Defending My Dissertation and Other Things I’ve Experienced Recently

On Monday, February 8, I successfully defended my dissertation. I stood up in front of a room of people and presented my dissertation research, opening myself up to questions and critiques (constructive). I’ve talked about my fear of public speaking … Continue reading

“I Can’t Write.”: Lies I Tell Myself Sometimes

I struggled with my writing this semester. This is a confusing and (sort of) funny announcement when I look back at last month’s post about my success in publishing. What began with unexpected criticism about my writing in late August spiraled … Continue reading

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? 

An Overworked Woman? *

Recently, as I’ve been dating more, I received the following comments from men: “You work way too much. Enjoy Life!”, “Wow. I really need to get you out of the house more.”, “You spend a lot of time doing schoolwork.”. I know women working outside of academia hear something similar to this, but I’ve really started noticing it since I began the doctoral program. It’s frustrating because I’m relatively certain that men aren’t getting these types of critiques from other men or women. Why do some men feel they can criticize someone they barely know (on a date no less)? The real questions these men should be asking a woman putting in long(ish) hours is “do you enjoy it?” and “what are you getting out of it?”.

I think there is a difference in working a lot and being overworked. I work quite a but, but I knew I would be. My expectations of the doctoral program when I applied have been pretty close to reality. I don’t feel “overworked”. Well… maybe I do towards the end of the semester when everything is due and public speaking is involved. Yet, I love what I’m doing. It doesn’t always even feel like work. I’m willing to put in the time and effort because my work is meaningful to me. I am enjoying life!

I’m not sure that it is sexism prompting these types of comments from some men. Maybe they aren’t happy in their own jobs and have trouble understanding why anyone would want to work a lot. Maybe it is the difference in education. As a woman, once you reach a certain level of education you realize that dating men with less education is a strong possibility. It can be difficult for some men to accept this difference. I may be encouraging these comments myself. I can a bit blunt sometimes. But I believe I need to be honest to friends, family, and dates about how much of my life the doc program takes up.

Thank you for listening to my blatherings. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and writing always helps me put things into perspective. And I just really love blogging!

* I’m really not generalizing to all men or trying to offend. I know there are plenty of men who wouldn’t think of saying this kind of stuff. My dad and other doc students chief among them! : )

The Educated Woman in book form!

The Educated Woman in book form!