Student Reflections Vol. 1

I plan to occasionally comment on what I’ve discovered during my time as a doctoral student.

  1. I think it’s a shame when a published article (or book!) is ungrammatical or poorly composed, but I don’t find it any better when a piece is so stuffed with jargon that only the author (and the editors) can read it easily. I am not advocating for dumbing down anything – I remember my friends in Korea saying they spoke in broken English to their students – but the Venn diagram of “accessible writing” and “sophisticated writing” does indeed have an intersection. And to me my work will fall short if it doesn’t satisfy both requirements.
  2. I will someday become a researcher who cites his own previous work in his writing, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.
  3. I am gratified that my program not only allows but encourages self-examination, and especially so that it seeks out students with an interest in equity.
  4. I think academia certainly does have a “liberal” bias, if only because, almost by definition, being conservative (not even just politically but in the denotation of the adjective itself) implies satisfaction with less change. That’s just what the word means. And being a doctoral student requires a ceaseless desire to grow. Those who don’t want to grow or just want to reinforce their own worldview are less likely to be accepted into such programs. Part of me would find it interesting to be in class with a more conservative group, though in a way I’m probably one of the more conservative people in my own cohort, and I’m really not very conservative at all.
  5. I expected it to be more conceptually complex, even out of my reach in some ways. That’s not an insult. I was always fearful of applying because I thought I’d be exposed as some sort of intellectual fraud. I think, now, that most people who have the energy and commitment to work nonstop for however many years can probably handle it if it makes sense for their lives, finances and careers.
  6. I am torn between focusing on qualitative studies, which I find, if done well, can be rich explorations of a small group of stories, and mixed methods. I doubt I’ll focus on purely quantitative studies as they haven’t grabbed me as strongly from what I’ve read, but it’s still early. And I know that numerical data gets the most funding.
  7. Academia is both more and less interesting than I thought. There are some really fascinating people and studies, and there are some of both that are extremely banal. I guess I was expecting X and have found it’s both 2x and .5x.
  8. I have no comment on the future job market. But there is always room for new voices, and I intend to be one. I am glad that my program is grading our writing on a strong (but coherent) voice in our work. I want my writing to always sound like me (or like me and a partner if the work is a collaboration).
  9. I’m glad to finally be a student at a public school, and a school where the student body is much more diverse than anywhere I’ve ever studied. I didn’t realize until I got my current job and then entered this program, but I have spent my entire life being the “only,” and it’s absolutely and utterly exhausting.
  10. I have learned enough about myself as a student now to say that, when I’m compelled by a topic, I need initial guidance, some scaffolding, and some support, and then I can hit the ground running. And without the immense weight that has always trailed me (re point #9), I can run faster than I ever have. The journey is just beginning but I can’t wait to see where it goes.