Embarking on a semester of prospectus

Suddenly, it’s the start of a new semester.  I just returned home from the MLA (Modern Language Association) conference in Seattle, where I presented on the “Innovative Research and Pedagogy in Technical Communication” panel.  I had a great time: I met Anne Wysocki, Sarah Arroyo, Bill Hart-Davidson, Sid Smith, and a few others, and I attended interesting panels on topics including “access” and what it means for schools and classrooms, new and evolving forms of the graduate dissertation, alternate academic jobs, and how rhetorical theory and the digital humanities can and should intersect.  My talk went well and my audience appeared interested and engaged with my materials. 

However, now I’m back home in Ann Arbor, and the semester yawns wide in front of me.  For the first time in my graduate career, I’m “done” with coursework.  As in, no more classes.  As in, I no longer have to read assigned materials and compose busy workish reading responses.  As in, I can read what I really need to read and write only about my project.  The timeline for the dissertation in our program is two years.  From this point (I’m in the middle of my third year), I have to defend my diss prospectus this winter, research and write my dissertation over my 4th and 5th years in the program, and defend the finished diss at the end of my 5th year, 2014. 

The immediate task for this term, then, is to write and defend my dissertation prospectus.  The plan is to make a schedule, stick to it, and work for 5-6 hours a day on the prospectus until it’s ready to go.  I hope to be ready to defend in March (yikes – did I just write that?!).  I’m also teaching a section of English 229, Professional Writing, this term.  I’m so excited to be working on the prospectus at the same time that I’m teaching.  For me, the research/scholar process and the teaching/instructor process have always been intricately intertwined.  I read, I write, I think, I apply to my teaching, I listen to and observe my students, I reflect, and I read some more.  This is why, I suppose, the E&E program is perfect for me: I get to research education, pedagogy, and teaching and enact it at the same time. 

Last semester, I took a course for which the professor allowed me to compose a draft of my prospectus, and I received comments on that draft from her and from one of my dissertation co-chairs.  So I will begin my work this term with those comments, reading further and revising what I have there.  My feedback overall was that I need to work at refining and clarifying my research questions and making the kind of study I want to do very clear from the start of the prospectus itself. 

Additionally, I need to meet with my dissertation co-chair and with her help and advice, finish assembling my committee.  I also need to send the prospectus draft to my other co-chair, who will offer me his advice and comments. 

So off I go.  Tomorrow, I will assemble a preliminary reading list, go back through the comments I received on my first draft of the prospectus, and make a more detailed “to-do” list.  I’m excited, to be honest!