Wednesday, June 25, 2014

PhD Proposal: Mapping Your Journey

Remember when I first introduced qualifying exams, I mentioned that this was only the first flaming hoop of death in the path to a PhD? Hoop #2 is rapidly approaching... the PhD Proposal: Mapping Your Journey. Or more accurately, the PhD Proposal: Write down everything you can think of and hope you stumble upon Treasure Project along the way.
Disney's Treasure Planet
The PhD proposal is basically a combination of a literature review paper and a hopeful, idealistic outline of how your experiments will go for the next 4-7 years. Everyone knows that it is incredibly optimistic and the final PhD dissertation you write will have deviated massively from your proposed outline. That's ok, this outline is not about getting it perfect/right. It's about forcing you to sit down and really take a look at where am I going and how can I get there. It also is a chance for your committee (the people in charge of judging every aspect of you for the duration of your PhD) to evaluate your knowledge about the literature and writing ability. And to every science major I knew in undergrad who complained about the gen-ed English requirements, guess what... great writing is important!

The introduction is the easy part, all that information exists somewhere out there, all I have to do is collect and explain it. I've done a lot of web searches for literature and have a healthy collection already started so that bit is done. I need to read a lot of the various articles and there will always be the, "hey what about this, I should see if there's a paper on this" event that comes up during this process that will send me back to literature searches. Then once I've collected all my information, I can sit down and write it all up so that it flows logically. It takes a lot of time, but it is relatively simple.

The second piece is more complicated. What experiments will I be doing for the next 4+ years of my life? Well.. it sort of depends on what I find out in the course of those 4 years! I know my short-term goals (next year) and I have some ideas for if this works, then try that. But, honestly, I do not feel like I know enough information to describe sufficient experiments to justify the bestowing of a PhD!

I had planned on working on the introduction, aka review paper, portion of the proposal this summer anyway. But PI would like me to have a draft of both the introduction AND the experimental layout by August. That means I need to carve out more writing time during my week! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by and leaving me some feedback! I love interacting with people!