“Congratulations Lamesha!” I was standing outside of the room where I had just defended my publishable paper proposal anxiously waiting for the door to open (picture provided below) when Dr. Means came out and said those words to me! I felt so much relief knowing that the long awaited moment had passed. What can be a process that takes some folx in this program less than an academic year, took me about 14 months. I came into the program with one idea and by spring semester of my first year I had another idea. Summer 2016 was when I decided on my third topic, which I knew I would be sticking with. While I had a topic that was meaningful for me, it still took me awhile before I really got going. The main reasons were anxiety and time. With these things in mind, I will share a few lessons I have learned.
- There is never time, you have to make it: One of the reasons that took me so long with my process is that I kept putting it off. I actually avoided it for a while. It was difficult for me to find time to focus on my own research when I had classes, assistantship and research team. Also, I needed time for myself and time to rest in the process. The publishable paper was definitely on the back burner. I finally got to a point where I stopped avoiding it and made plans to work on it so that I could move forward in this process. The publishable has to be completed before you can participate in preliminary exams. The longer it takes you to complete it, the longer you will have to wait for the next milestone. Knowing that I want to get out of here in spring 2019, at the latest, I knew I needed to put my focus back on it.
- You have to stop reading and start writing: Shout out to my sis Brittany Williams who texted me something similar in May 2017. I had read a lot of things, over the course of about a year, but had not finished my proposal. I had done pieces, starting first with the methodology section and then moving to the introduction. The section that scared me was the literature review. I had been stalling and her text was the push that I needed to get serious about finishing.
- Writing can cause anxiety and you can do it: The reason that the literature review scared me was that I was worried about my ability to synthesize what I had read. I was also worried that it would not be ‘good enough’. I have learned that while I may be nervous about the feedback I will receive, there is no way for me to improve without the feedback. Additionally, your writing may not be as ‘bad’ as you think. Once I finally sent a draft and received feedback I had some things to work on, however they were minor changes. This was a reminder that I have improved as a writer and can do this.
- Transcribing your own data can take longer than you expect: One hour and 15 minutes has taken me so long that I do not even want to tell you. However, if you really want to know you can contact me. You want to really consider if the time that it will take you to transcribe is worth it when you consider other factors, such as went your advisor needs your completed draft. This consideration of your time and worth will be especially true if you have multiple audio files, like I do. The last thing you want is to be coming close to your deadline to submit your work to your advisor.
While I have had a number of thoughts about the publishable paper, from this is in my way of moving forward to this is great and allows me to engage in scholarship that I value, I have enjoyed the process thus far. I am currently in the data analysis phase of my study titled “Melanin Messages: Black College Women and Colorism”. I hope to successfully defend my research this semester so that I can move forward to preliminary exams, but that’s another post for another day. In the meantime, continue to work towards the goals that you have set for yourself. Be great!
Lamesha Andrews is a third year doctoral student in the College Student Affairs Administration program at the University of Georgia. Her research interests include: how colorism impacts the college experience of Black women; persistence and retention of low-income, first-generation Black women in doctoral programs; and college access. Previously, she was a resident director at Spelman College. Lamesha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Apparel Merchandising from Washington State University and Master’s in Educational Leadership from Valdosta State University.