Blogging the PhD: The first-year review

Last existing original building in Holy City. Photo by Shelley Adina.
Last existing original building in Holy City. Photo by Shelley Adina.

On September 14, I’ll be meeting with my dissertation supervisor, Dr. John Schad, and the creative writing director, Jenn Ashworth, for a review of my work during this first year of my programme. Naturally, this doesn’t involve the three of us going out for coffee and having a chat. No, I’m to submit a package containing the following:

  • A PhD abstract with a maximum of 300 words (mine is 450, oops) summarizing the creative and reflective projects, key research questions, and approach
  • A revised PhD proposal taking account of new developments
  • A sample of creative work up to 15,000 words
  • Sample pages from the Learning Log
  • A detailed progress report
  • A bibliography

I’m eyeballing what I have so far, and this package is looking like nearly 100 pages.

Fortunately, the Abstract and the Bibliography were already part of the Proposal. The proposal was what got me into the programme to start with, and it was so vague and aspirational it kind of makes me wince now. With Dr. Schad’s help, I abandoned my misty idea about a literary critique of fiction about utopian religion, and went with what he called, “something interesting,” LOL. In other words, a citational novel about Holy City, California, focusing particularly on the prophet’s wife, Lucille Riker. You can get the gist of what Holy City was here. There is all kinds of material on William Riker–newspaper articles, books, reams and reams of his own writing. According to his lawyer, he had “a mouth like a torn pocket” and words never ceased coming out of it. But hardly anyone knows about Lucille. So she and her life in Holy City are my focus, through the point of view of a female drifter who comes to town in 1927. It was a year filled with scandal and crisis–you just can’t make this stuff up!

The Learning Logs are writeups of our supervisory meetings every two weeks throughout the year. As I found out in June, these don’t go on hiatus when the school year ends and the undergraduates get out for the summer. We PhD students research all year round. So I’m submitting every fifth log (we’ll just have had meeting #22 when I have my review). Just imagine the stress and chaos if (a) I hadn’t been taking notes during the meetings, and (b) if I hadn’t been writing them up and posting them all year. I bet there are folks in that position. Ouch. It’d be a bit like throwing all your receipts in a shoebox and then trying to figure out your income taxes on April 14.

The Progress Report includes a synopsis of the novel, a plan for writing the reflective thesis, and the reading I’ve done so far. That’s ten pages right there.

I send in the package on September 1, so my task this week is to do a final revision of my novel’s 15,000 words.

Wish me luck on September 14!


7 thoughts on “Blogging the PhD: The first-year review”

  1. Carol DouglasCarol Douglas

    You do have your work cut out for you don’t you! Well, this education does not just fall out of the sky and land on a silver platter!! LOL

    The very best of luck to you as you carry on.

  2. Victoria E ThompsonVictoria E Thompson

    I feel like I have a vested interest in your PhD progress because of our car sharing! This is so exciting, but I’m really glad it’s you and not me. Had to LOL over “something interesting.” I guess he’ll have to read it, so he’s got a vested interest, too. Wishing you all the best. I know you’ll do it all and o it well. That’s just who you are.

  3. MegMeg

    WOW. So interesting! Wishing you all the best in this new journey!!

  4. Monica E SpenceMonica E Spence

    Hi Shelley,
    It looks like you are in a great place! I am so happy for you. My only bit of advice (and this is for the long view, not just this time around): make absolutely certain your abstract and your novel match up. You can always revise your abstract as needed.

    I can’t wait to hear how your meeting goes. I am scheduled for my Orals on Sept. 20. I’ll wish you luck and you can wish me some as well!

    Best Regards,

    PS: Best wishes on “Opera Dancer”!

    • ShelleyShelley

      Gosh, thanks for the advice! I’ve been writing back-cover copy for so long that I’m tempted to treat it a little bit like that. Best of luck on the orals! I’ll be waiting to hear 🙂

      September 8, 2018
  5. Penny ThomasPenny Thomas

    Wishing you lots of luck for September 14. Also very much looking forward to reading your finished novel on Lucille Riker.

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