This year, I am beginning my third semester as a doctoral student, and it is frightening! Last year, I dappled in scholarly journals and worked very hard, but reality hadn’t quite set in yet. This year, I enrolled in a dissertation proposal course which is phenomenal. The professor excellently scaffolds and organizes the proposal in manageable chunks—she warns us that we would be making difficult decisions, but this will push our limits. The organization of the class has been very helpful to me, but I realize I have an immense amount of work ahead of me this year. Fortunately, I have an incredibly supportive husband, family, best friend, blog partner, and most important—advisor. I discussed my concerns with each of them, and they all expressed their strong support and confidence in me. Their encouragement pushed me to realize I can do this.
This Sunday in particular, my husband took my (adorable, gleeful, accident-prone, and giggly) son to visit extended family, and I worked. I kept my caffeine and snacks at the ready, and I didn’t leave my chair for five hours (okay, I did take a few bathroom breaks). It was joyful to get straight, uninterrupted hours to study—my mother-in-law, mother, and aunt have been helping with this too. The problem with reviewing literature in a field? I found excellent articles about my topic, and then, as I read these intriguing articles, they cited other articles, so I found those. As I looked through those articles, I found more that were equally important. As my list of “Articles I Need” kept growing and growing, I became worried. I began to wonder if I would ever possible feel done reading all of the research in the field. My advisor assured me that reading every single article in a field (particularly with new journal issues being published each month) is impossible, but with my obsessive, Type-A personality, I want to read each and every article! I want to be sure I have read every possible study and article about the subject, but the problem is, there are branches upon branches of articles about other subjects that run parallel to my research. Each time I find a new, parallel subject, I think, “Oooooh! Neat!” and then I get lost searching for and reading articles about that subject matter that, while it aligns with my research, is not truly necessary. In research terms, they call this, “beyond the scope” of my research. Because I am very passionate about my topic, I can’t help but want to read it all.
I am grateful for all of the support from my family and friends for helping me find this very fascinating work. I have always loved to learn—and I used to bemoan the fact that I couldn’t be a lifelong student (and still pay the bills). I learned so much from my students when I was teaching, but it was different from taking classes and conducting research with fancy IRB approval. As I was reflecting this weekend, I realized that by doing research, I will be a lifelong student as I learn from the participants in my study, and while I regret that I can’t read every article that is “beyond the scope” of the research subject of my dissertation, I am not locked into this particular study forever. If I want, I can really go rogue and research something drastically different! The next study I design can be in that forbidden “beyond the scope” zone of what I am researching today. And these possibilities make me strangely giddy with excitement.
If you are a middle or high school English language arts teacher (or know any of these folks), I would truly appreciate your help distributing the message below for my dissertation study! Thank you!!!
I am seeking middle/high school English teachers for a brief research survey. For more information, click: https://uconn.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_7U0gerNF8XslNpH. I would greatly appreciate it if you shared this post with other teachers!