Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hey man, my work's down the drain

I've sort of suffered a setback in my dissertation. Mainly, the problem is that I can't really explain the project, what I'm planning to do, or why it's important. I know all of these things, but can't seem to get them out of my brain and on paper. My dissertation director also knows these things, so it's not exactly fatal. But it hits at a few things that I'm not particularly good at doing: making concrete plans, tooting my own horn, and explaining what's going on inside my brain.

A big part of graduate school is professionalizing one's habits. I have a very long way to go. I really love studying the things I study. However, I still feel like a bit of an academic poseur.


gregvw said...

If it makes you feel like you have some company in this, I regard my first dissertation to be completely unworthy. There is nothing remarkable about it. I feel like I just took a method used to solve fluid dynamics problems and applied it to quantum problems. All that was really required was to be working in one field and know something about the other. I feel like I was only granted the Ph.D. because I was my advisor's doctoral student and he needed at least one graduate to get tenured.

I have hopes that my second dissertation will be more significant and actually try to do something new.

I'm fairly certain that every scholar who is not just some self-delude, pompous asshole doubts the merit it everything he or she does.

Holly said...

Of course. You're in a subjective field, where you're expected to develop some (objective) authority. Besides that, you're a deliberative, introspective type, which means that you are *always* open to the possibility that you're wrong, even when you're pretty sure you're not.

It's probably just a sign that you're in touch with reality. Try not to sweat that too much.

Rufus said...

Greg- I think you're right. I've had other grad students tell me that the ideal situation for them would be to get paid to teach and spend twenty years writing the dissertation so that it doesn't feel like rushed junk. Actually, that's kind of the way they used to do it.

If I won the lottery, I'm fairly certain I would fund my own research and the work of my friends.

Holly- Thank you very much. I'll try to be realistic about this. I spent a few days halfway planning to give back my research grant and get a job in a video store. But, as Claire pointed out, I'm 33 and, if I don't finish this thing, I'm probably going to really regret it down the road. Also, it's not unheard of for a grad student to have doubts and serious frustrations... and other madness.