From Inside Higher Ed, here is something on explaining doctoral research in general terms. It is easy to see why the PR department of a university might be interested in having doctoral students or recent graduates who can comment cogently on their work for a general audience. But I think this ability can also be great for you as a writer. In the first place, being able to give a ready account of your work will boost your confidence; it never feels good to stumble over an explanation of the project to which you have devoted your whole life. And the clarity and simplicity that you achieve when you encapsulate your research will always help you to understand it better.
Also from Inside Higher Ed, here is something on procrastination. This article reviews a new book by Piers Steel, The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done. I particularly liked how the article referred to Steel as a ‘procrastination expert’; I am pretty sure we all think of ourselves as procrastination experts! The point that jumped out at me in the interview with Steel was his comment on procrastination among people who are ABD: “Doing any major task for the first time is extremely hard motivationally as you don’t have a firm mental image of what you are supposed to be doing.” It’s a simple point, but still a profound one. Not being able to see the full trajectory of the project can leave us uncertain and thus prone to procrastination.
Finally, as I mentioned last week, I was just at a conference on graduate student development. It was a great opportunity to meet with graduate students, graduate administrators, and faculty to discuss ways to support graduate students. In addition to making a presentation on the role of thesis writing in the professional development of graduate students, I was also able to attend some great sessions about other aspects of graduate student development. At one such session, we were asked to define a ‘whole’ graduate student. It was an interesting question; we all know that a graduate student is more than just an intellect, but it was fun to try to identify all the components that make up a rounded and successful graduate student. One of the members of my group had the great idea to draw a figure and then identify the different tasks associated with different parts of the figure. I loved the idea of a fully embodied graduate student, one who has to draw on all of his or her resources—intellectual, emotional, and physical—in order to meet the multifaceted demands of graduate study. Here is the image we came up with:
You can see a mind for critical thinking; eyes for greater perspective; a mouth for oral presentations; a heart for passionate commitment; one hand for writing and the other for collaborative work and mentoring; a gut for ethical instincts; feet for flexibility (being ‘quick on your feet’) and persistence (being ready to ‘go the distance’); and, my favourite, knees upon which to beg for funding. Thanks to all the members of our group! I wish I had learned all of their names so I could give them full credit here.