Monday, September 18, 2006

The Second Carnival of GRADual Progress

As ever, the part of the blogosphere inhabited by grad students has been busy this last month. (If only we wrote as many words on our dissertations as we do on our blogs...)

Plenty of bloggers have been reflecting on the nature of the PhD process: what it is and what it should be (which are so often two different things).

Ancrene Wiseass points out that we do ourselves a disservice by viewing grad school as a temporary state and putting our lives on hold until we have got through it.

ScienceGeek suggests that a PhD program shouldn't just centre on getting the degree, but rather needs to involve rather more career counselling and real world advice than is usually provided.

Collin from Collin vs Blog submits this post where he criticises the commonly used metaphor of academia as a "conversation" and suggests we might instead want to think of ourselves as "collectors". I like the way that this metaphor shifts the role of grad students from passive listeners observing conversations that we don't yet know how to join to something more active: academics engaged in the valuable task of collecting and collating material.

Textual Life is doing well on the collecting front, but she worries that this obsession might be pathological.

I also like Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast's comparison of the dissertation process to getting chickenpox: some people see both as a rite of passage in which you prove yourself through suffering.

Are your ears burning?

A rather divisive issue has arisen in our part of the blogosphere recently: the problem with faculty using their blogs to vent about grad students is that grad students might be listening. On the other hand, as some commentators have pointed out, one of the great strengths of the blog world is that it provides places for open and free discussion to take place between faculty and students without either having to worry about whether what they say is affecting the way they are seen by their colleagues or harming their career chances.

Edited to say: I had one person's post in here as an example, but they have just taken it down and I can't find others to replace it with right now. Also, I felt kind of mean using one person to illustrate this, as it wasn't about them at all.

Anastasia writes about how these sorts of posts can make grad students feel.

If you are among the people who felt hurt by these discussions, though, a good antidote can be reading more positive posts from faculty about grad students: this one from One Bright Star, for example.

Profgrrrl writes a most instructive post on the proper care and feeding of graduate students. Take note!

And Psycgirl writes about what it feels like to be in a place that clearly doesn't subscribe to Profgrrrl's philosophy.

Advisor/committee anguish

Of course, it's not usually faculty in general that are the problem so much as a few particular faculty members...

Like Scersk's advisor, who doesn't return drafts.

This is a technique also shared by ScienceGeek's advisor. ScienceGeek also wonders what you do when you and your advisor disagree on the details of your thesis layout.

Anastasia is not only having problems with her advisor, but with her entire committee, and would like to know if anyone else has had to rewrite their proposal when their dissertation is already half-way complete. She also wonders whether there is a point at which the failure of graduate students to go on and succeed in academia becomes a failure of the program itself.

Can anyone loan me a dollar?

In case I haven't reminded you enough of your misery with the last few links, a couple of bloggers have been posting about the financial woes that accompany grad school.

Jenabean can't sleep for worrying about her money issues, and Thought Bubbles reminds us that grad students are financially worse off than Walmart employees.

Meanwhile, Shrinkykitten is reduced to selling textbooks in order to be able to buy food.

Yet from a post on Life, Apparently, it appears that some departmental business managers still think being a graduate student is all about free money.

Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts.

Let's talk about the good things that are happening.

Jim Gibbon has worked out how to defeat procrastination with a technique called contingency management.

Hopeless Academic submits a post about the benefits of intelligent practice techniques, not just for sports stars, but for PhD students too!

Marcia at m2h has realised how much she appreciates her friends.

And Lova argues that even if her thesis won't provide a cure for cancer, it can be an important contribution in its own right.

Whether for better or worse, grad school certainly changes you

New Kid on The Hallway reflects on how her perception of herself as a researcher and/or a teacher was changed by her experiences as a grad student.

Over at My Life, My Pace, there's an interesting characterisation of the different mindsets of grad students and med students.

(Of course, as a student of Profgrrrl's demonstrates, for some people one type of doctor is pretty much the same as another.)


A few congratulations are in order:

MLE of The Muffin Chronicles has taken the plunge and is wonderfully optimistic after her first experiences with grad school. Ms Entropy... not so much.

At the other end of the journey we have Six Impossible Things, who is finally able to join in the "last word of the dissertation" meme!

It can be done!


Ianqui said...

I just want to say for the millionth time (and don't worry, I don't think you're picking on me, SG): I vented so stridently on my blog because I care about my students' success. If I didn't give a crap about how their work is perceived, I wouldn't have bothered posting.

Ianqui said...

On second thought, I've taken that post down. My apologies to you, SG. I think you're raising a totally valid point and one that the blogosphere would do well to address.

But the truth is that I'm apparently getting a reputation as someone who must hate her students, which couldn't be further from the truth. I'm sorry I ever wrote that post, so I took it down.

trillwing said...

Excellent work once again, both by you and by all the bloggers!

StyleyGeek said...

I'm sorry Ianqui. That's not how I meant it at all. I tried to find some other representative posts but couldn't, but it was probably mean to leave you all there on your lonesome.

I'll edit the above to remove yours and leave a brief explanation.

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