Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Let the Writing Begin...

After a month and a half of reading dozens of articles, emailing summaries and thoughts about them to my advisor, and generally flailing around in a sea of Background Literature, I finally have a comps topic.

The sheer relief at finally having a topic cannot be expressed. The final paper is 50 pages, but settling into a topic seemed far more overwhelming. Identify a hole in the literature...sure. Make it something interesting, but not too challenging, and something that has obvious studies that can be turned into a grant proposal...It had gotten to the point that I was willing to write on anything, just so that I could stop running wide random searches in hopes of piecing some ideas together.

Technically, my advisor is the one who stated the topic, but it was the middle of the brainstorming session and based on things I have been interested in since before I arrived, only with a bit of nudge to get me out of the well-defined area my advisor investigates and into a broader field with a lot of papers I haven't read before that could be interesting.

Now, of course, I have to knock out a six-page proposal (and put together a committee, for that matter) and come up with a list of some 30-odd papers I plan to read for the final paper (meaning I need to read the abstracts and make sure they have some connection my committee will buy). I haven't been willing to do it just yet - not because the deadline of "by April" seems so far away, but because I know the relief of having selected the topic will quickly give way to frustrations of more literature searches and actually trying to make connections.

Grad school has so few instances of feeling relieved and accomplished. I like to savor them when they come.

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