Like probably every doctoral student, my timeline is important to me. Finishing on my schedule means meeting goals in a timely matter, and accomplishing my publishable paper milestones was the first step in adjusting to the doctoral process as a part-time student and full-time employee/dog mother (See: Scout the Pup!).
Because I thought about publishable as a “pre” or “mini” dissertation, it was daunting at first and I felt intimidated by the process. I frequently had thoughts like “How am I supposed to know how to do this on my own?!” or “There is no possible way I can complete this while working full-time.” But I waded through all of that and came out the other end by doing the following:
- I stayed on my own mat – well, at least as much as I could. It wasn’t always easy but I tried to just do me. I am a very competitive person, so I let friendly competition with my peers motivate me to keep going when I started to doubt myself or lack energy. At the same time, though, when conversations about differences in professors, publishable editing styles and “how many rounds” others had completed started to cause stress, I pulled back a little and refocused on my own goals and what I could control.
- I got on the same level as my advisor. I knew that if I couldn’t feel comfortable talking openly with my faculty advisor, I’d spend even more time spinning my wheels and letting stress/intimidation slow me down. So, I made a list of every idea I had about my topic – I felt excessive for doing so at first but it made it easier to look at my topic from different angles – and had a good talk with my advisor about both of our expectations, narrowing my focus, and accomplishing this on my schedule.
- I used coursework as a bridge to support my publishable. Working on my paper for the intro Research Methods class with the intention of using it as my publishable project gave me a solid starting point. I tried to get as much feedback as I could from my professor and peers – this was basically a free round of revisions within class assignments! I scheduled my coursework each semester in a way that supported completing the publishable and helped me reach critical goal points for my publishable paper in a way that would not have happened otherwise.
- I chose the right members for my committee. The importance of having the support of my committee is something else I can’t stress enough. I did my best to choose committee members who were invested in my topic and wanted to see me succeed. It was overwhelming since I didn’t know all my members personally but it was worth it in the end to have assembled the right group to support me.
- I kept in mind that writing is a process with many facets: timing, revision, location, etc. I tried to not only do that which normally motivates me but also some non-comfortable/normal practices as well. Sometimes I went and joined a group of my peers to work at a coffee shop, though I’ve never been good at working when there’s so much good people watching to be done. Other times, I’d write on weekends and nights after work when I wanted to be relaxing instead. I acknowledged that writing was work that needed to be done regardless of whether my words were coming easy that day. The same is true for revisions. I worked with my professor to find out how to do revisions and how many would be expected. Lastly, I asked someone outside of our academic realm to review my work for a non-Student Affairs viewpoint.
- I prepared for the stuff I knew would not be fun. I was so nervous about doing interviews that I practiced with a peer doc student first. Ultimately, I really liked sitting down with students to discuss their experiences and I do not think they could tell I was a newbie. They were so willing and eager to talk to share their stories that it inspired me to want to do more research. But the real cherry on the sundae was transcription. I knew a few things about transcription from experience: 1) that it takes a LONG time and 2) it makes your hands hurt, and 3) that it can be expensive to have someone else to do. Since I’m cheap, I left myself plenty of time to get the transcription done myself.
My experience with publishable paper was sometimes stressful but mostly enjoyable. I feel proud to have it done and look forward to the next challenge in meeting my timeline.
Rose Tahash is a second year part-time PhD student. She is the Coordinator of Undergraduate Services in the College of Environment and Design at UGA. She has lived in Athens and studied/worked at UGA for almost 20 years. Her current research interests are college student identity development, ethical veganism, recreation and leisure behavior, and study abroad. She is a proud animal mama and likes to hike, kayak, run, walk and generally be outside in her now limited free time.