Friday, December 5, 2008

Revise and Resubmit

When we submitted my first-ever paper to a second journal, it came back "revise and resubmit", to which a professor in my department offered congratulations. I'm sure I smiled and thanked him, but I was thinking "For what? Is this what my life has come to - Celebrate, because they said your work didn't suck that much?" It took quite a bit of convincing for me to accept that "revise and resubmit" is as good as it gets, because no one gets accepted in the first round. I still don't think it's worth congratulations, though. It may be an encouraging sign, and it's certainly better for morale than a rejection, but what it really means is that thing you hoped you were done with isn't done after all, and it's time to force yourself back into it and go back to work.

I have the same reaction to the end result of my comps defense. There were three possibilities: pass, pass with conditions, and fail. Of the three, the one I dreaded most was "pass with conditions", which would mean not being done at all, but going back and rewriting that paper I had already given so much effort to. Sure, failing would suck, but at least it would be over. Naturally, "with conditions", and with rewrites, is what I got. Do two new literature searches, add two new sections on research the committee has decided would be relevant, and revise the entire paper to fit that research in.

As I returned to my office from the defense, I found two grad students planning on going to a grad school-sponsored happy hour, and I was invited along. I had no idea if I agreed to drown my sorrows or to celebrate. When the other students found out I'd just defended, they tried to convince me I'd done great - my committee members had signed in the "satisfactory" column, and all I have to do is get one person (probably my advisor) to agree that the conditions have been met. Four screwdrivers later, this argument was still not convincing. I won't be spending my semester break completing straightforward projects to get ahead in my work, or planning my dissertation proposal; I'll be spending it reading uninteresting journal articles and revising that [expletive deleted] paper yet again.

I don't care that the changes will let the comps paper serve as an introduction to my dissertation, which the old version just couldn't. At the moment, at least, I'm tempted to just not do it. I just cannot work up any enthusiasm or interest in reading one more paper or writing one more word on this [expletive deleted] assignment. I'm experiencing post-quals slump, and I haven't even finished "quals" yet. Another resurgence of cynicism towards or outright hatred of academia has me seriously considering whether failing comps would actually have been a blessing in disguise.

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