Refocusing

I am really starting to feel the summer slipping away from me, and I have not been nearly as productive as I had planned to be. I am also regretting all the time I have spent on tasks that are not getting me any closer to my degree.

My literature review is beginning to seem like Mount Everest. Although I intended to do this in a somewhat systematic way, my actual process has been more haphazard. I find myself reading, getting interested in a new line of reasoning that I hadn’t thought of including, and marking pages with key points and good references. Unfortunately, I am not taking systematic notes, and my scope keeps getting broader. I think I need to take a step back and decide how to keep myself from digressing.

My comprehensive exam is looming, and I haven’t set a date with my program director. Because my program in research and evaluation is flexible, students take a variety of different courses, depending on their interests. Consequently, the content of the comprehensive exam is determined by faculty in consultation with the individual student, and it doesn’t actually have to be a set of questions. Since my desire is to find a tenure track faculty position, designing a course would be a helpful exercise, so that’s what I proposed to my program director in May. Since I’m pretty sure I will be using structural equation modeling (SEM) as one of the methods in my dissertation study, I’d like to design an SEM course that is focused on educational research.

This past spring, I took an SEM course (in the Social and Behavioral Health department) that was heavily focused on the equations and the mathematics underlying the methods. Although the mathematical concepts are certainly important, I think a course that provides more instruction in the applied/practical nature of the methods would be more beneficial to education students. Such a course might focus on the big picture, the theory of causal relationships, the nuts and bolts of selecting the right method for your research question, using the right software to analyze your data, and interpreting your results accurately. Although I got the gist of what was being taught, I don’t feel completely confident in my ability to use all the techniques appropriately. I’d like to use my comprehensive exam as an opportunity to better define these methods for myself and show that I know how to use them in an educational research context. Still waiting on an answer from the faculty about whether this is an acceptable proposal for my comprehensive exam.

Those are the two issues worrying me with respect to finishing my degree, but I’m also stressing a little bit about my research agenda and the activities that I need to be doing to get a job next year. Right now, I have several projects on the back burner that I need to push forward toward publications. More about these next week!

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