On April 30, 2016, I graduated with my Ph.D. in Information Studies from the School of Information at Florida State University. What a confusing series of emotions I went through on that day – from anger, sadness, happiness, and dread. It … Continue reading
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
This is what I wrote the night before my prelims began:
Tomorrow is the first day of my preliminary exam, an exam I have been stressing about (probably most PhD students do) since I began the doctoral program. In my program, this is a seven day exam during which I write a heck of a lot about four different areas: major, minor, theory, and research method. The prelim exam marks the completion of my coursework (go team!) when I’m expected to generally know what I want to do my dissertation on and sound reasonably confident when talking about it. If you would like to know exactly what my prelim exam is all about (why?), here’s an excerpt from my school’s doctoral guidelines:
Examination criteria generally relate to the following factors:
• mastery of specific knowledge in an area of specialization;
• familiarity with current trends in that area;
• knowledge of scholarly investigation in that area;
• knowledge of the interrelationships between the minor field and the area of specialization
(if the student has a minor area of specialization: see Section 5.3); and
• ability to relate the selected area of specialization to larger domains of knowledge and
I didn’t sleep well last night and probably won’t tonight. But sometimes writing is helpful in moments of dread/panic/anticipation/nerves, so I’ve decided to give it a go. Being the overly organized person that I am, I’ve developed an exam schedule for myself which looks like this: Wake-Up, Gym, Coffee Shop, Write x 8, Home, Sleep. Food fits in this schedule somewhere, just not sure. Logically, I know I shouldn’t be as stressed out as much as I am. My committee would never have let me schedule my exam if I weren’t ready. This exam is nothing more than a way to demonstrate what I’ve learned during my first two years and my “mastery” of LIS (eh?).
However, the following irrational thoughts keep going through my mind. Irrational thought one: What if I completely blank? What if I forget everything or encounter the worst writer’s block of my life? Irrational thought two: What if I just can’t do it? What this is too much for me to accomplish? Irrational thought three: What if I become terribly sick (like a migraine)? What if everything horrible happens??
And this is what actually happened:
Well….it wasn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever experienced. Nothing terrible happened. I wrote a lot. Everyday. ALL DAY. I expected that. What I didn’t expect is my ability to focus so intensely on one task. Maybe I can do this dissertation thing after all. But probably not in a week.
Towards the end of the first day, I didn’t think I could finish the exam. I had stressed myself out to a degree that doesn’t make sense to me now. Seven days of this exam seemed too much. My poor brain felt so tired; and words seem confusing. During the evening, I watched/stared at the most terrible and mindless T.V. shows on Netflix (Deadly Women = the worst/greatest show, acting, and wigs I’ve ever seen). But after the second day, it all became routine. A tiring and coffee-fueled routine, but a do-able routine. One good realization that came out of my exam taking is I know a lot about a few very narrow areas.
Along with all this, I placed myself on a Facebook and Twitter (my sites of addiction) ban for the entire seven days of the exam. I KNEW social media would be a distraction for me. I couldn’t afford any sort of online interruptions. When I want to avoid writing, I goof around on….or research social media. But, surprisingly, staying off Facebook and Twitter isn’t that difficult (at least it wasn’t for me). I did feel out of the loop on friend news, current events, and random stuff, but otherwise, not so much. Occasionally during my social media exile a friend would ask if I had seen something on Facebook. I would respond in the nicest and most thoughtful way, “No. I HAVEN’T. UGH. PEOPLE.”
I’m planning to write more about this social media withdrawal experience soon, and maybe try it out again. Although, I bet my Klout score suffered….
P.S. I have so many wonderful people in my life who offered me so much encouragement during the exam. I greatly appreciate the kind words, high fives, cheerleading, and writing sessions.
P.S.S. Oddly enough, during those last two nights, I would dream about the exam and came up with new ideas for my writing. Of course, when I woke up I couldn’t remember anything except the sad realization that even in sleep I couldn’t be free from prelims.
Last semester I began my first official (at least that’s what I’m calling it) research project. It began with calls for participation via social media, list-servs, and blogs to librarians across the United States. Slowly but surely, people began respond to my little online survey. I’ve snuck a few peeks at the responses, but I’m looking forward to actually digging into them. There has been some surprises! But what I’m been most surprised (and pleased) by is how enthusiastically and positively librarians have been responding to my pleas for help. This is a good reminder of how motivated, thoughtful, and engaged our community can be. We librarians are helpful by nature, but this is a step beyond what I expected. Hopefully, those who participated in the survey believe that research like mine can add something to our field. These librarians have been very giving with their time and input, especially since they aren’t received any compensation for taking my survey. I have no money/stuff to give them. Maybe one day? I’m relatively sure that once/if you get a tenure track position, the money just flows in.
In this study, I’m investigating how librarians engage with young adult patrons through their library’s social media profiles; and what role(s) do librarians see social media as playing in marketing and promoting library services. Surprisingly (to me anyway), there hasn’t been much in the way of scholarly research into the perceptions and attitudes of librarians have towards social media. Especially public librarians. Although public libraries are well covered in the practitioner publications (American Libraries, Library Journal, etc.), there is a significant gap in the LIS literature about public librarianship. This study is my first step into doing my part to add to public library and librarian focused research.
Over the next two months, I will work on the second step in this project: conducting interviews with librarians. This is my main reason for attending ALA Annual this year. Besides the social events and general funness of Annual, it seems like a good place to find willing interviewees. Well, that’s my game plan anyway. This will also be my first experience conducting interviews. I’ve heard that it’s not an easy process, particularly for introverts. The intense focus that interviewing demands will be challenging for me. But I’ll survive! I’m not the first introverted, non-talkative person to conduct research interviews. And I probably won’t be the last. Expect a blog post during Annual about my experiences – good or bad.
Of course you can still help me out!
In case you would like to participate in the survey, there’s still time. Here’s the link: https://fsu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_22YzFRW6XwThz8h
If you are planning to attend ALA Annual and would be kind enough to sit down for a brief interview, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
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?
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?
Monday at 12:20 PM marks the start of my first ever experience lecturing! **some sort of nervous, tense music plays** 150+ undergraduates will be perched in their seats, staring at me, probably hoping for the end of class. Ideally from my lecture, they will learn more about information behaviors, needs, and use, each of which I am interested in as a information studies researcher. My belief (and what I’ve heard from others) is that larger groups are much easier to speak in from of than small groups, like a doctoral seminar. We shall see! I’ve found (to my delight) that I enjoy my lab session immensely. My session has around 50 students, so I am becoming more accustomed to speaking in front of larger groups.
At the moment I’m managing my lecture related stress reasonably well. I have received a great deal of support and advice from friends, colleagues, and students. As almost everyone knows, fear of public speaking is extremely common. However, as an introvert, I find that I experience intense panic instead of the more normal (and healthier) nervousness before a presentation. More often than not, my presentations are relatively successful. I’ve only had a few presentation or other public speaking types of engagements that have been crash and burn situations. Sigh.
While I’m terrified at thought of lecturing, I’m also, surprisingly enough, somewhat excited! I’m incorporating Twitter into my lecture, which I am expecting the students will enjoy (please!). Since my lecture is on information behaviors, I couldn’t think of a better way to really grasp this concept than by experiencing it first-hand. I will ask the students to tweet any questions, comments, or confusions to our class hashtag #infosci. Additionally, students will be required to tweet during the class session three interesting, important, and/or surprising things they have learned from my lecture or the course readings. I’ve never taken a course that incorporated social media in the classroom, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the students respond, as well as how I well/poorly I carry the whole thing out). Look forward to a future post on my experience. I don’t believe in luck, so please wish me something good for Monday!
Has anyone used social media in the classroom? What have your experiences been like? Would you recommend it to others?
In your experience, what are some the benefits and drawbacks to social media in education?
Ugh. It’s been almost a month since my last post. The end of the semester was brutal. But now it’s “break” and I can get back to the important things in life – writing, napping, coffee drinking, and reading. I put break in quotation marks because break really means catching up with all the work I couldn’t finish during the summer session. But this work is my fun work! Writing about my real research interests like cyberbullying, doctoral life, and rural libraries. Frantic writing and poster creating and fall semester prep, oh boy!
All the madness and stress of the summer semester made me curious about how other doctoral students and academics deal with stress, especially the overwhelming variety. Since I began the doctoral program, I’ve experienced an intensity of stress that I never have before. I’m not sure how it’s different or why it feels so intense, but it does. It seems as if the internal and external pressure on my time, sanity, and energy has been steadily increasing since last August. I heard a rumor that it only gets worse after becoming a Doctoral Candidate. But I’m willing to accept that challenge.
Yet, stress can be a good thing in moderation. It can motivate us to accomplish great things, take risks, and excel far beyond we thought we could. My coping mechanism for stress has always been exercise and obsessive worrying. Only one of those is healthy. Without exercise I have no idea where I would be right now. I wonder how other doctoral students and academics (and non-academics who read this blog! who are you?) manage stress. How stressed are you? How successful do you feel you are at stress management? Do you believe that the stress you experience is mostly good or bad?
P.S. I have so much fun stuff that I’m working on right now! Publication ahoy!
- almost finished with my cyberbullying lit review (so close, so close…..)
- editing a case study on rural libraries and marketing I wrote during my MLIS for publication
- editing a LIS education and leadership lit review I wrote for the doctoral seminar this summer for publication
- upcoming guest blog post on the Hack Library School blog (September 3!)
- TAing my first F2F undergraduate course this Fall