I get a lot of questions about my exercise habits, but recently it feels like people are slightly more curious. During the past six months, I’ve become more active in long distance running and posting about my training and races … Continue reading
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.
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:
Advice for Graduate Students and others Attending Conferences (I particularly like ‘See Poohbahs and Bigwigs at Panels’)
Now that I’m in my second year of the doctoral program, I’ve been asked more and more about my dissertation topic. So far my reply has been somewhat vague and confusing (both to me and to the person). Usually I respond with words like ‘social media’, ‘young adults’, ‘informal learning’, and ‘libraries’. This doesn’t feel or sound like the correct response for a second year doctoral student. I have so many research ideas and curiosities that it is hard to wrap my mind around the idea of narrowing it down to just one focus. Then, I start to think, “should I have a complete and well honed dissertation title? Has everyone else in my cohort figured out exactly what direction they going with their dissertation? where should I go with this? what am I suppose to say!?!?”. If there is one thing I’m a professional at, it’s becoming pointlessly anxious about pretty much anything. It’s all too easy for me to compare where I am in my work with other doctoral students and stress out about how far behind I am (or seem to be). This is probably a common activity among doctoral students. I tell myself that anyway.
Luckily, this week I met with my major professor, settling some of my anxieties and concerns. I even have a few theories that I’m excited about researching more. I feel much more comfortable with the direction I’m heading, even though I still have some uncertainties and confusions. At least my dissertation topic is better than these. Although it’s definitely less interesting and not nearly as sexy. I imagine I will continue to adjust and modify my dissertation focus, at least a little bit. This is probably the norm. Right??? Now, hopefully, my response when people ask about my dissertation will be slight more intelligent and focused (at least sound like it is…). At this point, I still have a lot of thinking to do about my dissertation, so don’t ask me about it just yet! If you do, I imagine I will still look at you blankly (probably for just a few seconds anyway).
For my fellow doctoral students: At what point in the program did you figure out your dissertation topic? How do/did you respond to people who ask/asked about your dissertation as you were figuring out where to go with it? What do you stress or feel anxious about as far as your dissertation goes?