The PhD Chronicles: Zeroing in on Research

Research, the centerpiece of work in graduate work is always a tricky beast.  Ideally, it should be a time in which students are able to focus solely on their topic, find meaningful and relevant literature to inform their approach, process it, conduct field research (if possible or relevant), and pull it altogether into a meaningful product known wide and far as the "term paper."  But alas, that's pretty much how it never goes. 

Papers are always composed in media res of the semester while we are busy with trying to keep up with the course work, keep up with our own work, and have some semblance of a life.  Like Facebook says our relationship with research is complicated.  But we press on.  In a well-designed course, the professor is likely to be a useful and ongoing guide in our research, providing a few opportunities to check in, provide feedback, and when necessar, course correct.  Other times, we're tossed to the wolves, praying we come through with something coherent.  

I don't feel like I'm in that latter category this semester.  I feel supported in both research papers, though trying to figure them out, devout enough time, and make it all look pretty for submission is still a Sisyphean task.  But that is, indeed, the name of the game.  

So what am I researching this semester?

In my Access & Equity course, I am exploring the issue of the digital divide and its impact on higher education.  As colleges continue to develop their digital presence in the form of online registration, library resources, course resources in the learning management system, online and hybrid courses, etc, what risks does this pose for students stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.  This paper is an annotated bibliography of the research out there and there is mixed research out there which is both useful and challenging.  Thus far, the most interesting element that I am appreciating is the distinction within the literature between access and ability.  The term "technocapital" has shown up a few times as a comparison to social or cultural capital.  In this way, technocapital is not just access to technologies, but the ability for one to leverage said technologies for beneficial outcomes.  

All of this came together pretty easy.  However, my project for the History of Higher Education was a bit more complicated.  I wanted to explore the history of the textbook in higher education but after a month of footnote and paper-chasing, I realized it is not likely the best to pursue right now as I wouldn't be able to complete it in this semester.  So, enter the:

Paper title of Wellesley College News 1-10-1918

At the same time I was coming to this conclusion, we did an activity in our class where we looked at different editions of the Wellesley College News over the decades and observed interesting differences.  This encouraged me to think about looking at this particular collection (since it is available in full at this site) and I decided to explore this college newspaper written during 1918-1920 and see what the impact of World War I and women's suffrage is upon the college newspaper.  I rather like this idea as I feel it could yield some interesting results.  It's not quite the turn I anticipated but I am excited to pursue it and see where it takes me.

In that regard, I like how research happens.  You sometimes have specific expectations and goals to accomplish and that can be derailed, which gives way to something new.  I've found the papers thus far in this program to be quite useful at getting me to think differently.  That is, they are learning experiences in themselves more than papers have been in some of my previous degrees.  Well, back to work for me!

Want to keep up with my PhD adventures?  Check out any of the links below:

  1. Acceptance...and acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. My Educational Autobiography
  14. So Starts the Third Semester
  15. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  16. PhD'ese
  17. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  18. Semester's Endgame
  19. Year 1, Officially Done
  20. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1
  21. Year 2, Week 1 Done! 
  22. 1/3 Complete!?!?
  23. Click...
  24. Day 1; Semester 5
  25. Share and Share Alike
  26. Mindful and Mind-Filled
  27. 5th Semester Down
  28. Day 1, Semester 9
  29. The Two Demons of My Doctorate
  30. When Senioritis Kicks In
  31. The Final Friday
Sub-series specifically about the dissertation:
  1. Dissertation Journal #1
  2. Dissertation Journal #2
  3. Dissertation Journal #3
  4. Dissertation Journal #4
  5. Dissertation Journal #5
  6. Dissertation Journal #6
  7. Dissertation Journal: QP Revised Edition

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