Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Challenges Ahead

Goodbye!  This is the last posting on this blog, which fortunately for me has a happy ending.  This post is written in two parts.  The first part was written about a week after I submitted my final deposit.  The second part was written over a week afterwards.  Between these posts, I took my last summer vacation of 2014, which helped clear my head of mostly the negative/depressing feelings.

Part One

A couple of weeks remain before I officially earn my PhD, so that is why I continue writing on this blog.  The university gave me a couple of days to feel relieved and happy to have my dissertation done before they sent me an email about my upcoming student loans.  This immediately switched my state of mind from personal and professional growth to business transaction and customer service.  For a brief period, I was totally turned off by the higher education system of the United States.  There really is a dollar amount attached to the worth of a PhD, I said to myself.

That said, the real worth of the PhD should begin to show itself over the next few years of my life.  I need to find a perspective that balances my positive beliefs about the worth education and higher education with my negative beliefs about why the bill is so high.  I am currently working in a community college, so the stark differences between the community college experience and the university experience are more apparent now to me than before, not to mention their perceived worth.

The last chapter of The Qualitative Dissertation (2009) by Piantanida and Garman discusses a few reasons why people tend to get depressed after completing their dissertation.  Although I may have a slight touch of depression, I am processing a lot of negative emotion.  I think it stems from the isolating experience throughout most of the process.  I had to cancel my social life for the past five years and many of my friends have moved on.  Many of my friends don't live near me anyway, so it's easy to let the friendship dissolve.  I would like to get them back, but I have a very small group of friends and colleagues here.  It makes more sense to grow friends nearby, but Iowa City is a city of mostly transients.  However, I have been a transient all of my adult life because of my career as an English language teacher.  It feels a bit like karma in that I now get to feel what it's like when friends leave me when it used to be me leaving friends.

As I write this, I hear the tiniest violin playing sad songs for me.  I got what I came for--a PhD.  And I got to research what I was interested in, which is an experience some graduate students do not get to have.  More thankfully, my dissertation actually grew my interest in my specific research area.  I have to do something about it.  I cannot just abandon it.  Can I?  I understand why some people walk away from the dissertation--it did not meet their expectations or they lost their interest somewhere along the process.  But that's not me.

Besides the degree, what is more valuable:  the product of your research, the experience as primary investigator in your own research project, the gained expertise in one very specific thing, the thirst for gaining expertise in other (related?) very specific things, the confidence that you can do research,  or the gained skills in working with multiple entities within a university?  All of the above, right?  I don't want to abandon, neglect, or forget my research interest.  And perhaps that is the heart of the matter--FEAR.  I am afraid that all this work will be for naught only because I am uncertain of the future like all other human beings.  The cliche is that the uncertainty of the future excites the youth and it scares the adults.  I need to embrace that excitement of the future that I had prior to entering the PhD program.  Perhaps that's the saddest biggest change in me.  This is not the peak.  I refuse to accept that it is all downhill from here.

Part Two

Whoa!  Those last two paragraphs were a bit cathartic in writing, but it took a few days for the feeling of catharsis to actually occur.  I don't have that feeling of loss anymore.  The dissertation is still with me and I intend to use it as guiding light towards my next couple of publications.

After returning from my vacation after I wrote part one, I realized that I had to take the pressure off myself to do work as intensely as I have in the past few years.  My colleagues with PhDs at my current place of employment stated that I need to give myself a big break than I planned to give myself.  My original plan was this: 1) take one week off from thinking about anything to do with research and my research interests, and 2) take one month off before composing a scholarly journal.  Many of my colleagues said I should double or triple that time off.

Another issue is that I encountered is that I felt like I was forcing myself to relax and forcing new "fun" routines during the first week or two to distract myself from the end of the dissertation process.  When I was unable to relax or have fun, my anxiety grew because I thought I had what some say is PHD--permanent head damage.  Yes, it's a nice coincidence to receive PHD at the same time as one's PhD.  However, I believe the P in PHD is wrong.

To the very few, if any, who will have similar circumstances I had leading up to, during, and immediately after the final deposit of their dissertation, I recommend the following:

  1. Take a vacation about a day or two after your final deposit is accepted, and that vacation should last as long as financially possible.  If you are poor like many of us, then I would recommend a minimum of 1 week.  I took 4 days, but I felt like I was emotionally checked out at work for at least 3 days, where it would have been helpful if I were physically checked out as well.
  2. Don't evaluate yourself in terms of a researcher.  I don't have a deadline for when this is supposed to end.  I seek advice on this myself.  
  3. Don't anticipate how this PhD will affect your current and future jobs for at least a few months.
  4. Enjoy everything you have except the PhD and your "education:"  your family, your home, your friends, your neighborhood, the opportunity to do nothing.
I'm the rare type that hates procrastinating, so the opportunity to do nothing was difficult for me to get used to.  Usually when I do nothing, I fear that I'm putting off something that I should not.  This is directly tied to the second half of my childhood upbringing.  In response to that stage in my life, I hope that my PhD provides evidence that I am not lazy.

Challenges Ahead

This blog post was titled according to part one.  And one of the challenges ahead is/was dealing with my own psyche.  The other challenges I see and foresee have to do with raising my family with my new student loan debt and how to best put my PhD and research skills to use in my current and future jobs.  I don't have the pressure to publish or perish yet, but I'm not sure if this is helpful or hurtful to avoid giving myself that pressure from now through a time I find myself there.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Final Deposit Accepted

Within an hour ago, I learned that the final deposit of my dissertation was accepted.

How do I feel?
I feel relieved.  Shortly before learning this, I returned from an out-of-state trip, in which I welcomed my wife and daughter back from their 2-week family visit in Maryland and took them home after a pit stop at my mother's home in Wisconsin.  So I'm also exhausted.  I don't have enough energy to celebrate.  Ask me later how I feel.

Now what?
Well, I don't actually receive my PhD degree until August 9th.  And I can't walk in the commencement until mid-December because there is no summer commencement.  I am planning a party or two for family and friends weeks after the graduation date, so I guess I could plan that.

More seriously, I feel liberated enough to begin one of my projects, which involves joining online communities of my target population of study.  This will not occur on this blog, but on another at http://sojourningelts.wordpress.com/.  I plan to work on this once a week as I have a full-time job at Kirkwood Community College.  This will be kind of a test to see how I can do research while employed as staff at a community college.

To cherish the moment
As I write this, my wife and daughter are recovering from the road trip in the living room.  My cat is resting on my lap.  The weather is beautiful, mostly sunny, with a slightly cool breeze.  The temperature is in the upper 70s F or mid-20s Celsius.  I have a slight headache, probably from dehydration from the road trip and the mild allergies.  Our whole family (except the cat) is covered in mosquito bites from the swarms that surround my mother's home.  This is what it was like when I learned that my final deposit was accepted.

I forgot to mention that today is Monday, a requested vacation day.  I do not have summers off.  I have to go to work tomorrow.  The road to my doctoral degree ends on August 9th, so I plan to blog until that date.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

First Deposit Accepted

Yesterday, my first deposit of my dissertation to the Graduate College was accepted.  They require that I make 13 minor edits before I make my final deposit.  However, I may have more to edit and revise.  Within the next few days, I should receive feedback from my proofreader for grammar, spelling, and mechanics edits and my co-chair for minor content revisions.  Once I hear from them, it should take me a week or two to make all the necessary revisions and edits.  And then I can make my final deposit.  And then I will be done with the dissertation process.


I am fortunate to have a friend who worked as an editor for a few newspapers volunteer to proofread my paper for grammar, spelling, and mechanic errors that I have continued to miss over the many times I have looked over my dissertation.  He has already looked through half of the dissertation, and I have corrected the errors he pointed out for the first few pages.  It's alarming to find so many minor issues that I and my committee have overlooked.  Luckily for me, most of these errors did not interfere with understanding the main points.

My friend volunteered at the right time.  I just posted my progress on Facebook and that I was about to hunt for a good proofreader when he volunteered.  I didn't even think of asking friends to proofread my dissertation because that seemed like an incredible burden to put on a friend.  Admittedly, he had some interest as he is part of the target population of my research interest, a sojourning English language teacher.  However, having an interest in the content may be distracting when proofreading.

Reflecting on the Revision Process

Now that I am about a month removed from the revision process, I would say that revising Chapter 1 was the most difficult as it frames the whole study.  Revising Chapter 1 probably took twice as long as any chapter.  Revising Chapter 4 also took a long time, but it was mostly an organizational change.  I had to make sure that all the rearranged sections had new or improved transitions that improved the chapter's coherence and cohesion. 

I expected Chapter 5 to take a long time but I found that process the most enjoyable so the time flew by.  Chapter 5 is like the playground of ideas compared to the massive apartment building of ideas of Chapters 1-4.  I'm using this metaphor because it seems like Chapter 1 provided the foundation for the rest of the dissertation to stand.  The ideas in Chapters 2-4 had to be in the right place and in the right order for the readers to walk there way around from chapter to chapter and from section to section.  Previously, some chapters were more like mazes.  Once the reader finishes Chapter 4, the can go outside and enjoy the playground of ideas in Chapter 5 which I believe has a better view of the apartment building of Chapters 1-4.  After reading a few dissertations and many research articles, I have found that it's the discussion and conclusion at the end that I really look forward to reading.  The ideas I find there help me form ideas for continuing an investigation, which is like playing.


The first couple of weeks in June, I used my APA Publication Manual on my iPad as a reference while I went through all of the citations and references in the dissertation.  I am glad to report that the majority of these things were done correctly.  However my biggest issues were with amperisands and writing et al. correctly without italics.

What surprised me most was the room for flexibility the APA Manual gave me for formatting my tables and figures.  I expected excruciatingly constrictive guidelines, but those seemed to exist mainly for quantitative studies with lots of statistics to report.  It seems that quantitative researchers have to grapple more with that issue than qualitative researchers who usually have to write more.


I'm not done yet, but I feel like all the major obstacles of getting done are gone.  My co-chair and proofreader are letting me enjoy the waiting time, which I am using to contemplate life after the dissertation.   That reminds me, I need to plan the graduation party.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Post-Defense Revisions, part 2

Several weeks have passed since my defense.  The drained and somber emotions of the defense have passed, replaced with a determination to make all the revisions based on recommendations and suggestions from the committee.  A lot of bullet biting has helped me sweep through revising the first four chapters.  It's Memorial Day weekend, and I only have one chapter left to revise.  I'm taking the day off to enjoy the thought of laying down the last piece of this five-year long puzzle next weekend.  It's been quite a reflective time.

Biting the Bullet
Over the last year, I have been tied to the thought that I was using grounded theory for my dissertation.  Although I have been using some of the techniques used in grounded theory for my data analysis, I had always had a theoretical framework in the back of my mind.  My issue was that this theoretical framework is based on a model designed for teachers.  The model was created by a well-published researcher in my field, but the model itself was not grounded in research.  Instead it was based on his personal experiences and observations as an English language teacher and as an educator of English language teachers.  My committee helped give me the courage to credit this model as my theoretical framework as my research helps ground the model. 

I was also tied to involving a popular theory used in culture shock studies, but my committee helped me finally come to the conclusion to drop it from the dissertation.  Although I have evidence to support this theory, it distracts from the bigger theoretical framework mentioned in the previous paragraph.

My problem was that I wanted to show how my research supported many theories and models used in second language education, intercultural communication, and acculturation psychology.  What I learned from the defense is that I should show how my research supports just one of the theories or models as it makes for a tighter argument.  This was a blessing in disguise because I can publish other articles showing how my dissertation research supports the others.  I really don't feel qualified to publish much in acculturation psychology, but I feel that my experiences, training, and research in intercultural communication qualify me to publish in that field.  I will sound find out as I will be presenting my findings at a conference on intercultural communication.  Fortunately for me, many of the organizers have backgrounds in second language education.

After my defense, I reopened my Facebook account and I have been keeping my friends and family informed of my post-defense revision process.  I closed my Facebook after my I completed collecting data.  That social network was an easy temptation to distract me from data analysis and writing Chapters 4 and 5.  With the defense behind me, I feel like I can handle the distraction again.  (I also discovered that I like Facebook even less now, and I'm looking to close the account again soon.)  Below are my reports that I posted on Facebook.

Friday, May 9, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #1: I just gutted 10 pages from Chapter 1, thus providing me a sense of both pain and relief at the same time. This is how my weekend begins!
  • Post-defense revision, step #2: I just spent an hour combing through and correcting grammar inconsistencies in Chapter 3. My work for Friday is complete. How's your weekend so far?
Saturday, May 10, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #3: I have re-framed and strengthened my arguments in Chapter 1 ahead of schedule. I can now take it easy until I receive more feedback from my committee co-chair.
 Sunday, May 11, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #4: Chapter 1 completed! Proofreader needed when all chapters are revised. Goals for the weekend are accomplished.
Friday, May 16, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #5: Removed 6 pages from Chapter 2 that will never return in another form. May remove up to 10 more tomorrow. This is how my weekend begins.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #6: Reorganized half of Chapter 2 and wrote a much stronger introduction. Added 4 pages and removed none. That was my Saturday morning. How was yours?
  • Post-defense revision, step #7: Streamlined the middle third of Chapter 2 this afternoon. I removed more pages than I expected, so I'm back to 10 fewer pages than the draft used in the defense. I will finish chapter 2's revisions tomorrow. Picnic time is coming!
Sunday, May 18, 2014
  • Post-defense, revision, step #8: Chapter 2 revisions have been completed with even more pages removed. The incision was easier than I imagined. And it's only 8:15 in the morning!
Monday, May 19, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #9: I spent my morning revising Chapter 3, which needed the least revisions of the 5 chapters. This is how I spend my vacation day!      
 Saturday, May 24, 2014
  • Post-defense revision, step #10: Reorganized two-thirds of Chapter 4 this morning. I didn't realize that I neglected to report an important finding that added as many pages as I removed in the past 2 days. This process took twice as long as I expected. Ugh!
  • Post-defense revision, step #11: I have completed my Chapter 4 revisions! One chapter to go, but first I must enjoy the remainder of the Memorial Day weekend,   

Looking back at my Facebook status updates, I seem to be very conscious of the page count.  I don't really care what the final page count is, but I like to see how my revisions affect the page count.  When I first submitted my first draft of all the chapters, it was over 300 pages long.  When it was delivered to the committee, I cut about 30 pages from it based on my co-chairs' suggestions.  Now it's 20 pages shorter with most of those pages cut from Chapters 1 and 2.  Chapter 4 was the most interesting to view as I removed nearly as many pages as I added.  I think I ended up with one page fewer than when I began Chapter 4 revisions.

In revision step #10, I noted that I neglected to report an important finding.  I was surprised because the finding was clearly in my brain and in my introductory presentation at the defense, but it was missing in Chapter 4.  This error alone shows why it's important to go over your dissertation several times.  A third-party proofreader would most likely not catch that as he or she is not familiar with your content.

I am still considering a third-party proofreader mainly to catch APA-style problems.  I have a friend that may be able to be this proofreader who may do it for free in exchange for me proofreading one of his articles.  I think this is more than fair, with me on the more beneficial side.

Next Steps
By next Sunday, June 1st, I should have Chapter 5's revisions completed.  So on Monday, June 2nd, I will submit my revised dissertation to my co-chairs to show that I have considered their suggestions.  During the week of June 1st, I will see how easy or difficult it is to edit my dissertation to APA guidelines.  If it is difficult, then I will contact my friend to proofread it.  If it is easy, I will give myself a week or two to do it myself.  By the end of June, I should have heard from my co-chairs, the APA editing should be complete, and I can make my first deposit to the Graduate College.  Then it's in their hands for about a month.  They are the final gatekeepers of the PhD degree.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Post-Defense Revisions

Let me start this post by saying that I did not expect the defense to wipe me out physically, emotionally, and cognitively for such an extended period of time.  Now that I am sleeping better, I wonder if I am still suffering from post-defense fatigue or from allergies.  Probably both.  I'm still a bit in a mental haze in my day-to-day routines.

Aren't you done?
No, I need to make a lot of revisions to my dissertation before I submit it to the Graduate College, which is the last step before earning the PhD.

But you passed--
Yes, under the condition that I make these revisions.   Ideally, I would have liked to have had another month or two to edit my dissertation before defending.  However, I wouldn't be able to defend during the summer because most of my committee members would not be around at the same time.  I wanted to defend before the spring semester ended.  I knew this meant that my dissertation would not be as polished as I and my co-chairs would have liked for the defense.

How much do you have to revise?
My first impression to the defense was that I had to revise more than I expected.  But after thinking it over (obsessively: therefore lack of sleep), I had many of these revisions in mind before defending.  My committee made it clear that I had to make all of them, plus a few more.

I haven't confirmed with my co-chairs yet, but it seems that Chapters 1 and 2 need the most revision in terms of reframing and/or strengthening my argument for the research project.  Chapter 4 and the first half of Chapter 5 also need a lot of revision, but that seems to be more of reorganizing than rewriting.   Chapters 1 and 2 will probably take at least one week each to revise.  Chapters 4 & 5 will probably take a week.

What about Chapter 3?
My most embarrassing mistake was here.  In February, I changed the verb tenses in Chapter 3 so it read more like a descriptive process narrative than a proposal.  Those changes were saved on Dropbox on one computer.  I then made content changes a few days later on my flash drive on another computer.  When I saved those new changes on Dropbox, it saved over the previous version with all the grammar changes.  That was the last time I looked at Chapter 3 for revisions, unfortunately and embarrassingly.  Making those grammar changes were tedious, but I must repeat the tedium again.  Ugh!

How does this change your original revision plans?
Yes, well I foolishly thought my committee would suggest a few minor changes.  I thought this would take a week or two and then I would spend the rest of June checking and double-checking the format according to APA and the Graduate College template requirements, which is probably more tedious than checking the grammar in Chapter 3. 

Now it appears that May and June will be too tedious for one person to bear (I lightly jest), so I am now more seriously considering to hire a proofreader for APA and the template.  This will afford me more time to make better revisions to the content and organization of the paper.

Do you recommend others to follow your path?
Not really.   One reason is that it's hard to follow most PhD candidates' paths because the situations and contexts are different.  Even if someone had the same dissertation committee and a similar dissertation as mine, that candidate's writing and revising strategies may completely differ from mine.

Will you be able to get it done in time?
Yes, I am not worried about that.  I am looking forward to not having to worry about it anymore.  That is in August. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Defense

This blog was titled "The Road to My Dissertation Defense" until I successfully defended my dissertation yesterday, but I am far from done.  The purpose of this post to share my 3-day emotional ride before, during, and after the defense.  For your reference, I defended on Friday, May 2nd from 10am to 12pm.

The Two Days Before
On Wednesday, my employer provided me the opportunity to practice my dissertation defense presentation with my colleagues.  I started the day in a good and lighthearted mood.  Because I was surrounded by supportive colleagues, the practice or "rehearsal" went well, and I left it feeling even more confident than when I started.  The rest of the day on Wednesday went smoothly with little worry about the defense.

Thursday was a different story.  Although I wasn't consciously worried about my defense, I didn't sleep well.  I didn't think it was my nerves that prevented a good sleep.  I thought it was more the weather, which was rainy and colder than average.  It was more likely the pollen, which gets pretty bad around this time of year.  Many people I knew in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids were suffering from colds and/or allergies.  I thought a cold may dampen my defense, but it won't prevent me from defending well.  I was determined to get a better night sleep.  I feel asleep early and quickly.

Friday, 4am - 10am
Unfortunately for me, I woke up at 4am worrying more about my job than my dissertation defense.  The atmosphere at my place of employment has been quite tense this week.  I believe this is because the semester is winding down and the anxiety of the teachers and students feeds off on everyone else.  Additionally, our department has been hosting big year-end events at least once a week.  This drama will end with our last event on May 16.

Sometime between 5:00 and 6:30, I managed to get a little bit of sleep.  I only realized this when I woke from dreaming.  My dreams were not anxiety dreams, which resembled The Grand Budapest Hotel, so I was sleepily entertained.

I officially awoke at 6:30.  My anxiety probably made me feel more alert than the previous morning.  The anxiety was most about the unknown as I had no idea what was coming, and I did not bother anticipating any of the committee's questions.  As the time drew closer to 10am, my anxiety turned into excitement as in "I'm finally getting this done" and to borrow from Phil Collins, "I've been waiting for this moment for all my life..in Iowa City."

Listening to Chris Joss' album You've Been Spiked, I calmly drove to the university with under an hour left.  I got a good parking spot in the parking garage, and I had plenty of time to make sure my paperwork was in order, to buy some bottled water for the committee, and to set up the room including food, drink, and technology.  I was thankful that several of my colleagues attended to support my defense.  Their presence made it easier, especially when I saw nodding, which I think meant I was answering appropriately.

The Defense
Although I believe I handled the defense well, there were times in which I had periods of extreme anxiety based on a committee member's interpretation or misreading of my dissertation.  None of these were too bad, but I panicked internally more than I needed to.  I blame my adrenalin.  This unnecessary stress is perhaps the main cause of my emotional exhaustion immediately following the defense.

My emotions also differed for each committee member who was asking questions or providing feedback.  I am aware they were playing roles with how to approach or attack my defense, and I hope I responded appropriately.  I tried to stay good-humored all the way through.  Compliments were also a necessary breath of fresh air or burst of sunshine.

Friday, 12pm - 2pm
After the defense and all the committee members left with their congratulations, I felt wiped out but not relieved.  This defense was scheduled earlier than usual in the process, so I still have a lot of revision to do.  For the first hour, my mind raced on how to make all these revisions in the next seven weeks. I wandered around downtown Iowa City looking for food, but my mind was often distracted by dwelling on a revision plan. 

Back at home for the second hour, I had to coach myself to calm down and to take a break.  Earlier, I had promised to do no work for the rest of the weekend.  But I felt guilty because I didn't do too much with my dissertation for the past two weeks, after I submitted the dissertation to them.  To relieve myself of some anxiety, I wrote out a revision timetable to convince myself that I could get it done.  However, I was not too happy with the first draft of my timetable.

Friday, 2pm - 6pm
I had the opportunity to go back to work and join in a celebratory event for two teachers associated with our department, but I felt like the reminder of work would cause work-related stress to replace dissertation-related stress.  I need a healthy distraction, an escape.  My daughter provided the best suggestion, "Let's go on an explorer trip."  So my daughter and I convinced my wife to join us on a sunny afternoon hike through Hickory Hill.  Walking has always been the best stress relief for me, and walking through the woods is even better.  We took a long, long walk through the woods.  And  my daughter was showing us how much she has been learning and growing since the last time we walked through the woods about a month ago. My mood had completely changed.

After our walk, we drove straight to a local pizza place for dinner that the whole family enjoys.  And we had a stress-free dinner with great pizza and excellent service.  As I was leaving the building, I was surprised at how many strangers were smiling at me as they walked (and even drove) past me.  I know it was probably the sunny and warmer weather, but I felt like I had a post-defense glow. 

The afternoon ended with lots of love and support from friends, family, and colleagues on social media.  Their emotions finally overtook the stressful emotions that built up for and welled up in the defense.  It was happy, but not an ending.

In my next post, I will describe more about how I got to this point through writing and revising, and why I need to revise more than the average person who defends successfully.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Chapters 4 and 5

This past Wednesday, I met with the co-chairs of my dissertation committee about Chapter 4 and possibly graduating this May.  It was surprise to me that they suggested that Chapter 4 could be split into two chapters, thus making my study a six-chapter dissertation.  For the next month, my co-chairs will read through my 102-page chapter to see if it would be better represented in two chapters.  The reasoning for two chapters, besides the length, is that it has two major parts. The first part reports the shared patterns across the multiple cases and the unique findings of the single cases.  The second part ties these findings to one model and one of the acculturation theories from the literature.  The end result is a new model that I created.

After discussing my concerns about my current revisions to Chapter 4, I found it much easier to complete my first round of revisions yesterday.  I had a list of 19 revisions to make, but I decided against most of them that suggested expansion and collecting more literature.  I will save those suggestions for future papers associated with the dissertation.  So yesterday I completed my first round of revisions and my second draft of Chapter 4.  I will wait to hear from my co-chairs next month to begin the third draft of Chapter 4 and perhaps creating Chapter 5 out of a significant portion of Chapter 4.

For now, I will continue as if Chapter 5 is the final chapter.  March is dedicated to writing and revising Chapter 5.  I will have less free time compared to February, which granted me more time than I allotted for Chapter 4 thanks mostly to the harsh winter weather.  In March, I will have three weekends partially or wholly taken up by conferences.  And it is the weekends when I make the most progress in terms of writing.  Fortunately, Chapter 5 will only be about 1/3 of the length of Chapter 4.

As for graduation, I doubt that I will graduate this May.  I have to apply for my degree by Thursday this week and submit the first draft my whole dissertation to the Graduate College by the end of March.  I could do both, but I would be doing so without any feedback and I would be in a rush.  These three conferences in March make it more hectic as well. 

What makes graduating in May most difficult is to gather my dissertation committee before the Graduate College's deadline for the final draft in early May.  I would have to assume that my committee would request no major revisions so I could turn it in within a week or two.  If I didn't have a full-time job, this would not concern me.  However, I work in another institution of higher education that shares a similar academic calendar as the University of Iowa, so I will be facing crunch time at the same time in both institutions as the spring semester winds down.

After March and my next meeting with my co-chairs, I plan on revising all the chapters in April.  The biggest revision may be turning Chapter 4 into two chapters.  If that is not the case, I am sure that my co-chairs will still have some major suggestions for revising Chapter 4 anyway.  I plan to dedicate at least half the month on this.  The other half will be spent on revising the other chapters, so I will be ready to defend in early May. 

In March, I will be sending out a Doodle poll as part of my request for a dissertation defense in early May.  Sometime in the first half of April, I will send my committee the current drafts of all my chapters.  I feel mostly ready to defend Chapters one through four, and I look forward to writing Chapter 5 very much.  I am certain that I will feel ready to defend Chapter 5 by late March.

All this means I will most likely not be able to graduate in May.  Instead I will apply for my doctoral degree in June to graduate in the summer.  With my defense behind me, I will have more time to make final revisions and correctly format the dissertation.  For a summer graduation, the Graduate College needs my first draft in early July and my last in late July.  However, I won't be able to walk in the commencement ceremony until December, which is all right by me.