Acade(me)

The dissertation was only the beginning.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Like a Book
After turning in my neatly-formatted dissertation to the graduate school for review (three days before the deadline -- a first for a Last-Minute Lucy like myself), I had lunch with one of my advisors, Prof. C.

One of the things I really like about Prof. C. is that he doesn't sugarcoat anything. If he is dissatisfied with my research, for example, he'll tell me in the nicest possible way and then give me useful feedback so that I can make the research better. Similarly, if he likes something, he'll tell me to my face, which I think is rare in academia. (We'd all be less insecure in academia if the praise was as forthcoming as the critiques!) Over lunch we chatted about my dissertation, some aspects of which he really likes, and some aspects he really doesn't like. There are some aspects of it he doesn't like simply because they are not directly associated with My Field, but rather with the field of the Outside Committee Member -- a field Prof. C. doesn't completely understand (and neither do I, but I'm getting there).

"The one thing I like best about your dissertation is that it reads like a book," Prof. C. said between bites of his salad. "It reads like a book already."

I wasn't sure if this was a compliment. Should social science research read like a book? "Thanks," I said weakly.

He wiped his mouth with a napkin and started to explain himself. "I've read dozens of dissertations in my time here," he said, "and yours is one of three that I can envision as a book. Not at a major press since the subject matter is so specific, but the subject is interesting enough and your writing is elegant enough that I think you should seriously consider a book."

This took me completely by surprise. I have never envisioned my dissertation as a book; honestly, until now I've only thought of it as a burden or a hurdle, something required to accomplish a larger goal. I thought I'd get an article or two out of it, nothing more. I've never even wanted to write a book. But now he has me thinking about it. On the one hand, the thought of doing more work on this project is completely abhorrent to me, as the dissertation would require a major overhaul and I am sick to death of it. But on the other hand, the subject is interesting and work like mine in topic and methodology has been published by academic presses in the not-so-distant past. So it's not out of the realm of possibility.

This week I will pack up the piles and piles of materials I used to write the dissertation. Maybe within the next few months, however, I will have to pull them all out again for another look.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/27/2006 09:13:00 AM  
9 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 1:47 PM, Blogger Peri said…

    Now that's the kind of talk I like to hear. :) Good for you. That kind of encouragement is just what you need to hear as you make this next big career leap. Hooray for you!

     
  • At 2:04 PM, Blogger ScienceWoman said…

    That's an impressive compliment. But give yourself some time off from the diss. You deserve a chance to adjust to life in the new town and with the new job, and I'm guessing you probably need to get going on some other projects. For now just bask in the "turned in dissertation" glory.

     
  • At 4:21 PM, Blogger Dr. Mon said…

    Yeah!! So can I convince you to form a book writing support group with me at some point in the distant future???

     
  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Leah said…

    Now that's praise - I hope you feel great :) Even better idea to have a break first.

    Also noticed your subheading has changed - what a positive thought now compared to the previous ambivalence!

     
  • At 8:50 PM, Blogger Lilian said…

    Hmmm... this is interesting. I like the subheading too!

    As for the book thing, well, maybe in more literary fields one already thinks of the dissertation as a book from the get-go. I definitely write mine with that in mind already. Today I was working on it again and patting myself in the back thinking that some parts are quite entertaining and do look like a book. Of course the chapters tend to degenerate and become boring towards the end :)

    I've always been envious of your advisors, ever since I read your archives last year... you're perfectly right that it would be great to have honest critiques AND praise forthcoming.

    Well, if the "book writing support group" materializes and is not restricted to people in the same field, I'd love to participate, that is, if you'll have me :) (i know this is too forward of me, but I guess I can try, can't I?)

     
  • At 10:12 PM, Blogger Prof. Me said…

    Yes, Mon can be the ringleader of the Book Writing Support Group, although with a 3-3 load next year I doubt I'll be the most productive member. Besides, Mon will have six chapters written and proofread in the first three weeks of the Group's existence, and then I'll feel totally inadequate. And Lilian... of COURSE you're welcome!

    I have to admit that the thought of a book is kind of exciting to me now, despite the fact that I'd have to change A LOT of the dissertation. Prof. C. doesn't care for the theoretical part -- loves the case studies, but wants a reformulation of the theory, something I've resisted. Post-dissertation defense, I can now see that he's right; the case studies would be even better with a tweak in the theoretical section. Ah well.

    We'll see where this ends up. I will definitely need some blogosphere inspiration, which is precisely what got me to this point in the first place.

     
  • At 11:23 PM, Anonymous Dr. Shellie said…

    Congratulations! Great news. And keep in touch with this prof -- that's a great person to have behind you.

     
  • At 8:48 PM, Blogger Lilian said…

    Well, thanks for being willing to include me. But first I need to finish this dissertation... (deep sigh)

     
  • At 10:18 PM, Blogger Dr. Mon said…

    LOL--You killin me over here! I don't have a clue where to start on this book business and note that I said distant future!!

     
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