I learned even more things this year

About a year ago I wrote a post reflecting on my experiences as a first-year doctoral student. I’m keeping the tradition alive by posting about my second-year in the doc program! I’ve grown significantly, both professionally and personally. Maybe even more in my personal life. But I’ll stick to the professional ups and downs in this post (since this is an academically minded blog and all).

This past fall semester marked my first appearance TAing in a face-to-face course, an undergraduate core class called Information Science. One major duty I had a TA involved leading a twice weekly break-out session. I’ve written about my struggles presenting and introversion tendencies in earlier blog posts, so these sessions weren’t easy. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally or calmly to me. But being pushed into teaching on a weekly basis has been incredibly helpful and terrifying. At the end of fall semester, I wrote a post about what I learned from my undergraduates. I’m always learning from my students. For example, last semester I found out that there is a popular song about selfies. Who knew?! Undergrads (and normal people who listen to the radio). This semester, through student blog posts, I read about boxing, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Ramen recipes. Stuff I’ve never had much of an interest in investigating. While teaching, I’ve discovered that each semester can be very different, especially with student engagement. This summer I’ve experienced a disconnect with my students that I haven’t in the past. Maybe it’s because of the shortened summer semester, my own work load, or just sheer exhaustion. I’m not sure how to overcome this feeling of disconnect.

Learning is Fun!

Odd Learning Related Image.

Over the past year, I’ve become a published author. In May, the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA) published my first article, More Than Just Books: Librarians as a Source of Support for Cyberbullied Young Adults. I have three more articles that will be published within the year. Two as the sole author and one that’s a collaboration with one of my advisors, Dr. Lorraine Mon.I’ve learned just how time-consuming, frustrating, confusing, and spirit crushing the publication process can be. To add even more confusion, there’s publishing agreements to consider. Since the legal language and I aren’t very friendly, I reached out to the FSU’s Office of Scholarly Communication for contract hand holding. A very, very good idea. As harsh as it is to get back peer reviews, I’m still proud of the work I’ve produced; and I don’t want to sign away everything just to get my article published. The contracts I’ve received so far, except for JRLYA, want to take everything. After recently dealing with my third contract, I’m slightly more comfortable asking questions about what I’m signing and what I can argue for. Slightly.

I’m still learning to deal with rejection. Over the past year, I’ve had several rejections for conference submissions. I always take it personally, which I know I shouldn’t do but can’t seem to resist. Like many academics, I struggle with the impostor syndrome, that feeling of never being good enough or smarter enough. These self-defeating thoughts aren’t rational, but they are very powerful. Kate Bahn wrote an excellent article for Vitae about women, academia, and the impostor syndrome. It’s not just rejection and criticism that’s hard to accept, it’s accepting and internalizing praise too. Something to work on over the next year.

For the next year, I’m expecting to make some serious progress in my doctoral program. I’m taking my preliminary exam in September and (please please) defending my prospectus in late fall/early spring. Also, throw in a couple of conferences, potential publications, and a research assistantship and there you have my oh-so-easy third year.

What have you all learned this year? Any suggestions/comments/tips for me? 

I’m up to stuff at ALA Annual (a.k.a Researching #alaac14)

On Thursday, I’ll be among the thousands of librarians attending ALA Annual in Vegas! This is my second appearance at Annual and first in Vegas. Last year I won one of ALA’s Student-to-Staff program grants to attend Annual in Chicago. I’m not sure how well known this program is among students, but there are a surprising number of grants to go to all sorts of conferences for free or low cost. I would recommend MLIS, even PhD, students to apply to this program next year. It’s a great way to go behind the scenes at Annual and it looks look on a resumé/CV. My work placement was in the Networking Uncommons, helping with spontaneous programs and dealing with tech issues. Which is incredibly amusing if you know my level of tech skills.

But this time I will be at Annual mainly as a researcher. As part of a larger study, I’m interviewing librarians about how they use social media to engage with young adult patrons. I’m surprisingly nervous about conducting research interviews for the first-time. Maybe because I’m expecting to find most of my interviewees while at sessions and roaming the convention center. Approaching complete strangers is not one of my strengths. This will be especially difficult at a busy and chaotic conference like Annual. But a conference like this is a too-good-to-miss opportunity to chat with librarians. Learn a bit more about what I’m investigate here.

Some of the sessions I’m planning to attend: Annual Unconference, Data Driven Decision Making (LRRT), YA Author Coffee Klatch, Teaching Teens How to Fail, the Future of Library Services for and with Teens, Creativity and Innovation (LRRT), Deciding What’s Next for YALSA, Teen Space 201, LRRT Committee Meeting.

Please say hello to me! I’ll probably try to interview you…Fair warning.

If you are interested in being interviewed by me (and who wouldn’t??), please e-mail me at alp07@my.fsu.edu. These interview will be short and very informal (I promise!). Think of participating as one small step towards bridging the theory-practice divide. (Yes?)

 

I’m a Newbie Published Author!

I’m officially a published author as of last Thursday. My first peer-reviewed journal article has been published in the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA). It’s a very exciting/intimidating experience to see your name in print, out there in the world for anyone to read. The peer-reviewed publication process is (unsurprisingly) long and challenging. After submitted a paper, there’s the sometimes lengthy wait to hear whether it has been accepted, accepted with major/minor edits, or rejected. Then there’s the peer-reviews, which are a delightfully agonizing read. After a back and forth of changes and corrections, your paper is okayed for publication. Copyright forms are figured out (I’m confused by legalese) and signed. Followed by another wait for your article to actually be published.

Luckily, I’ve had terrific experiences with JRLYA, Journal of Education for Library and Information Studies (JELIS), and Public Libraries Quarterly (PLQ). The editors are friendly, encouraging, and understanding. This is exactly what I (and probably many other writers need). Having your writing read, judged, and openly critiqued is uncomfortable. I blogged about my experience with the peer-reviews I received from this JRLYA article back in November. As a perfectionist by nature, I’m already prone to intense self-criticism and doubt. Peer-reviews rarely help ease these feelings. But I’m learning to make peace with peer-reviews. Well…as much as I can.

I’ve also deposited my article into the Diginole Commons, FSU’s virtual repository for electronic scholarship. I love the idea of providing open access to my work. For some reason do this makes me feel even more a part of a research community. I look forward to depositing more in the near future. My article in PLQ comes out in September, and another article will appear in JELIS in October. Hard work can pay off. I could gush more about writing and publishing, but I’ll contain my enthusiasm. I’m only jumping up and down a little bit right now. And nobody can see….

Read my article, More Than Just Books: Librarians as a Source of Support for Cyberbullied Young Adults, via the link below. You know you want to! Yes you do.

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2014/05/more-than-just-books-librarians-as-a-source-of-support-for-cyberbullied-young-adults/

Guest Blogging for Overworked TA

I’ll be guest blogging for Overworked TA over the next couple of months. My first post, published last Friday, is called Don’t Panic! It’s Only Your 1st Semester as a Doc Student.

Blurb about the post:

“This guest post provides guidance and suggestions on what to expect and how to cope during the first year of a doctoral program. Although this experience can be challenging, stressful, and anxiety provoking, don’t panic! This post will provide some words of wisdom(ish) from someone who has survived and thrived during that first year.”

I’m looking forward to writing more about my experiences as a doctoral student for this wonderful blog. Please keep an eye out for my future posts!

On Structured & Unstructured Chaos

Now that I’ve completed the coursework portion of my doctoral life, I’ve lost the structure of designated class meetings, assignment due dates, and syllabi. Now I’ve entered the unstructured world of independent study and writing. This semester I’ve been gearing up for my prelim statements, working on a pilot study, and writing (writing, writing, writing….). It’s been a significant adjustment from the first year and a half of the doc program. I have been surprised at how much of a challenge this change has been for me. I’ve always prided myself at being an independent worker, working best without a rigid schedule. I struggled in a 9 to 5 work environment, so more flexible schedule of the doctoral program has been a welcomed relief. But with this freedom has come more responsibility and a bit of chaos.

For the most part, my educational career, from elementary school to PhD, has been designed for me by an instructor. Usually, I didn’t have much input into what the assignments were, how the information was presented, or how I could organize my time. Over the course of this semester, I’ve learned (slowly) how to develop my own schedule, complete with self-imposed flexible deadlines. Last week I shared some of  my anxieties over the unstructuredness of this semester with a couple of doc students. It seems to be a shared feeling. I felt much better about myself after learning this! While we have always been good students, it has been within the confines of an organized and pre-planned coursework. At first, this relatively complete freedom is somewhat terrifying. It’s an intimidating load to take on, especially after an intense couple of semesters worth of coursework. For me, it feels as though I’m trying to multitask at an nth degree. I’ve never been a believer in multitasking, but I keep finding myself trying to juggle all these different tasks. Over and over again I would construct a to-do list that would only result in stressing me out more. The opposite of helping me get anything done. But after this initial nervousness and confusion, I think I have figured out how I can organize it all (for the most part). My approach is not easy, pretty, or even logical to other people. But it works for me and I’m finishing stuff. The chaos has been managed(ish).

Part of my approach is to cut myself some slack. My perfectionism has a habit of sneaking in and preventing me from working as confidently as I’d like. Nobody expects perfection, so why should I?

Talking About My Research With Non-Researchers aka How I Bore Friends, Family, and Random Strangers

How do you talk about your research with non-researchers? After spending some time earlier last week talking with other LIS researchers about my work and then spending time talking with non-researchers, this question popped up in my mind (not for the first time). I’d rather not have my work, something I feel quite excited about and proud of, to sound terribly boring and pointless.

When someone asks what I do, I respond that I’m a doctoral student. I’ve learned not to say ‘doctoral student in information studies’ because that generally gets confused or weird looks. This is completely understandable. Information studies is a pretty vague and odd sounding area to study. Library-ish studies or library related stuff, while not completely accurate, is close enough and often how I describe my field. Then, the next question is, “what are your research interests?” or “what are you researching now?”.  Most of the time I say some combination of social media, young adults, and libraries. But sometimes I feels as if the questioner wants a more thought out response. And there is the unexpected moments when I am so excited about what I’m working on that I feel the need to gush.So, how much is too much? How much is boring? How much can I get away with? But mostly, what does this person really want to know? (If anything.)

I’ve come up with a few guidelines for myself in response to these questions. I’m not sure if they make sense to anyone else, but here goes:

  1. Avoid talking about theories/theoretical frameworks/models/paradigms/etc. – Not to suggest that whoever I’m speaking with can’t understand these theories, but who outside of my committee, colleagues, and advisors could possibly be interested in hearing about my particular theory or model? I’m guessing nobody…
  2. Avoid using the word “context” – This word just sounds pretentious and snotty.
  3. Try not to sound like you’re regurgitating a journal article – This probably applies when you’re engaging with researchers too. Journal articles aren’t the most exciting of reading, even if you’re interested in the topic.
  4. If you have another doc student in the group, avoid talking about committees, IBR, the peer-review process, your advisors, colloquiums, etc. –  In any conversation, it’s important that those you are talking with have some working knowledge of whatever is being discussed. These words have little meaning outside of the ivory tower, so why bring them up. It’s just rude. I made this mistake during a conference last week. Silly Abby.
  5. Try to find the fun and interesting parts of whatever you are researching and highlight those – If you are interested in it there must be something that others will find amusing, thoughtful, surprising, vaguely curious, or at the very least not boring. Maybe this could be thought of as the sales pitch for your research.
  6. Ask what he/she/they think about your research – Maybe they know something you don’t. Maybe they have some insightful feedback, first impressions, or confusions. It’s fun to get a fresh perspective from someone outside of your world on what you’re passionate about.

Has anyone else thought about this? How do you talk to “normal” people about research or academia? Any other suggestions? Something to add to my personal checklist? Mistakes I’ve made?

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Attending My 1st Conference and Stuff I’m Nervous/Excited About….

Next week, I will be attending my very first academic conference. Hooray! I’ll also experience another first: presenting my research for the very first time to people outside of my school. Sort of hooray! I’m a bit nervous about my ability to discuss my research eloquently (or at least coherently) to other conference attendees and presenters. I feel like I’ve been living with my research for awhile but under pressure I may come across completely lost and not very bright. After experiencing this while presenting and lecturing, I’m not looking forward to what may happen during a conference. Another concern is that my introversion becomes a little more obvious in all-day social situations like conferences. For me, interacting with people takes a significant amount of energy, both mental and physical. But I’ve discovered that my field (and academia in general) is full of introverts who seem to have figured out how to play the socializing game. I can too! I will need to find an ideal balance between socializing time and alone time.

Me sometimes....

Me sometimes….

via hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com 

Aside from this nervousness, I’m excited about meeting fellow researchers and hearing about what they’re working on. During the ALA Annual conference in July, I found myself inspired by the innovative programming, services, and tools librarians across the country have developed. I’m aware of what other doctoral students in my program are working on, but not much beyond that. At times, I become buried in my own research projects and those I’m collaborating on, completely forgetting the creative and intelligent research being produced by others in my field. I imagine I will find myself bouncing up and down in excitement and saying, “How cool!” a lot during the conference. This sounds professional, right?

Helpful Tips from Those Who Have Been There and Done That:

Beginner’s Guide to Attending Conferences

Advice for Graduate Students and others Attending Conferences (I particularly like ‘See Poohbahs and Bigwigs at Panels’)

Becoming Part of the Research Community

What I Learned From Undergraduates

Since my first semester of teaching undergraduates face to face ended two weeks ago, I’ve spent some time thinking about what I learned, liked, disliked, didn’t understand, found funny, etc. about the experience. There has been a lot to process, especially with another semester of undergraduate teaching not too far away. I’ve also talked with other doc students, friends, family, and colleagues about teaching in general. It’s curious to hear how other instructors, not matter what they’re teaching, interact with students, develop their teaching styles, and assess their own successes (and failures) as an instructor. Mostly I’ve been surprised by what I’ve learned!

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching undergraduates this semester. I expected to like working with undergraduate since I’ve worked quite a bit with their age group as a librarian. Until this semester, my experience with teaching undergrads has been solely online, with no interaction outside of e-mail. In the face to face environment of the classroom, I get the same energy boost I got while working with teens in the public library. The enthusiasm and curiosity of undergrads is contagious and motivates me to perform better as a teacher.

However, this energy boost also comes with an serious energy drain.I’ve been surprised  at how tiring, mentally and emotionally, teaching undergraduates can be. Whether it is the significant increase in e-mails or the self-doubt about my own abilities as a  teacher, this semester has been a bit more exhausting than others. To me, it feels as though undergraduates need significantly more, and with a greater intensity, from teachers than master’s students. It’s likely that the more experience I get teaching undergraduates over my career, the less draining I will find my teaching experience. At least I hope so.

Another revelation from this semester has been that I can make a mistake or goof up as a teacher and it’s okay. Students (and fellow instructors) are surprisingly understanding and forgiving. Being a perfectionist, I have a tendency to blow up a small mishap and blow it up to the level of a catastrophe. For every mistake I’ve made over the course of this semester, I’ve discovered something about teaching and myself. For example, if a student feels that you have made a mistake in grading/attendance/participation, they will call you out on it. Repeatedly. Via e-mail. Yes.

janateacherquestions-copy

Teaching Humor!

Dealing With Criticism (or Hearing Back From Peer Reviewers)

In September, I submitted my first ever manuscript to an academic journal. That was exciting! Some time after, I heard back from the journal. My manuscript has been tentatively accepted  (that’s good!). One of the reviewers had very positive, encouraging comments about my manuscript and only recommended minor changes  (also good!).  But then there was the other reviewer. This individual had even more comments, many of which were negative, and suggested major changes to the manuscript before possible publication (this is not good).  My first response after reading these reviews was simple exhaustion. I worked so hard on this manuscript and had reached a point where I could only look at it sadly while shaking my head. I could not begin to contemplate making major changes to it. My major professor recommended that I step away from the reviews for a few days and then come back to them (hopefully less emotionally).

And I that’s what I did. Since I’ve come back to the reviews, I find myself still struggling with the criticism. How could two individuals have such different opinions on my topics, method, writing, and sources? How could they know my research area throughly enough to provide me with solid, relevant suggestions when I’ve been reading, thinking, and writing about it for months? This is also my first experience with peer reviews, which means there is a lot that I just don’t understand. So much. Mostly, I struggle to accept the criticism. I imagine it gets easier the more manuscripts you submit, the more research you share at conferences, and the more involved you become in the academic community. But knowing this doesn’t help the present feelings I’m experiencing: inadequacy, confusion, and frustration. As someone who has never accepted criticism without tears or frustration, knowing putting myself out there for certain criticism (usually constructive!) is very very hard. I imagine that there are many, many researchers who are struggling with these same issues. To end on a positive note, the semester is coming to an end, which means no classes, plenty of time for catch up work, and (possible) fun reading. Also, I have another paper under peer review so…. *cue suspenseful music*

How do you deal with constructive criticism (or just plan criticism)? Does this process get easier or do you just develop a tougher skin? Any suggestions on how to approach peer reviews in a more objective manner? 

Learning to Write Without Fear (For the Most Part….)

Since I officially submitted my first manuscript for publication on last week, I feel the need to blog about writing and writing related activities. The knowledge that my poor, sweet little paper is awaiting review by anonymous researchers who may (or may not) tear my writing and research apart is terrifying. For me, the entire writing process is filled with a mixture of excitement, dread, and stress. The stress comes from the blank page on my screen, especially when writing that first paragraph. At that point, everything I writes sounds trite and unimpressive. Usually I push through, writing down whatever comes to mind and returning when I’ve written enough that the pressure to perform is slightly less intense. The dread comes from completing a research paper, article, or blog post and knowing that I have to come up with something else to research and write about. Even with something as simple and informal as a blog post I still feel a slight anxiety about what to write next. Additionally, I worry whether or not what I blog will be interesting to my audience. (Eh. Probably not? Maybe?)

Asking others to proofread my work is a bit of a nail bitter as well. Sometimes it feels physically painful. It’s uncomfortable to give up the work that you stressed and slaved over to the criticisms of a friend, colleague, etc. But it’s a necessary evil. Hopefully, the criticisms are constructive and helpful. After a long period of nervousness about proofreading, I’ve reached the point where I’m asking my (very kind and giving) proofreaders to give my writing a serious ripping apart. It can only benefit me in the end. If they don’t do it, someone else will. (On a side note, getting undergrads to understand the concept and importance of proofreading may be impossible or at least really, really, really, hard and disappointing.)

Generally what I look like while writing.

Generally what I look like while writing.

How did you learn to write without fear? How did you overcome the fear of knowing others will read your work? What does you writing process look like? What do you do that makes you comfortable while writing? Unless I’m the only person who has writing nerves, which is very possible.