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PhdGrad15

Proposal Blues

5 posts in this topic

Does anybody have a dissertation proposal story to share? Anything related to deadlines that got missed because no one told you what the deadline was, communicating with multiple faculty, some who rarely respond to emails, departments that don't communicate the rules but expect them to be followed, etc. Also, advice on how to deal with difficulties like these tactfully without sounding snarky or blame-y (sometimes I feel like writing, "I sent you an email about this two weeks ago") would be great! Most of the faculty are great, but I am just not catching on to the styles of others. Thanks!

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Best advice I can give: find a way to work with the ones you get along with more, and realize that you won't be able to change the ones who do things that annoy you or aren't compatible with your work style. It's better to work with people with compatible work styles even if their interests aren't as close to yours than with ones who are technically a better match but will drive you crazy. Also:  

- learn to do your own research and not to expect faculty to know about formal requirements; they so often don't.

- instead of saying "I sent you an email about this two weeks ago", reply to that original email whenever you follow up on a topic. 

- put everything you agree to with your committee in writing (send a summary email after meetings). They don't need to reply, but it's good to have a record. 

- (if you haven't yet,) make sure you pick committee members who get along with one another, and appoint a chair. The chair should have the final say in case of disagreements. And as with my advice above, having people who get along is more important than having the people with the closest match for your interests. 

- talk to more advanced students (if you're in your final year, find them at conferences, or email them!), and talk to them about their process. Learn about when the ball was dropped with them, and generally what the process was like. 

Also, for commiseration, I almost didn't apply for an NSFDRIG: first, I found out it existed totally by accident (long story), and when I asked if I should apply, my advisor said something like "oh, sure, that would be a good idea!" .. but I guarantee you that if I hadn't brought it up, they would have never told me. And then it turned out that there was a secret institution-internal deadline for proposal submission that no one told me about, and I found out two days *after* it passed. I was also away, traveling at the time. But we all got our asses into gear and worked hard and get an extra-special extension from the office of sponsored research, and eventually made it work (and I got the grant!). But yeah, I shouldn't have trusted other people to lead me through the process, that caused a whole lot of stress and almost led to failure. 

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21 minutes ago, fuzzylogician said:

- learn to do your own research and not to expect faculty to know about formal requirements; they so often don't.

- instead of saying "I sent you an email about this two weeks ago", reply to that original email whenever you follow up on a topic. 

- put everything you agree to with your committee in writing (send a summary email after meetings). They don't need to reply, but it's good to have a record. 

 

 

Thanks, fuzzylogician. This is good advice. I cannot express how frustrated I am that the rules that my department posted that are supposed to help us through this are full of holes. And that a few faculty who have been there for decades still don't know the rules (what?!). And that unfortunately for all of us, our grad admin is only helpful when he wants to be but wields a lot of power.

 

Anywhooo...Thanks!

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If you haven't already seen it, I highly recommend Locke et al.'s Proposals That Work for valuable insight on the process of writing a proposal. But, realistically, if people aren't replying in a timely fashion, stop trying to work with them. For both my MA and PhD, I worked primarily with my advisor on my proposal, only roping in other committee members as it was relevant and for the committee meeting where the proposal was shared and discussed. Otherwise I worked independently, which is what fuzzy is suggesting you do.

As for horror stories, I prefer not to remember the two separate dissertation grants were my application got rejected at the first stage of screening because, despite my nagging efforts, committee members never submitted the required rec letters. I got funding from other sources so it worked out but I was livid at the time.

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Haha I got a great story. Well, kinda great but more entertaining. So strap in!

I was a master's student finishing up my thesis. I was aiming to have it done by mid-April so I could graduate in the spring. At the same time, I applied for a program to teach English in Japan and I was also waiting on that decision in April. The program would ship me out to Japan in July, meaning I had to have it finished by spring so I have some buffer time to prepare for Japan (May-most of July to prep). Did that actually happen? Ha! Nope. Here's what went down:

So I got waitlisted to go to Japan on April 1st, which means that it wasn't a guarantee for me to go to Japan. I was like "okay, cool. That kinda sucks but that also means I can slack a little on my thesis and finish it during the summer deadline in August." I was work work working hard on my thesis during spring, stressing out so much, so it was nice to have a few more months to work on it. But I still wanted to go to Japan, so I submitted my acceptance to be on the waitlist before April 30th (which was their deadline). The mid-April spring thesis deadline came and went and I was stress-free from that. I was just frantically checking my email to see if anything about Japan changed but in terms of thesis, I took some time off and it was niiiiiice.

Then May 8th happened. I get an email saying "congratulations! You've been upgraded to go to Japan! Hooray!" And I'm like "great! Awesome! I am going to Japan in July, this is amazing. This is new and exciting! Another dream come true!" But then it hit me. SHIT! I NEED TO FINISH MY THESIS! Boy was that the most stressful month of my life. When I say that you can write a master's thesis in a month, I'm not kidding. Interviews, transcriptions, coding, and writing in 30 days. It's possible but man did it almost kill me. A jar of peanut butter and a spoon was my breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the majority of those 30 days. But needless to say, I finished the final draft to be submitted for what may have been more stressful than the actual writing itself...the defense.

The defense itself wasn't stressful. I've seen these people a billion times and we are buds. but it's scheduling a time and date for them to all be together. Getting a committee to sit together for a couple hours at the same time is like herding cats. I kept sending different dates, working with their schedule, and finding out when people can meet (granted it was the summer so I understood they had plans but still! It's only two hours!). One of my committee members, love him to death. He is my mentor, he is my academic rock, he is someone I inspire to be. But for fuck's sake did he not want to go to the campus for a day if it meant putting on pants. I understand the need to relax but bro...bro...do me a solid here. But we ultimately found a date and time to meet. I defended on a Monday and the final thesis was due to the proofreader by that Friday. Meaning I had a week to make all the edits necessary (there weren't that many, thankfully!).

I got it into the proofreader by Friday, they sent me the finished copy, I printed it out and send it to be bound the following week. Then for two weeks, I packed up all my stuff, said my goodbyes, and went to Japan for two years.

Hope that was entertaining! I have another story about the time I could not find original sources and I drove around the entire city to find it and parking and closed libraries and sobbing in my car and just throwing my hands up and being like "of course this would happen. Of-fucking-course this is my life". Hmm yeah that's about the gist of that story xD Hope it was entertaining too!

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