So you’re writing a dissertation, Part 7…The End

The Religion Graduate Student (RGS) passed her dissertation defense and graduated “with distinction”. In the lead-up to her oral defense she reread her dissertation twice, came up with potential questions, and then performed a mock defense with some of her graduate student colleagues. It was a bit hectic bringing her committee members together on November 14, 2012 and one member skyped in, but in the end everything proceeded smoothly and at the conclusion attendees raised glasses of champagne mimosas to toast the newly minted PhD.

In our (bittersweet) concluding interview on February 22, 2013, RGS had just graduated and I had read her dissertation beginning to end. First she filled me in on the details of her big defense day. Then we discussed the content of her dissertation, the writing process, her thoughts about graduate education, and her immediate post-graduation life. In contrast to my medieval notions, the defense did not resemble an inquisition. RGS was satisfied with what she had accomplished but identified a few areas of her dissertation that needed work. She had some trouble describing the writing process and she mourned the many dozens of pages she had written that never made it into her dissertation. The routine she tried to establish at the start never quite came together. In the end it was “tasty treats” that helped her to the finish line. Graduate education is definitely not sustainable and RGS was still struggling to balance her monthly budget, now on an adjunct’s wages. It’s tough to be a scholar in the twenty-first century.  

This interview occurred almost three years to the day from the first time RGS and I spoke about the journey awaiting her. In my first blog post of this series, I described the dissertation as a “ritual initiation in which the student is dropped deep into an unfamiliar wilderness area with nothing but a compass and asked to find her way out.” Having now completed my seventh and final interview with RGS, I am thrilled to know that RGS found her way out of the wilderness. She has now entered the world of scholars. I congratulate RGS on her achievement and thank her for allowing me to share in the journey.     

(Listen to previous interviews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

—Fred Rowland  

So you’re writing a dissertation, Part 5

The Religion Graduate Student (RGS) and I got together on February 24, 2012 for our fifth interview. She was now entering the third year of her project and she appeared a bit more upbeat than the last time we met. During the fall break she had written productively every day and she subsequently sent advisor John Raines some work that he liked. RGS spent a lot of time reworking her introduction so she could properly frame her second chapter on globalization and her third on the sources at the Nationwide Women’s Program (NWP). She worried that this might not be the best way to go about writing (according to some advice that had filtered through to her) but she now accepted that this was the way that she worked.

Among her sources RGS was struck by the disconnect between masculinist and feminist narratives of globalization. From a masculinist (economic) perspective, it’s all about corporations, institutions, trade agreements, and finance, while the feminist perspective produces primarily ethnographies, highlighting the effects of globalization on women’s bodies. The NWP, as RGS was now seeing, served to bring together these universal and local perspectives, functioning as a clearinghouse of sorts. It’s a reminder that international communications did not start with the Internet. She would be handing in her third chapter a few days after our interview.

As is inevitable, life intervened as RGS was writing in the fall. The Occupy movement broke out spontaneously in September 2011 and Occupy Philly grew up around Dilworth Plaza. When RGS attended a few Occupy Philly general assemblies, she was surprised by the ahistorical nature of the conversations. She realized that her work provided historical context to the issues discussed at Occupy Philly and this strengthened her sense of purpose. References to Occupy Philly would find their way into her dissertation.

Though tempted to do more reading — always more reading — she was now focused on writing, writing, writing. We talked about emotional blocks, the struggle to establish a routine, the messy details of life, and the way the dissertation just hangs around her neck and, according to a friend, is like an abusive relationship. Sounds like fun, huh?

(Listen to previous interviews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

—Fred Rowland

 

So you’re writing a dissertation, Part 4

On October 14, 2011 I interviewed the Religion Graduate Student (RGS) for the fourth time, so she had now been working on her dissertation for a year and a half. Her project was still moving in fits and starts. Over the summer she had gone through a rather rough stretch, in which she entertained a lot of doubt and uncertainty about the overarching theme of her work. After reading her 50 page first chapter in the middle of the summer, her advisor John Raines suggested that she was not “writing where her passion is”.

Acknowledging this, RGS went back to texts on globalization that she was most interested in — by Stiglitz, Sachs, Sen, and Wallerstein — and began reexamining her ideas. The chapter had looked at the second wave women’s movement from which religion had been expunged, but it included no references to globalization. The books on globalization made no reference to feminism and religion. She began “looking for the gaps” in the conversations on feminism, religion, and globalization and she returned to the Nationwide Women’s Program (NWP) archive to see if these sources might provide some explanation. She found that the notion of progress seemed to be embedded into each of these narratives in important ways.

By the time we met RGS had realized that she would probably end up using very little of the 50 pages she had submitted during the summer. On the other hand, she had a good fall schedule that left her free on Tuesdays and Thursdays and she was getting up each and every morning to work on her dissertation between 6 and 8. Though she had not written a lot since the summer, she was ready to push ahead. The “full body dissertation” routine she had tried to establish when she began in early 2010 had flagged a little: for exercise, she was walking now instead of running because, as she explained, it was harder to talk herself out of walking. She was now hoping to finish her dissertation within the next six months.   

(I found myself wondering if she had passed through that “dark night of the soul” that all seekers of knowledge encounter just before the dawn.)

(Listen to previous interviews: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

—Fred Rowland

 

Highlighting, Measuring, and Managing Your Research

Are you a graduate student or faculty member? Do you want to understand the current scholarly landscape for measuring, highlighting, and sharing your research?

zotero   academia   webofscience

Tools like Scopus, Web of Science, and Journal Citation Reports provide indicators of research productivity. Portals like Academia.edu, ResearchGate, Humanities Commons, and Google Profiles allow researchers to share their work and network with other scholars. Zotero, EndNote, and Mendeley make organizing and sharing sources a snap. Publishing in open access venues and posting your research to scholarly repositories can enhance your research impact. Familiarity with these new tools and strategies helps researchers find colleagues, collaborators, and funders, as well as facilitates the tenure and promotion process.

The Temple University Libraries will be offering a series of four workshops in the Digital Scholarship Center on highlighting, measuring, and managing your research. Bring your laptop or borrow one in the DSC.

scopus   researchgate   mendeley

Workshop 1: Managing Your Research
Wednesday, March 29, 11-12, DSC

  • Attendees will gain an understanding of the features of these reference management and sharing tools and their areas of overlap with academic social networks. They will understand some key functional and disciplinary considerations when selecting the proper tool.
  • Register for Workshop 1

Workshop 2: Developing Your Scholarly Profile
Wednesday, April 5, 11-12, DSC

  • The professional and ethical uses of academic social networks such as ResearchGate and Academia as well as preferences of scholars in different disciplines will be explored.  We will talk about ORCiD and other researcher IDs and how they can be used to enhance your online profile.
  • Register for Workshop 2

Workshop 3: Amplifying Your Research Impact
Wednesday, April 12, 11-12, DSC

  • Attendees will learn how to effectively promote and share their research online. We will discuss best practices for using social media, explain how to deposit research outputs in disciplinary repositories, and explore tools and platforms that can help authors expand their readership.
  • Register for Workshop 3

Workshop 4: Measuring Research Impact
Wednesday, April 19, 11-12, DSC

  • Attendees will gain strategies for identifying and measuring their research impact using available online tools. Important buzzwords like citation metrics, impact factors, and the h-index will be explained and applied in a variety of disciplinary contexts.
  • Register for Workshop 4

Making Medical Knowledge

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Miriam Solomon is interested in the scientific and social processes which come together to create medical knowledge. Patients come in all shapes and sizes and their socioeconomic backgrounds vary widely. Basic sciences and clinical practices produce vast amounts of data that are evaluated and interpreted. Often the data are contradictory. Millions of articles, reports, and conference proceedings are published. Pharmaceutical companies experiment and test drugs with an eye to the marketplace. How do doctors come to consensus on the best diagnoses and treatments?

In Making Medical Knowledge (Oxford University Press, 2015) Miriam Solomon addresses this question. She explains how consensus conferences and evidence-based, translational, and narrative medicine promote differing methodologies and organizational schemas for coming to consensus on medical problems. After analyzing the advantages and limitations of each, she recommends a “developing, untidy, methodological pluralism” for “making medical knowledge.”

Miriam Solomon is a professor of Philosophy at Temple University with research interests in philosophy of science, philosophy of medicine, epistemology, gender and science, and bioethics. I spoke to her on December 17, 2015.

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—Fred Rowland

Gaming on the edge

Adrienne Shaw

Concepts like identity, identification, and representation are thrown around pretty loosely when people try to explain the influence of popular media on individuals and groups. Categories like race, gender, sexuality, and class are widely recognized, broadly applicable and, because of this, they are often invoked as a substitute for more nuanced thinking about how individuals relate to media, whether TV, film, or digital games.

  • Do gay men like particular TV shows because they include gay characters?
  • Are women more likely to watch football now that there are (a few) female commentators?
  • Why would women play violent, misogynistic video games?

In her new book, Gaming at the Edge: Sexuality and Gender at the Margins of Gamer Culture (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), Adrienne Shaw complicates this approach by studying “representation in in a way that takes into account the fluidity, performativity, and contextuality of identity categories.” In a series of interviews with individuals from marginalized groups, Shaw, an avid digital game player herself, attempts to situate game playing within the overall lived experiences of her subjects. Through this indirect approach, she hoped to gain a better understanding of how, when, and why representation mattered. One of her main goals in writing this book is to help change the way academic and business researchers study identity, identification, and representation. I spoke with Adrienne Shaw about her new book on July 11, 2015.

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—Fred Rowland

Remaking women’s magazines

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Newspapers and magazines are struggling in the 21st century. Twenty years after the launch of the World Wide Web, many influential publications of the previous century have folded. Readers have many more choices and advertisers have found new channels to reach them. Advertising revenues from traditional print publications have plunged.

For her new book Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age, Brooke Erin Duffy interviewed over thirty industry professionals, engaged in participant observation, and paid close attention to the industry trade literature. She focused her attention on the production side, attempting to understand how the digital environment is influencing professional and organizational identities.

The routines developed around producing a glossy monthly magazine have shifted towards the urgent, ephemeral 24/7 digital cycle. The magazine is no longer an object but a brand. In addition to the traditional print magazine and its online surrogates, some magazines now have YouTube channels, TV shows, and retail products. Journalistic writing is increasingly being sidelined for prose that is more amenable to search engine optimization and advertisers. Whither the magazine from here?

I spoke to Brooke Erin Duffy about her new book Remake, Remodel: Women’s Magazines in the Digital Age on July 9, 2014.

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—Fred Rowland

Kathleen Fitzpatrick on scholarly communication & the digital humanities

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Kathleen Fitzpatrick is the Director of Scholarly Communications at the Modern Language Association and a visiting faculty member in the English Department at New York University. She has published two books, The Anxiety of Influence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press, 2006), which analyzed the anxiety and vested interests surrounding the purported demise of literature, and Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (New York University Press, 2011), a fascinating and incisive look at the future of publishing and scholarship in the academy. She has a blog, also titled Planned Obsolescence, and she is a co-founder of MediaCommons, “a community network for scholars, students, and practitioners in media studies, promoting exploration of new forms of publishing…”

Kathleen Fitzpatrick gave a lecture at the Center for the Humanities at Temple (CHAT) on March 7, 2013, entitled “The Humanities in and for the Digital Age.” Before her talk, she kindly stopped by my office to discuss her work in scholarly communication and the digital humanities.

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—Fred Rowland