Instead, I read really strategically in terms of reading it for chapter to find out what chapters I want to read or skimming articles and different sorts of ways to focus specifically on the frame at work, or specifically on the methods or specifically on the findings. It's also important for you to track what you read. As I mentioned, I jot notes in a notebook. Some people write annotated bibliographies, others write direct quotes that they might want to incorporate into a document. And then they use that later. A few other things we want to think about this guy right here has lots of distractions, it is important that we limit our distractions that we have around us. So pausing notifications, using things like Do Not Disturb on your phone or on your computer, finding time away from others, maybe taking a writing retreat, sitting somewhere new visiting a cafe, instead of staying just in your home, maybe partaking in a favorite treat, like treating yourself to coffee as a means to sit down and write. Another idea is to consider reading as writing, I really see these as recursive process practices. So we really need to treat them like that when we're spending time reading, we know it's going to push us forward in our writing. And when we're writing, we're always building from those things that we've read. And those are things that we shouldn't forget. The last thing is just to remember that you really need to evolve your practice. So you and your reading practice are not static. As I mentioned at the beginning, I've had a lot of things that have shifted my practices, interbreeding and the different experiences I've had, and the things that I've learned from others have really pushed me forward in these sorts of ways. So I encourage you to think about that for yourself as well. So I'll close there, I'm just offered that if you have any questions, comments, compliments, or suggestions, you can feel free to reach out to me on Twitter. And I'm very excited to hear from our other panelists today. Thank you.
Carlson Coogler 18:29
Great. Thank you so much. That was wonderful. We're going to now move to Dr. Grayson Foster, who will be talking about writing.
Dr. Guzman Foster 18:39
Thank you, Dr. Brownell, that was awesome. All right. So what I'm going to do today is I'm going to just share some tips, tricks and tips on how to get through with your how to really cope with your writing your dissertation. So the first thing and I do take note that institutions are different in what they do. But I really want to emphasize the importance of choosing a topic that you're passionate about, I believe, and I've seen with students who don't choose a topic that they're passionate about never finishing their abd they don't move on. But if it's something that you're passionate about, you're more likely to actually follow through with it and actually finish I hear different stories across the country about how students choose their topics. The one thing I want to encourage you to do is to not let anyone choose it for you. Again, this is your baby, your project. You choose what you're passionate about time. When you're writing your dissertation, you must be realistic. A lot of times the very first thing I ask my students when I meet with them is what is your timeline, and life happens. So you need to make sure you make room for those kinds of things. Also, reach out to your family to know what it's about to occur. You're doing your dissertation research. And writing goes along with that you're collecting data. And if you have a full time job or you're working talk to your employer to say this is about to happen in case any major projects are coming along so that we can manage your time better. I find that once students don't schedule a time to do their writing, they fall further behind, and then it takes them a little bit longer to actually finish. And not only that, they become discouraged and never pick up again. And so be realistic. And a little bit, I'm gonna talk about what you need to do as far as writing is concerned. But that time piece is so important, right every day as if it's an appointment, put it in your calendar. Also, if you're like, an age myself, but I didn't have a cell, I was doing my dissertation research. So what I would do without carry a little notebook in my purse, and wherever I was, whether I was in the waiting office, and my doctor, if I was waiting for someone that I was picking up, I would write anything that would come into my mind, I actually put that also on my nightstand because believe it or not, you dream about your dissertation, at least I did. And some of my students actually share that they do the same thing. So I put a notebook on my nightstand because I wake up with these thoughts about something an aha moment or some kind of something that I realized happen with data analysis. And I would write it down because believe it or not, I wouldn't remember the next day because of course, it happened while I was sleeping. But when I would pick up my notebook and see what I wrote, It makes total sense. And so that was one way also that I actually kept track of my thoughts. Because again, you're constantly thinking about your dissertation and you want to finish, you want to make sure it's great writing. But if you don't write every day, you're going to lose that passion and that motivation. And I think that students need to understand that it's important that you write every day, because if you go too long without writing, you may not want to pick up again, this is the one I really want to talk about, you need to silence your inner critic, all of us have that inner critic. And the idea is that you are at the point where you are because you worked hard, you are at the point that you are because you are a scholar, you are at the point where you are. So get rid of that inner critic that tells you Oh, you're never gonna finish or this is too much what am I get myself into silence that inner critic, it is so important that you do that. I know that's very hard to do, because I've been there myself. However, once I saw as my my inner critic being started to flow better, I started to find more motivation, more energy to actually finish my writing. Because you can't get discouraged when you read, you know, you receive comments from your committee or chair about revise and rewrite, know that it's not a personal attack on you. It's to help strengthen your writing, to help strengthen your study to make sure that you are able to demonstrate that you can actually do this. And you can, you wouldn't be at this point, if you couldn't. So make sure that you actually silence that inner critic chunking, which is a term I use sometimes when I was a K 12 teacher when you do things in different small parts. So I would do my chapter for small parts, I do my analysis and small parts, my conclusions, my findings, even the proposal piece, the first few chapters in small parts, and then put everything together at the very end. That worked for me may not work for you. But I highly recommend that you don't try to finish everything in one sitting. But basically try to do small parts every day. And that's where that little writing piece comes in work on one section one day work in another section another day. And the very end, you'll find that it's easier to put everything together because you've actually put the pieces and written the pieces. Now it's a matter of you putting together like a puzzle. And so working in small parts to me is one way to make sure that you don't get burned out that you don't get demotivated, it gives you fresh eyes every time you come back to another park the next day or the next week, and vice versa. This is something that I think is really hard for students to understand is that you're striving for progress, not perfection. Remember, this is your first time for many of you to actually do a research project or dissertation. And that doesn't mean that it can't be perfect. But I think many of us are perfectionist, and we tend to work towards that. But if you do that you're gonna burn yourself out. So it's about making progress, right and with your, hopefully with your charities, your advocate, that progress will be able to, you'll feel that progress, you'll see that progress. And at the very end, you'll see how much tremendous progress you've made. So remember that it's not about being perfect. It's about making progress for that final stage where you actually complete your dissertation and defend your dissertation. And that run is beautiful writing that you've actually completed on your own. Now, when I say on your own, that means you're writing it on your own, but you don't have to do this alone. I think too many times people and our students think they need to do this by themselves. No, you don't reach out to your peers, reach out to your chair, reach out to your committee members. You don't have to do this alone. It's okay to ask for feedback. It's okay to ask questions. It's okay to ask for help. Again, isolation, I think is really not a really good habit to have when you're writing, especially when you're writing your dissertation. Reach out to your peers. I know many of my students actually have partners that they're working with. And that seems to work really well because they keep each other motivated. They pump each other up. They give each other accolades. They also give each other constructive feedback, right because that feedback is very important, especially when it comes from your peers because I believe that our peers it's funny because I think that many times, peer teaching and peer alert learning is so much more stronger than myself doing it because I like to think of it as they're talking in student language versus faculty language. That makes sense. But I believe that our peers really are helpful. And again, reach out to your committee members, because that's what they're there are there, that's when they are there for.
One thing I need to really explain is that you need to practice self compassion as well. This is not easy. Dissertation. Work takes time. dissertation writing takes time, you go through many different phases, you go through many different revisions, revisions, so it's easy to get discouraged. But when you do reach a point where you've made progress, reward yourself, do something nice for yourself, go get a pedicure, I don't know, go get a manicure, read a book that's not an academic book, go see a movie, hang out with your friend, call your mom, do something that is nice for yourself, because that's a reward that you've actually made progress and you deserve it. You can't continue to work. And if you don't ever do that, if you don't take care of yourself. And what will happen is you'll end up being frustrated, stressed, and you may actually hate your dissertation, which we hope that doesn't occur. One of the things that many people do, and I'm guilty of this as well is not for many While You Write tend to always want to go back and you make either color code and you run yourself, you have to go back and do proper citation. To save time, I would highly recommend that you actually do proper citation while you're writing so that way when you do defend your dissertation, and it's ready to go, and if you hire an editor, they'll have less work to do. And it'll be much more quicker to get your dissertation to come to the university so it can get published. Because what happens is sometimes, this is the last part they asked you to format, they asked you to do all the formatting correctly. And I don't know if everybody's APA but we do APA and then that takes time. And some people don't actually do it and believe it or not, they don't finish. And to me, that just seems like a just a lost cause. So if you can try to cite as you write because I think and format as you write because it does help save time at the end. Sometimes we think that this is going to be the best work that we're gonna ever do in a whole entire life. It's not our dissertation is not always our best work. It is a time where you can prove and demonstrate that you can actually do a research project. All of us who are overachievers, myself included perfectionist, myself included, have a hard time with this sometimes, but just know it is going to be great work, but it's not going to be your best. And that's okay. That's okay. Because guess what, as you're moving forward, and you finally get past this step more is to come more work is to come and more best work, several best works will come after your dissertation. You'll kill yourself with stress thinking that this has to be your best work. And then finally, I want to remind you guys and ladies, that you are scholars, you will not be here right now, if you are not a scholar, every student who enters my classroom are scholars don't let anyone ever take that away from you, you are a scholar, and you're going to do this reading, you're going to finish this reading. So remember a topic that you're passionate about. Write every day, do small parts, making appointments you're writing every day, keep a notebook or your phone or your nightstand so you can record anything. And then also don't do this alone. Reach out to others, whether it's your peers, or your chair or your committee members. Those are the tips that I have for you to actually finish your dissertation. If you find yourself demotivated, just not sure that you want to move forward. That's what your peers are there for. And that's what your chairs there for. Because guess what I know myself as a chair, I'm the biggest cheerleader for my students, and I advocate for them. But I'm also there for them. And space is life happens. Whatever happens, life happens to get them back on track. So those are my tips and tricks. I hope that you enjoy them. And let me know if you have any questions and reach out to me.
Carlson Coogler 28:44
Great, thank you so much. Really wonderful, Doc. Now we're now going to move to Dr. Shelton, who will be talking about the dissertation and job search process.
Dr. Shelton 28:55
As Carlson mentioned as part of my introduction, that I'm a first generation student. And so I want to bring that back up just because I want to emphasize that neither part of what I'm about to talk about was there's nothing intuitive about it. I always felt like maybe I was an idiot, or I was behind or whatever, because I didn't get certain things. And I would just I want to emphasize that whether you're first generation or not, there's nothing intuitive about the distribution or the job search. And if you don't know things that's natural and normal, and you need to not be embarrassed about finding out and so I'm going to talk about the two together first, Dr. Guzman Foster's presentation leads really nicely and it's an I think so for both the dissertation and the job talk. I do the job search. I do want to emphasize that you have options. I think a lot of times and academia there are defaults, and a lot of times because students don't know and are hesitant to ask, they don't know that there are choices and I'm gonna talk more about what that means in just a bit but you're in not stuck with a particular format or particular type of job trajectory.
The other thing is for both a dissertation and for job searches to be really intentional and realistic for the intentionality, I'm really emphatic with my students, they need to make sure that there's not a lot of wasted motion doctoral programs can be very exhausting. And to waste a lot of motion is not a good use of your time, your energy, your resources, or your capacity. And then the trajectory as well. Like it's really important. I'll talk more about that too. But it's really important to be really honest with yourself about what you need to feel happy to feel like you've been successful and to be able to take care of yourself, and others you might be responsible for. And then the other thing for both the dissertation and the job search is finding faculty who support you. And I know that a number of you have those people, but some of you don't. And it's really important that you have access to faculty who are committed to help him make sure that you're okay that you're supported, that if you ask questions that you worry are dumb, they're going to be there to help provide information and feedback and support so that you realize like number one, I'm not dumb. But number two, here's the next step. Or here's what you need to understand. I remember very vividly sitting with my advisor, and I was Peters Samgorinsky, at the University of Georgia. And I was like, Peter, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. And he's like, Yeah, nobody does. And that was simultaneously horrifying and comforting. But it took a lot to say to him, I didn't know what I was doing. And so I just want to really emphasize that there are choices, there are options, there are ways to make this process, both processes, dissertation and job search work well, for you. There's other parts of it, you don't have a lot of control over but these are things that you do have control over. And so I'm gonna I'm going to emphasize these
For dissertations. I'm going to talk through each of these. And then if there's more information that you want in any particular one, when we get to the q&a Certainly asked. So the first thing about dissertations is that there's more than two formats, a lot of institutions like it's either the five chapter dissertation or nothing. And then other institutions think that they're really progressive, because they have the five chapter dissertation and the three article option. Those are both great options. So those are certainly formats that have served many people well. But there's a lot of other ways to approach dissertations too. And you need to really think about if the five chapter dissertation has done a great deal of sense for you, if the three chapter or the three article, dissertation doesn't seem to be a good alignment, there's other options. And what's really important is that a lot of institutions, especially us based public institutions, previous dissertations that have been successfully defended are often public domain. And which means that you can access those for free. And there's been a range of dissertations that have for example, made like national news and so on a student at Georgia whose dissertation was a fashion show, but was a PhD in literacy, a student at Clemson whose whose dissertation was a rap album, we've had students here at Alabama who have done dissertations that involve, for example, like soundscapes and an art gallery walkthroughs as part of their research methodology, PhD, and in each moment, it was really appropriate for that particular student that they do their dissertation in an unconventional way. And so I really just I want to emphasize, if your faculty members seem I don't know how to do that, I don't know what that looks like. It's okay to provide them resources. But it's also okay to reach out to various communities. There's a lot of online communities on various social media platforms, for example, but to understand that the five chapter dissertation and the three article dissertation are not the only ways that one can dissertate Sometimes other approaches just make better sense for you.
The other thing is, when you're getting ready to do your dissertation, you need to really think about what is the plan post dissertation because one of the ways that you are intentional about the format of your dissertation is being intentional about what your dissertation supposed to accomplish for you. I will say that when I was a doc student, I elected to do the three articles dissertation, I could, I think I would have had the support to have done whatever I ultimately elected to do, so long as I was able to make it make sense. But I decided I wanted to do the three article because I wanted to have articles ready to send out because my intention was to get a research methodology job, which nearly always as is that a research intensive institution. So I knew that publication was going to be really important for my future success. But what that means is my dissertation format aligned with my goals and my trajectory for myself. And so you need to really think about like how what I'm going to do in my dissertation going to help me with post dissertation, because if you're just thinking about the dissertation as I gotta get it done, whatever. I've seen, a lot of people have to do a lot of just really tedious and exhausting work to try to then rip the scenes out of the dissertation to make it be something that is more useful for them. Had they just chosen a different format that was more aligned with their goals. Everything would have been better correlated. Another thing is and this is gonna sound really silly to some of you, but I'm being really sincere about it. Does your dissertation feel good to you? Does it feel good for you? Because this is a pretty big commitment. In nearly all cases, there's a lot of data collection, there's a lot of data analysis in most cases, and there's a lot of writing. And if you're miserable for the entirety of the time that you're working on your dissertation, that's not a great place to be. That's not a healthy place to be. And I also want to really emphasize it's not a normal place to be, I feel like academia does this really phenomenal job of normalizing stress, normalizing exhaustion, normalizing anxiety, and it doesn't have to be that way. Your dissertation should be something where ideally you feel empowered, you feel excited, and that's not going to necessarily be the case all the time. Because we all get tired, we all get frustrated, but the dissertation overall should feel good. And if it doesn't, what what are the issues that are getting in the way of it feeling right? If you're going like a good fit, I feel like it's something that's helping you to feel successful and whatever those issues are, like, are they resolvable? Are they like, are they resolvable by virtue of maybe renegotiating some aspects of the situation format? Are they resolvable? Maybe I'm pulling in like a new faculty member to be a committee member to help support other aspects that the other committee members aren't not are not super aware of? or understand. If they're not resolvable? Why are they not resolvable? And to what degree can you live with those because I do recognize that some doctoral students don't have a lot of say in control. But I do think that it's really important as much as possible. And this goes back to the points earlier about taking care of yourself, making sure that your dissertation is not something that is just you just feel like it's beating you down.
Related to that, be realistic, and be kind to yourself, I have seen students have this attitude of, I'm going to do all these things. I'm going to get all this done, and I'm going to write my dissertation over spring break. I'm not going to say it's not possible, I am going to say that it's not necessarily realistic. I mean, it's certainly not being kind to yourself. And so when faculty members tell you things like maybe you should revisit your timeframe, maybe you should revisit the plan that you have, a lot of times they're not doing that to undermine you. They're not doing that to try to throw obstacles in your way. Sometimes it's because they're trying to help you do yourself a favor. And so be realistic, how long, for example, it takes for you to write a course paper, a dissertation is a different level of that. And so whatever that course paper timetable is, you need to multiply that several times over and think about how can I make sure that what I'm doing again, feels good.
Another thing I'm going to add, it always really frustrated me when I was a doc student, when people would treat the dissertation like it was some sort of like mythological beast that had to be endured and slayed. Everybody that gets a doctoral degree generally knows that dissertation is coming at the end. And so don't treat it like it's some kind of dragon that you have to pass through the cave and avoid the gaping jaws of the beast. It's an expected part of the journey. And if you work to be intentional, it can be really enjoyable. In many moments. I will say as a side note that for my dissertation, when I started writing it, collecting the data was great, I got to interact with participants that were really wonderful and amazing. analyzing the data was a lot of work. But it also was great, because I felt like I was really learning things. But when I started writing it, I had a whole new perspective and a whole new appreciation for just how amazing my participants were. And it really made me sad that some of my peers just it just felt like they were just surviving and enduring their dissertation. And it didn't need to be that way. And sometimes faculty feed into that, because a lot of times faculty unfortunately participate. And this idea that academia needs to be a you need to be exhausted, you need to be stressed out, you need to be busy. And so try to surround yourself with people that support you approaching this process in healthy, sustainable and positive ways. You've got to do it. So do it in a way that makes sense and is sensible, and is kind your committee, their job should be earlier, the previous speaker talked about, I'm a student's best cheerleader, your committee should be there to make you better, and one of their jobs and making you better. And this was referenced, I think in both of the previous talks, but definitely the writing one. They're going to provide you feedback. And I think sometimes that feels like it's just criticism, like I did everything wrong and didn't do everything right. But their job, they're allocating a lot of energy and time and expertise, and trying to give you constructive feedback to make you better. No committee should just give you a blank check and be like, Oh, this is great. You just do whatever you want to do. It's great. And I've seen that happen. I've seen students construct committees because they knew that this was the path of least resistance. That's not a great use of your time. It's not a great use of your knowledge. It's not a great use of your doctoral journey, to just basically be given this free pathway to completion that's not honoring the process that you've engaged and it's not honoring at the end you putting Doctor in front of your name. Conversely, however, faculty shouldn't create these obstacle courses they shouldn't constantly be obstructionist. In terms of you moving forward, and so making sure that you have you select your committee in nearly all cases, making sure that when you choose those people, you're choosing people that are they're prepared to, in fact, be your cheerleaders to tell it to give you potentially hard feedback, but also being prepared to help guide you through what to do with that feedback.
And the last thing, and this is gonna sound really silly. But do you make sure your committee members can actually work together, there's a lot of personalities in academia, I'm sure you have all found that to be the case. And there are sometimes instances where faculty members are just paradigmatically, opposed like that, just their understanding of how data gets analyzed how findings get written up, they're just they're completely, they're completely incongruent. And that's not necessarily useful for you. And so make sure when you're building this committee of cheerleaders and support system, that they're also willing and able to support one another, it makes your experience so much easier. And these are things that by and large, I think you have control over there's a lot of aspects that dissertation you don't necessarily have a lot of control over. But these are things that to some degree to differing degrees, depending on where you are, you do have some say in most of these aspects of it.
For the for the job market, the job market could just about be a full time job. I was stunned when I went on the job market, just how much time being on the job market took, it was shocking to me, frankly. And most of the time, when you're on the job market, you're also like deserting, you're getting ready to defend etc. And so it's a lot. And so I think it's useful for you to be prepared for the fact that you're going to have to carve some space and energy and time out to apply for jobs. So relative to you applying for jobs. First and foremost, there's more out there than just research intensive and teaching intensive jobs. The university that I went to was a research intensive institution and the department that I graduated from was a very publish or perish culture. And the effect of that was that as doctoral students, we were basically raised, if you will, to understand that the purpose of a PhD was solely to seek tenure track research intensive jobs, ultimately. And finally, that's what I decided that I wanted for a range of reasons. But at the beginning, I didn't feel like I had any choice. And it wasn't until I was probably in year three or four that I realized hold out like, this isn't what I have to do. Because that expectation was so normalized that it felt like it was the only choice. There are a range of different kinds of positions out there. I have friends, I have a friend who sought out positions specifically at small liberal arts colleges, because she wanted that connectedness. She wanted that really small student body. She wanted the connectedness between faculty, she wanted to feel like the institution was really knitted into the community where it was situated, she is thriving there. Because she was really thoughtful about what she needed to be happy and successful post PhD. Another friend knew that she loved teaching she wanted to teach, that's what she wanted to do. So that's what she looked for. In job posts, she wanted to be a faculty member, there are other people that I came from a K 12 classroom too. And I renew my teaching certificate before I graduated as a just in case. But there were a number of people that elected that they wanted to go back into a k two o'clock classroom, that was their choice. And they again, love it. They're delighted there. And there was really a culture in the department that sought to make them feel like they had failed somehow, by pursuing the very trajectory that they had, that they were after. And so just be really aware of the fact that you have choices, you have options, whatever the default, whatever the assumption is at your university, in your department in your program, you actually you have some choices, and you don't have to default to those just because other if you're going to the doctor for your name, other people shouldn't get to tell you what to do with your life.
The other thing is be really honest with yourself about what's sustainable for success. And I'm going to give you an example of this. I had a friend, I have a friend, I don't know why I'm using past tense. I have a friend when we were doctoral students, again, it was very publisher perish culture. So we're all publishing our little hearts out not knowing what we're doing, frankly. And it made her miserable. She hated to have to publish, but then she because of the culture, and that department saw research intensive jobs. And so then she landed in a tenure track job where she was expected to publish extensively. And she's been miserable. And I frankly worry about her regularly because I wonder what would it have been like? Had you felt like you had choices? What would it have been like had you better aligned, where you landed as a faculty member with what gave you joy, what you felt like you were really good at versus what you felt like you had to do and so be really honest, if you really enjoy the research, that's great. Know that about yourself if you find teaching tedious and annoying. Know that about yourself. If teaching is what gives you joy. That's where you find yourself putting energy and time know that about yourself. If you know that you don't want to have a part in higher education know that about yourself.
I do want to be really honest and say there are fewer tenure track jobs every year and more more universities and colleges post clinical positions and research based positions, the University of Alabama has started to have more and more assistant research professor positions, for example. And that's not scary. It's just real. Because, again, this is an opportunity for you to be really honest with yourself. There's I have a couple of colleagues here, who are assistant research professors, and will eventually move into being Associate Research professors. That was their jam, they want to do research, they want to pursue grants, they want to pursue fellowships, they didn't want to allocate a ton of time to teaching and teaching, preparation, and so on. So that shift in the market was really useful for them. And so know that about yourself, but also just have a realistic notion of what the market looks like, this year has looked really good relative to quality and your track jobs, frankly, last year, not good at all. Who knows, I went to the job market two years, the first year was really awful. It was the great recession. And there were two jobs that whole year. And both of them really wanted like advanced people. And as a doc student, I was not that person next year was there are also non academic jobs that you can keep in mind you can be aware of there are tons of government agencies or tons of nonprofits that are very interested in PhDs and interested in the skill sets a PhD earnings earners have and so be aware of the fact that you don't have to go into academia, nor do you have to go into some facet of education. For example, this is a qualitative research SIG sponsored event. And so a lot of you presumably are interested in research, there's lots of places to value those skill sets. And frankly, some of them pay better than higher education, I would also recommend that if you are early in your doctoral journey, I know that initially, we would have a listserv, and there would be all kinds of like job posts that would be sent out and I'd be like, I'm in my first year delete, I realized after the fact, it really is useful to look at them just to have a notion of what people are asking for, to have a notion of what jobs are out there. Because it was really like, once I started to pay attention to them, I realized, like, you can look at a job post to be like, Oh, that's so cool, I want that or I don't want that job at all ever. And that tells you something about yourself. And it tells you something about what you need to do relative to your pathway to make yourself competitive for some of those jobs. And related to that, when you're looking at the job posts. If you're close to the finish line, use your research or skills that have gotten you to the point where you're at the finish line and like really examine them really look at what they're asking for. And so to that effect, applying for jobs, I only have one more slide for this one. When you're applying for jobs, there is always a required section, or a mandatory section pay attention to that because that is not suggested. Typically, those required elements are actually required, by law, required by accreditation standards, whatever. But if you look at that job posting, there's required thing that you don't meet, you're almost certainly not going to be competitive for that job. We had an assistant professor of qualitative research job here at the university. One of the required aspects was, whoever replied have at least 18 hours in qualitative research methodology coursework, and we weeded out probably 60% of the applicants because they didn't meet that requirement. And that wasn't something we had any control over that was required. And so pay attention to what they say is required because you actually do need to be able to check those things off. Research the institution find out what it's like what what is an institution? What are they about? What are their missions? Were their visions? They aligned with yours? Does this seem like a play? Like, are you excited? You're gonna have to probably live in this place. Is it exciting to live in this place? Or does it make you potentially miserable? Research them use the skills that have gotten you through your doctoral journey research them? Look at who they've recently hired and or who they recently tenure? Are the lots of people leaving and people seem really happy and successful? Are people staying for long periods of time? What are the people who recently got hired? What are their meters look like beforehand? People who recently got tenure, what are their views look like? It gives you a notion of what does it mean to be successful in this place relative to getting hired and then being able to stay?
When you are when you're like applying for this job I'm applying for this job is the jam. It's awesome. Write a letter for that job generic cover letters for job for academic jobs, you're not going to work, it's going to get you tossed out. You need to pay attention to what the job post says and incorporates some of that language and acknowledged some aspects of what they're asking for in that cover letter. If you want to actually move into potentially having an interview to get an interview. There's really standard interview questions that are pretty typical for most academic jobs, things like why do you want to work here at this institution? What about the what about this job excites you? If they're research intensive, they're gonna ask you questions about your research trajectory, with their teaching intensive, they're gonna ask you questions about like your teaching experience, and so on. A lot of the job interview questions that are fairly that you would expect are actually pretty typical, especially at the preliminary interview stage. And so prepare for those do you get a campus visit even if it's virtual these days? Practice before you go especially like your either your job talk and or teaching demonstration depending on what they're asking of you and do it in front of other people get feedback from them. My first research job talk practice was awful. But it was really useful to hear myself say it and know that I sucked because then I could get feedback and make it better. And then essentially, because it's cliche, but you're interviewing them to, I interviewed for and had a campus visits were an institution that it was very clear to me like I was gonna be super miserable in that space, and that you need to be aware of those things when you need to decide like, am I going to be okay with being miserable here for whatever amount of time? Or is this just not a place for me. And then the other thing is, there's aspects of the job search and the job hiring process in academia that you have no control over. And a lot of times, it's not personal, it's hard not to take it personally. But when they didn't want me, they didn't hire me, whatever. But sometimes they need a very specific skill, they need a very specific complimentary person to like another person that's there. It's not actually about you, and you don't have any control over that you can't like change the very nature of who you are and your scholarship to accommodate this institution. You wouldn't want to do that anyway. And so sometimes, if you don't get an interview, if you don't get a campus visit, if you don't get the job, it's not actually anything that you did. It's just that you weren't the right fit. And it's hard to hear that, but it's true. I've seen it on both sides as both the job candidate and as someone who's been a search committee chair and search committee member, and as somebody who's helped to negotiate hiring, and then actually, that was my last slide. I thought I had another one. So that those are mine. That's my overview. And as the others had said, I'm very happy to take questions and be as honest as I can possibly be.
Carlson Coogler 51:08
Great. Thank you so much, Dr. Shelton. Okay, so we are going to move to the question and answer portion. And please, if everyone will, please put your questions in the chat as a reminder, then the committee members will be pulling those and we will ask them to our participants. And also I am going to go ahead and put in the chat, we have a quick little first our email if you want to get in contact with us, if you don't want to to our listservs. And also a quick little forums, you can give us some feedback on this event. And you know, what topics you might want to hear about in the future, that sort of thing. So if you would please fill that out after at the end of this meeting? That will be awesome. Okay, our first question. And again, it's panel so anyone can answer. What do you wish you spent more time on as a person professionally, and as a junior academic, like professionally, while you are pursuing your PhD,
Dr. Shelton 51:55
I think I wish that I had spent more time taking courses and other disciplines, it's really easy to put yourself into a silo as a doctoral student, because it's very, it's very much a degree of like, milestones seven inches wide. That's how it's designed to work. But like looking back, I realized, like, there were moments when I could have taken a class like in a different department or in a different college. And I really, I think that I don't think it would have changed my trajectory in terms of where I landed. But I think it potentially would have offered me new ways of thinking, new ways of considering research and so on. And so that's one thing that I do regret as a doc student that I wish I had done.
Dr. Brownel 52:31
I think that one of the things that I heard maybe later in my doctoral career that I wish I would have known in years like one and two more so I guess, but I think learning how to cautiously say no, and no thank you to things while also keeping doors open. And I think that's true, both in terms of opportunities to be on panels or to engage in like lots of different activities. But I think learning how to say no, early on is a useful thing, especially as I think my co panelists mentioned, like you're working towards this goal of your dissertation is not the end of your career, but like hopefully a launch pad for the rest of your career. And so making sure that you do get an array of like experiences, but making sure that those experiences are things that you're really committed to, and that will really push your work, your thinking, your connections, your network and your well being in useful ways. Because sometimes you get a little stretch and overwhelmed because we feel like we have to do everything in graduate school.
Dr. Shelton 53:30
I'm going to add another thing real quick, if that's okay, if you will allow me the lot like the other thing that I wish I had known early on, was it no one knows what they're doing. I feel like I like the entirety of my first year of my doctoral experience. I felt like other people knew what was happening. Other people knew what was going on. Like, they knew all this terminology. They knew all these theorists, they're using all these big words. And as I progressed through my doctoral degree, I realized like, they didn't know anything, they didn't they had vocabulary to throw around to make it sound like they knew stuff. But like they didn't know anything, either. And, and so like, just recognizing that like the whole imposter syndrome, people that people talk about, it's real, but like, You're not an idiot. I think that's I think what I wish I had realized I wasn't dumb. I wasn't behind. I just wasn't participating in this facade, and this fronting that people would like often do.
Dr. Brownel 54:19
I'm gonna jump back in again, I'm really sorry, Carlson, because I'm gonna throw this out because similar to Stephanie, I feel those sorts of ways. But I think that this book is really great. Just Clark, this book, which is a field guide to grad school, which talks about like the hidden curriculum of graduate school, because there's a lot of that that's true both for Professor Orient, but especially in graduate sc

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