"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Friday, July 8, 2011

Research Update

A number of weeks ago, I wrote about my frustrations over being cut off from library access, now that I am no longer "affiliated" with Grad U. Obviously, that might present an obstacle to anyone trying to work on a scholarly project -- like, say, revising one's dissertation into a book. (If you missed that post, do go back and read it. Whatever your personal feelings about continuing your scholarly work outside of academe, there really is something quite troubling about the notion that affiliation is a prerequisite to scholarship and that paying to maintain a past affiliation is not even an option for many people.)

But, despite the cursing and fuming, I was hardly daunted, and, while I am in no hurry to race through this project (after all, I'm not on the tenure clock), I do aim to make steady, if slow, progress. While some readers might not find such posts as this one especially interesting (if you left or are planning to leave academe because you've discovered you dislike "academic" work), I will be writing them every now and then as a way of holding myself accountable, as well as sharing with anyone who may also be attempting to self-reinvent as an independent scholar.

So here's the shakedown five weeks after my affiliation/access meltdown:
  • Pulled myself up by my bootstraps, went up to campus, and got myself an alumni borrowing card. 
  • Still don't have remote access to the databases, but that's not a big deal. It's easy enough to go up to Grad U., and when I go there on a weekday to do research for work (because, on occasion, the databases come in handy for that, too), I can expense the train and bus fare. Plus, most of what I need to look at for the dissertation-to-book process are books, not articles.
  • The downside to my new status in terms of borrowing books is that, instead of keeping them checked out for a year, the maximum borrowing period is only 56 days. Damn!
  • The upside to my new status in terms of borrowing actual books is that, instead of keeping them checked out for a year (or renewing them for endless years!) during which time they mostly gather dust, I have to be organized about reading them, taking note of what I need quickly, and moving on. 
Once I adjusted myself mentally to these new parameters, I set myself the task of putting together a reading list. A lot of new and relevant books have come out in late 2010 and the first half of 2011 -- the titles are, well, tantalizing! I've got my list of secondary sources I need to go through and good chunk of the primary sources (much of which involves an author I'm really looking forward to getting into more in-depth and the rest a genre that is good "fun" reading, as well scholar fodder).

So, with the reading list done enough for a trip to the library, here's a general to-do list and overview of my plans for the next few months:
  • Take reading list, as well as all the old books I still have checked out (with new, quickly approaching due dates) collecting dust at home, and haul a$$ up to the library. Won't happen this weekend but some weekday this coming week, if there's time, or next weekend will be just fine.
  • Spend a few hours in the library sorting things out, figuring out what's worth checking out of the library, what's merely worth perusing casually and setting aside.
  • Check out only as many of those suckers as I think I can reasonably get through in 56 days.
  • Go home, read, take notes, organize thoughts. 
  • 56 days from mid July is roughly early to mid September. Go back to the library then and repeat the above. Check databases at this time or after the next 56 days to cull whatever needs to be read from there. 56 days from mid September is mid November. Thus, optimistically speaking, I will be done with research by Thanksgiving.
  • Write, write, write. Dissertation, goodbye in 2011. Monograph, hello in 2012!
  • Have a draft of the book ready to submit to editor at Very Fancy Press by early summer 2012 -- that is, in a year.
And this is a very reasonable timeline, I think, too. Wish me luck and stay tuned for future updates.
The greatest library in the world.....


  1. If you need access to a database and specific online articles, email me and I'll try to get a copy for you. They usually come in PDFs that you can just save into your computer and then they are like any regular document.

  2. Thank you, Spanish prof! That is very generous.
    The kicker is that I cannot even log into the databases remotely to look for what I might want. So, periodic trips to the library will be necessary for both books and articles. On the plus side, anyone can search the book catalog remotely, and that's how I was able to put together my reading list, with call numbers and everything. All I need to do is just get to the library once in a while, and that's not that big of a deal. It takes about an hour on public transit.

    And then there's the Greatest Library in the World nearby, too, though their collection is non-circulating so going there would be mainly for the databases.

    Having my access cut off at first felt like a slap in the face (hence my anger), as if the Powers-That-Be were saying, "We don't care about your research interests, but you're welcome to remain affiliated as an adjunct serf." As if affiliation is supposed to compensate for exploitation.

    As it turns out, I am fortunate to be able to get around the problem of affiliation with only minor inconvenience. But it still does trouble me that someone who was not as centrally located as I am would not be able to pursue their project without affiliation.

  3. Short comment (I hate typing on IPods). Have you tried google scholar? They usually index journals, even if you don't have access to full text.0

  4. Google Scholar is so-so. Finds some things. Misses others. But I do appreciate your offer and, who knows, may take you up on it one of these days.