After successfully defending my prospectus yesterday, I am unofficially ABD. I still have to file paperwork to enter candidacy, which requires me to have a full, five-person committee, something that may take a while to put together. But I’ve jumped through the last major hoop prior to defending the dissertation itself, which feels good.

Now that the prospectus is behind me, my major goal is not to lose momentum. Fortunately (I guess), I’m scheduled to present a paper on what is essentially chapter two of my dissertation at a conference at the end of May. This should force me to jump back into my research and resist taking time off after the push to finish the prospectus. Much as I dislike the time and energy conference-going, and networking in particular, requires, I’m making an effort to present on the early stages of each chapter at various intervals over the next year or so. My hope is that this will provide some helpful external motivation to keep moving.

The prospectus exam was really helpful and not at all adversarial, partially, I think, because of changes my program made to the exam process a few years ago. Previously, the exam would be a joint prospectus/three area exam, meaning that the conversation was theoretically supposed to be both a discussion of the prospectus and a broader examination on the three major areas the prospectus would engage with. After an external review and some wrangling among the faculty over the proposed changes, the two components of the exam were separated into two different exams–a field exam at the end of the third year that functioned much more like a traditional comprehensive exam, and then a prospectus exam following completion of the prospectus. Since I’d taken the field exam last June, the focus yesterday was exclusively on the prospectus and my dissertation, not on examining me on the field more broadly.

And now to tackle the dissertation itself. The first thing I’m going to do is to renew my commitment to writing every day. I let this slip a bit as I was finishing up the prospectus, but I’m recognizing anew the need to make writing a habit. And, more practically speaking, I’ve got a paper to deliver in just over a month and nothing to show right now but an abstract, a chapter summary, and a whole bunch of raw data. Better get on it.


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