Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ist Monthly Carnival of GRADual Progress


As this is the first Carnival of GRADual Progress ever, I haven't limited it to recent posts but have included some oldies as well.

Hunting and gathering the following posts from around the internet, I was struck with how much of what is written about grad student life is extremely depressing. I'm a little concerned that this carnival might send you all off to slit your wrists -- I guess the best to hope for is that reading it can also have the effect of creating a sense of shared experience (a trouble shared is a trouble halved and all), or maybe give the evilest of you a few moments of schadenfreude. And sometimes it just helps to know you aren't the only one who's struggling. But so as not to turn this entirely into the Carnival of Doom and Despair, I made an especial effort to sprinkle some happier (or even just neutral) posts into the mix. If you have particularly depressive tendencies, you might want to skip the first three or four: I promise they get cheerier after that.

But you don't want to hear me waffling on forever, so I declare this carnival officially open! Stop stuffing your mouths with candyfloss and hotdogs (it'll just make you feel sick when you go on the ferris wheel), and get to the reading!

The agony...

Flossie, from Stepping on Acorns, nominated Dean Dad's post on the wisdom (or otherwise) of going to graduate school. As she points out, it's too late for most of us, but reading it might help remind you of why you are here and what you want to get out of it all.

In case you are tempted to believe that Dean Dad is exaggerating the hardships of grad school, you might want to read this post, where Hopeless Academic compares research to a hell, "where satan deposits me in thoughts of proteases and nucleotides and SNP's and colloids and lasers". Hopeless Academic also shows he has time between lab meetings to be political in this submission.

Parts-n-Pieces writes about a couple of feelings we can probably all identify with: the fear it won't be good enough and the feeling of being an imposter, with some interesting ideas about finding a model of how to be a dissertation writer.

Holly, on Field Notes from an Evolutionary Psychologist also writes about the difficulties of being a first generation graduate student trying to find models of how to be in academia. Her question in this post is how you can get published in grad school if you don't have the sort of supervisor who lets you 'ride their coattails onto the royal road of publications'.

The PhD Explosion confronts the widespread acceptance that grad students will end up feeling suicidal and makes the radical suggestion that maybe this means there is something wrong with the system. On a less bleak note, the post on other people's reactions when you tell them you are doing a PhD is also well worth a read.

...and the not-all-that-bad, really...

In case reading about other people's struggles is starting to make you dwell on your own, the following few posts might work as a bit of an anxiety antidote.

With the benefit of hindsight, Collin Brooke from Collin vs. Blog reminds us that dissertations don't have to be good. They only have to be good enough.

Chris Uggen points out that even if you fail an exam, it doesn't mean you won't be a good professor.

And despite what we've all heard about the shrinking academic job market, Minor Revisions shows it can be done. I'm going to quote a whole passage of her post, because I find it soothing when the panic starts to build:

It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t find a job after grad school. After a period of panic where I was terrified everyone had realized I suck, I had a nice batch of interviews, followed by a good group of offers, and picked what was clearly the best one in the right area. I make enough money, work with delightful people, and can pretty much do what I want with my time.

Admittedly most of these 'antidote' posts are by people who are no longer graduate students themselves. But maybe that is a good reminder that some things that seem like big deals right now might not look so terrifying a few years down the track. (Or, you know, that the world has got a whole lot nastier since these people were at grad school. Whatever.)

...and the ecstasy (Yes, you thought that wasn't coming, but I fooled you)

All the same, some current grad students seem to be having a good time of it. Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a post about being in love with your research, reminding us that when things are good, they are very very good.

And Stewgad at Pretty Hard Dammit writes about what it's like to really own your dissertation.

The hilarity...

If you're still not having fun yet, Ranjit Warrier at The Warrier's Kraal is bound to make you laugh with his signs you are spending too much time in the lab or his post on what would happen if virologists could name movies. He's not someone you would want to go through airport security with, on the other hand.

... and the ingenuity

If When I manage to complete my dissertation, I know it's all going to be thanks to the tips, tools and tricks I nicked off other people's blogs. So here's a brief catalogue of some useful strategies I've stumbled across lately.

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast recommends some unexpectedly low-tech tools.

GTD Wannabe has a helpful post on personal experiences in implementing the GTD system as a grad student.

Earth Wide Moth at Indexical Thinking gets thinking about the usefulness of indexes.

If you've ever struggled with the tension between wanting to keep your partner informed about your PhD progress (or lack of it!) and not wanting to answer yet another bloody question about how the thesis is going, Pretty Hard Dammit has a suggestion for a stress-free compromise (and it wins extra points for being based on a scene from Buffy!)

Aunt B. at Tiny Cat Pants isn't a grad student herself, but I found that her Free Advice for Academic Authors is equally applicable to dissertations.

The soon-to-be

Let's now take a few minutes to step into a daydream about the (maybe not so distant!) future and look at a few posts on finishing and beyond.

First of all there are a few useful posts on how to get finished.

HistGrad at Eating an Elephant writes about How to Finish a Dissertation in Two Easy Centuries (Part I and II).

ScienceWoman at On being a scientist and a woman also has a post on finishing up in reasonable time. While some of her suggestions are only relevant to North American Readers (classes? comps? prelims?), there's plenty of more general advice -- also in the comments.

Over at this site, on the other hand, you'll find a whole heap of suggestions for how to avoid graduating. After all, some of us are here because we like PhD student life: why would we want to leave?

If you do want to finish on time, but aren't sure what you need to be doing when, here's a useful calculator to help you work it out.

Porkorama at Dissertation Hell tells us about the final step: the oral exam. This is a horror story with a moral ("Do it or don't do it, but don't just stand there suffering!").

Finally, just in case you are about to make it out of here in the near future, Dr. Mom has a comprehensive list of what needs to go into a faculty application package (thanks to ScienceWoman for the tip-off).

Many thanks to everyone who submitted something, or who pointed me in the direction of something that deserved submission. Huge apologies if you submitted something and I somehow missed it. Please let me know if that was the case and I'll tweak the system (or my brain) so that it doesn't happen again. Hopefully the next month will bring many more submissions from people who didn't know about the carnival until now.

... and the cup of tea.

I'm off to make one, anyway. Won't you join me?


JM said...

great job!

Mosilager said...

Pretty cool, and thanks for the links :)

ScienceWoman said...

Looks like great procrastinatory reading. Thanks for putting it together.

Anastasia said...

this is fantastic! I've wanted to see a grad student blogging carnival for some time now.

luckybuzz said...

Excellent! So much more fun to read than, well, what I'm supposed to be reading.

Jana said...

I honestly thought I was the only one who found it so awful. Thanks, StyleyGeek, for collecting all those people to tell me I wasn't the only one. All I can say to those still suffering is: it does have an end. And your life will improve so significantly after you finish that you won't recognise it.

Jana said...

Oh, yes, and one anecdote: my supervisor said, "I don't mind reading draft chapters if you want me to, but if I do I'll skip over them in the final version."

Yvette said...

Wow! Amazing job--Might be kinda hard to follow up such a good job, in fact. And thanks for the nod, whoever suggested the post from SITBB!

Propter Doc said...

This is pretty incredible stuff. Where were you guys when I was grad schooling?

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks, everyone.

And Jana, that's horrible!

shrinkykitten said...

So awesome. I feel so so so badly for having forgotten to post this on my blog.

You are a goddess for putting this together!

StyleyGeek said...

You don't need to feel bad, Shrinky! You could always post a link to it now it's up.

(Goddesses can afford to be magnaminous :) )

Miss M. said...

Now I can't decide whether to be scared more by the prospect of post-grad studies, or excited by the idea!

Awesome write-up though, where do you find the time?

StyleyGeek said...

Thanks, Miss M. It didn't take all that long, since I've been collecting these posts for a while now, and many of them were submitted by other people, so it just took the time to put them in some sort of order and write a couple of lines on each.

As for whether to be scared or excited, you did read Dean Dad's post, right? If you read that, considered every other option, and decided you still want to do post-grad more than everything, then go for it, and don't let anyone put you off. But DO consider every other option first.

trillwing said...

Well done! Thanks for your hard work!

academic coach said...

A wonderful collection - thank you.

Ahistoricality said...

Great collection! Though I think part of what got me through grad school was sheer ignorance, I also wish this had existed fifteen years ago....

KB said...

Fantastic! I'm so glad to have found this and can't wait for the next installment.

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