Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dissertation Proposal Checklist

I am working on the dissertation proposal - full throttle.  Actually, I have been working on it for the last two and a half years - it is taking that long to digest the reading, concepts and theories and bring the vision down to size (I keep telling myself that it's an exercise and not a life project).  In truth, the thinking behind most dissertations are a lifetime of cumulative thoughts, feelings and experiences.

Once I was done with coursework and left to my own devices, the writing process could be quite unstructured.  Fortunately, at this level, most students are neurotic enough to find the discipline and structure internally to bang it out.

There are tricks I employ to help me get it done, like:

  • postering my walls with notes and references for each section of the proposal
  • studying with other PhD students (misery loves company or as my friend, Jenna, said: if you see your friend reading and writing - you feel competitively compelled to follow suit)
  • scheduling daily time in my planner to sit on my butt and write (and actually following through despite all tempting distractions)

The truth is, for me the greatest motivator is my own passion for reading and writing about my topic and population.  I feel lucky to get to do this - to have the time and space to think about these things and to use my imagination, my spirit and soul in this way.

Checklist toward Proposal Defense:

  • Statement of Problem
  • Research Questions
  • Significance of the Study
  • Assumptions
  • Limitations
  • Definitions of Key Terms
A Review of the Literature
  • Theories to Guide the Study
Methodology (draft sumbitted to adviser - check)
  • Research Design
  • Research Questions
  • Participants & Sites
  • Research Variables
  • Data Collection Procedures
  • Measures
  • Data Analysis Plan

Also, I need a committee of four like-minded scholars that get along. And I need to request IRB approval to conduct the study.  Plugging away a little at a time, every day, I know I can do this.  I wanna defend by May.  This means I enjoy summer break with my daughter, preferably in Hawaii AND be eligible for employment as an Assistant Professor next Fall.  Most of the social work programs in Los Angeles are hiring now.

This is the longest journey.  Had I known, I may not have started.  On the other hand, what else would I be doing?  Watching TV and complaining about my life?  Sometimes there is beauty in the difficult - like being purified and polished by fire.  Ironically, as hard as this is, my life has never been more balanced.  When you focus, really focus, on what you want - you get down to the essentials like work, love and play - all in moderation.  Compared to my previous workaholic lifestyle, this pace seems like semi-retirement.  I could get used to this - a life of passion and balance.  Thank you, Yesus. Amen.

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