Setting: Classroom. Lights are off, window is open so the breeze is blowing in (and the chimes can be heard loud and clear.) The teacher and his students are seated in a circle in student chair-desks. The scene opens with the professor talking.
Professor: Ummm, your proposal is great, Abigail, and you ask a lot of intriguing questions. Your topic definitely has a lot of promise.
Alert the press!!!!!!!!! A professor in Abigail’s department read something dissertation-related. And, more importantly, he liked it!!!!!
[Aside: you knew there had to be a “however”.]
Professor: However, this proposal is sketchy at best. It’s not really clear what you’re doing or how you’re going to do it.
Abigail: Uh huh.
Professor: You need to talk more about x and y and z (which incidentally will probably show up in other sections of your proposal.)
Professor: I’m excited to see where this will go [thinks/mutters to himself] once I know what “this” is.
Problem for Abigail: I’m not really sure what I’m going to study. I feel like my project is an amorphous blob that sits out in a specific location. I know where I want it to be and a few characteristics that it has to have, but mostly I’m not sure how to be painfully specific about describing an amorphous blob. Maybe I should put a disclaimer on my dissertation proposal like this:
DISCLAIMER: This dissertation is in its early stages. It can be likened to an amorphous blob. I know how to calculate the volume and the surface area and the magnetic flux through the volume but I cannot punch it into my calculator because I have not yet determined numerical values for anything. AKA this is a project in the works. Please do not ask me why I do not have a book contract yet.
The upside???? This is an actual graduate student dilemma… not a why-is-the-school-bureaucracy-making-my-life-extremely-difficult-AGAIN?
And you know what? I think I’d much rather deal with the tricky issue of figuring out how to specifically describe an amorphous blob than argue with yet another university administrator over course registration. At least, I actually signed up for this task!! (And, at the end of the day, I’m the only person who can really describe the amorphous blob anyways; after all, it’s the one in my head.)
Another day in my life,