Sunday, July 15, 2007

The final stretch

The end of my PhD journey seems to be racing towards me rather quickly. I have a very loose, informal, "theoretical" defense date of December. My committee thinks this is reasonable but when I look at my calendar, I start to get a little nervous about it happening. What I learned from doing a master's, however, was that if you mark a date on a calendar months in advance the value comes in the motivation to make that date. Even if things get pushed back slightly, the idea is that if you hadn't marked that date in the first place, then you wouldn't have made as much progress. that i'm already slightly waffling and rationalizing about making that date, can I say that the motivation is there? Ummm.....what?

Anyway, my particular program has, in the last 10 years or so, gone to a more "modular" dissertation. That is, instead of writing one, ridiculously long tome about a single project we have multiple projects that fit within a "theme", for lack of a better word. There are perhaps some disadvantages to the modular style that one could think of, but I think the advantages far outweigh them. Firstly, the separate projects or sub-projects are summarized in chapters that are meant to be stand-alone papers. This has been valuable to me because then the papers are already in a format suitable for a journal. Why write a 500 page monstrosity nobody is gonna read anyway and then have to transform it into a journal manuscript later?

If you read this blog semi-regularly, you can probably guess what my "theme" is. All of my chapters deal with deep-marine sedimentary sytsems in one form or another. Some aspects deal with fundamental processes more, whereas others are utilizing attributes of the system (distribution, composition, timing, etc.) to address geologic questions of the specific region.

I'm writing this post because the first major paper of this work is about to be submitted (finally). I remember saying I wanted to submit this back in April! The paper went a couple rounds with co-authors and advisor and is now ready. Today, I have to do some of the remaining annoying little tasks (e.g., tracking down the volume number for that one pesky reference). It feels good to have this chunk (nearly) done. In terms of finishing the PhD and getting through the defense, the more of my chapters that are already submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, the better. Having all of your work submitted by defense date is not necessarily required here, but things go much, much smoother if they are. Realistically, I'll have 2/3 of my work submitted by December with the remaining very close.

So, that calendar seems to be marked with bigger font and in bold now. It is no longer an "idea" or "something to shoot for", but is transforming into a real day. A day that will be here a lot closer than I think.

As for my post-PhD plans....I will post about that another time. Several months of individual soul-searching combined with discussions with my girlfriend about what she wants to do next, where would we want to live (or definitely not live), and so on. As you know, it gets compli-ma-cated. That deserves its own post.


Kim said...

Congratulations about having that first paper ready to go!

Thermochronic said...

Excellent work, for some reason having a date made things start happening for me, well, maybe I just started finishing things.

CJR said...

Congrats on sorting the paper out. Like you, I never saw the point of writing a thesis, and then later rewriting everything in it for publication. And I can tell you from experience that being viva'd on research that is (at least partly) peer-reviewed gives you some useful confidence.

Also from experience, stressing about a date is far preferable to submitting your thesis and waiting six further months for your examiners to read it...