Blogging the PhD: The first-year review
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!