Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deadlines for Spring 2010 Graduation

Manuscript Deadlines

Several members of the Writing Center's Dissertation Workshop have their sights set on May graduation, which means defending in March / first few days of April. Depending on your discipline, you may have a much earlier deadline for the completed manuscript.

Did you know that some schools at CGU have official departmental manuscript deadlines for the dissertation, while others do not? (Everyone must make the final submission date to Edris, of course) If you don't know if your discipline has its own deadlines, talk to your department secretary or chair.

For example, manuscript deadlines for Spring 2010 graduation:

School of Arts and Humanities - no departmental manuscript deadline

School of Politics & Economics - full diss must be given to all committee members by February 1.

School of Religion - has a deadline for a style check. Religion students must submit a chapter to Betty Clements at the Claremont School of Theology approximately the same time, or at the end of the semester before they submit the complete preliminary draft to their committee (first day of the semester in which they plan to graduate). The style checker reads the sample chapter (fee $50) and sends a report to the committee chair and the chair of the School of Religion.

Defense Deadlines

February 19 - deadline to file Intent Form
March 22 - deadline to schedule defense for Spring degree
April 2 - deadline to defend for Spring degree
April 16 - final draft filing deadline

Is there a manuscript deadline for your school? If so, e-mail me and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Damn You, Microsoft Word

This post can help you avoid the tears and/or pure fury
associated with some problems in Microsoft Word.

Since we've been talking about revamping CVs, the next logical step would be discussing what happens when you try to make neat little columns in Word. You know, you have the job that you had on the left of the line, all neatly lined up, and then you want the date you worked all the way on the right.

Something like this....

Research Assistant for Dr. Joe Schmoe, "Intro to Brain Surgery"

Fall 2008Research Assistant for Dr. Jane Main, "Underwater Basketweaving"

Spring 2008

(ironically, in blogger, I can't put them on the same line...but you get the idea)

You'll want "Research Assistant" flush against the left margin, and "Fall 2008" on the same line, flush right.

So you manually space the date all the way to the right margin, and it looks great!

Until you print it out. And for some reason, all the dates are slightly off, so it looks something like this:

Fall 2008


Spring 2009

And it is maddening.

And then you try to make columns, and suddenly, words are jumping all over the page in every place but where you want them...

Research Assistant for Dr. Joe Schmoe, "Intro to Brain Surgery"

Fall 2008

Research Assistant for Dr. Jane Main, "Underwater Basketweaving"

Spring 2008

You start fiddling around with it, get evil messages like "The number must be between 1 and 45," and the stuff you want on the right column is still on the left no matter how many times you hit return, and you scream,


So here's help.

How to Make Columns

If you need one thing on the line to be justified left, and one thing on the line to be justified right, the solution you need is to put the text into columns.

Highlight the text, then go up to "Format" and select "Columns." From there, you can choose if you want 2 or 3 columns. But what if your left hand column needs to be bigger, to fit more text, and your right hand column just tiny, for dates only? Well, funny you should ask...

How to Make Columns Different Sizes

1) Go up to the top of the screen, where it says "Format." Open the pull-down box.

2) Click on "Columns."

3) Deselect the check box that says "Equal Columns Width."

4) Now you can change the width of the boxes.

Formatting problems can seem so meaningless and small...
and yet insanely frustrating

How to Get the Stupid Column Things to Work

When the Words Are Bouncing All Over the Place

1) Put everything into 1 column first. Highlight the body of the text that you want in columns. Don’t highlight empty lines above or below text.

2) Go up to "Format."

3) Click on "Columns."

4) Choose either 1, 2, or 3 columns, or Left (2 different sized columns, with the one on the left being shorter / thinner than the one on the right) or Right (shorter on right)

5) Now once your text is in columns, put the cursor where you want the first column to end.

6) Go up to "Insert."

7) Get the pulldown menu and select "Break..."

8) Click on "Column Break"

9) Put the Column Break in at the end of Column 1!

Work-Arounds for the Problem of Merging Files

Recently, a dissertator wrote to the Writing Center, desperate for help:

"This is a formatting problem: when I put all my chapters together into one document, I got some dotted lines which, no matter how hard I try, I can not remove. They look like page breaks or something. Please help!"

The matter of whether or not to save individual chapters as individual word document files or to merge them into one big file has come up in the Dissertation Workshop before. Because this problem happens from time to time, here are some suggestions that might be useful:

1) You might consider not merging all the files into one file. One woman in the Dissertation Workshop who just passed her defense mentioned that she never merged her files into one file. What she did was save all the chapters as their own files, then she used the page function in Microsoft Word to get the pagination correct.

For example, say Chapter 1 is 32 pages long. Then you'd go into Chapter 2 and tell Microsoft Word to number the pages, starting with 33. It may be a little cumbersome, but if you're pulling your hair out over

2) Try talking to someone in IT at the Help Desk. Help Desk -, or toll free at (800) 630-8893, local number (909) 621-8174 or 18174 on campus. Sunny (Training Manager, is really helpful!

3) Have you talked to Edris Stuebner, the Registrar? Even if she can't help you specifically with this problem, you'll have to meet her anyway when you're ready to submit, so may as well stop by. She might be able to refer you to someone else who can help.

4) Have you tried printing out a dotted-line section to see if it only appears on-screen? It's possible that they're just showing on screen but won't print.

Still Need Help?

If you're still having a problem, please don't e-mail the Writing Center about tech issues. We don't know either!

You might try posting your tech problem on Yahoo Answers. Surprisingly, tech questions on there are often answered within minutes.

If any of you have run across solutions that have helped you in Microsoft Word, please post 'em!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Interfolio Planetary, Planetary Interfolio!

Mailbox in front of the Claremont Post Office

(If the title of this entry makes you need to hear the Beastie Boys, here's the link!)

Now that hiring season is upon several of us, it is a good time to start thinking about ways to organize your application documents and promote yourself as a candidate.

When she came and talked to our group, Jackee Engles from Career Management mentioned Interfolio as one option for preparing your job applications. And with Philip Clayton returning to speak to our group about CVs next meeting, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss Interfolio.

So what is Interfolio? What does it do? What does it cost? Should you try it?

That's what today's post is all about!

I joined Interfolio last night to gather information for the group and see how I like its functionality. It's too soon for me to know yet how much I like it, but here is the initial information you might want to get started.

The breakdown:

Where do I find it?

How much does it cost? $19 for 1 year, $40 for 3 years, $57 for 5 years. Fees for sending individual documents based on pages and mailing (priority, overnight, overnight express)

Doesn't our school offer a free service? Nope. The service our school recommends is Interfolio.

Why would I need it for more than a year? In case you don't find a job during this round, in case you go on the market again, or in case you get a good "starter" job, but want to move on to something else.

What's it do? Holds all of your documents in one place (letters of rec, transcripts, statements of teaching philosophy, etc.) and will mail them or e-mail them for you when you ask it to! (for a cost, of course)

Of course, you could store your documents yourself...

Does it do anything else? It currently has an online portfolio webpage system in beta testing, which is sort of like your own website where you can advertise whatever you do. Because it is in beta testing, it has some quirks (for example, not being able to change font size, links to enlarge pictures not working). But it's also FREE at the moment (when you subscribe to interfolio's dossier service)

Click here to see a sample portfolio page to see what it looks like.

It's a little buggy at the moment, but once they get the kinks ironed out, it should be a really fantastic tool. When it goes live, they will charge for it, so it would be advantageous to get on and try it now while its free.

How does it work? You upload your documents and you send requests to your letter writers to upload their docs. When you're ready to send off applications, you click on which documents get sent where, in what form, and how fast you want them to go (you can pay for expedited service, tracking, etc. if you need to.)

What if I'm a technophobe? What if my letter writers are computer illiterate? You can send documents to interfolio by mail as well. The interface on the system (so far as I can tell) is very basic - only a few buttons to choose from, very clearly designed.

Will it look as nice as it would if I did it myself? What about university letterhead? This is something I'm still waiting to see. Since your letter writers can still send interfolio letters by mail, it would seem that the letterhead would be scanned as well. And at the end of the day, the weight of paper or the precision paperclipping that you do probably does not matter that much - certainly not as much as having all of your applications materials in order, presented together, and submitted on time. If you are particularly paranoid about paper, you could use interfolio for most of your applications, and then do the most important, long-shot application by hand. Interfolio could save you a lot of time on applications, allowing you to just focus on your #1 job.

What if I still have more questions? Their help page is here.

If you have any experiences with Interfolio or tips that you'd like to share, please leave a comment. Happy job hunting!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boot Camps for the Fall

Come on by the Writing Center on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 3-6 for our Open House!

Due to the overwhelming success of the Dissertation Boot Camp, the CGU Writing Center is proud to offer not one, but two more Boot Camps for the fall semester!

That's right! More coffee, more yoga, more real-determined-people-typing-like-demons on a weekend morning!

The next boot camp will be:

Saturday, October 3rd and Sund
ay, October 4th

You can come for one or both days. To register for the boot camp, please stop by the Writing Center and bring a $50 deposit check, which will be returned to you when you come to the boot camp.

Due to the size of the Writing Center and to help foster a tight-knit sense of community over the weekend, the boot camp is limited to 12 people. Because there are far more people who want to participate than we have room for, it is really important that those who sign up come - which is why this time we are requesting a deposit to hold your place.

If for some reason you cannot attend either day, as long as you notify the Writing Center by 9 a.m. Friday, October 2nd, you will receive your deposit check back. Otherwise, your $50 will be used to buy more giant pencils for the Writing Center. (kidding?)

The Writing Center's entry in Claremont's 2009 4th of July parade

If you can't come to this boot camp or it fills up before you can sign up, don't worry! There's another one scheduled for the winter:

Saturday, December 12th and Sunday, December 13th

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conducting Interviews

In addition to his many talents, Bennett McClellan is a raw food chef
and has shared his delectable creations with our workshop.
Photo courtesy of Raw Food Chef.

Today's guest blogger is Bennett McClellan, member of our workshop and soon-to-be CGU Ph.D. in Management. Bennett was kind enough to type up his thoughts and processes for conducting interviews for his dissertation research:

Tips for Getting Interviews Done

Here are some of the ideas I’m using to complete the 40 interviews I need as primary research for my dissertation:

1. Get a big (wall) calendar and decide how much time you need to get all of the interviews done. I need to complete forty interviews. If I do one interview per weekday, I will need 8 weeks total. I decided I needed about two months. August and September. I will try to compress my interviews, front load them into August so that September becomes a safety month. But my goal is one interview per day for eight weeks. The math works.

2. Block out a period for each day you intend to work that you will commit to the interview process. Let’s say you committed Mondays through Wednesdays, 9 am to 1 pm, for interviews. Even If you do not book an interview in this time, you will work on some aspect of interviewing during this period. This will include looking for contacts, sending out emails, making phone calls to schedule interviews, editing notes, abstracting data, or sending thank you letters. Something. For the entire period you have committed. No carving around the edges. Potty breaks only!

3. Draft all the solicitation materials and thank you materials you need to set up and follow up with the interviews. This includes an abstract of your proposal, a consent form, a brief email summary of what you want, a thank you letter, etc. (Some of this needs to go to IRB as well.) You will simply cut and paste these materials as you need them. Resist the temptation to edit or modify each message for your intended recipient.

4. Enlist a “lap coach” to whom you will report progress daily. This person is not your academic advisor and is NOT your spouse. Just someone who kind of understands what you are trying to do and who can say “why not?” if you don’t get it done or “good job!” if you do. And whose nudging will not piss you off after 5 weeks of interviews.

* * * * *

“Enlist a 'lap coach' to whom you will report progress daily.”

- Bennett McClellan on accountability

* * * * *

5. Make a report each day at the end of the day to your lap coach. What did you get DONE that day? Don’t go into what you did not get done. Do not mention excuses. The reports look like this: “Dear Lap Coach: 5 people called, 1 interview completed, two interviews scheduled, 1 note edited. Thank you for keeping me honest!” That’s it.

6. If you have a friend, spouse, research assistant, or someone willing to take on the task of scheduling interviews, this will save you an ENORMOUS amount of time. You provide the contact list, the texts for solicitation, and the windows of opportunity on your interview schedule. It helps to set up a separate email address so that interview scheduling is the only thing that comes and goes to this address. Then you give your scheduler control of your interview schedule. You do NOT change the interview schedule to accommodate your whimsy. That privilege is reserved for those you interview. Your scheduler must feel in control of your time. Otherwise, it’s why bother?

7. Give your interview schedule lots of room at the edges. I’m happy if I complete one interview a day. I’m in heaven if I complete two. And I’m in hell if I complete three. Really! Each interview takes about a dozen email exchanges to set up, moves about 2.5 times, and takes about 6 hours from “Hello” filed as “Interview Complete”. You need to leave room at the margins.

* * * * *

“I'm happy if I complete one interview a day. I'm in heaven if I complete two. And I'm in hell if I complete three.”

- Bennett McClellan, on the need to build time into your schedule

* * * * *

8. Finish each interview note the day you have the interview. Yes, I know you will remember every detail of every conversation for the rest of your life. But you won’t remember much of anything about the last interview once you finish the next interview. Get each note done NOW! And if not NOW, then at 5 am the next morning before you take the next interview.

9. Make a completion chart for your wall. Like a big grid. Make a column for each of the important items you need to track (you can do this in Excel as well). Like Name, organization, phone number, email address, date you first contacted them, date & time the interview is scheduled, when you interview was actually completed, when the note was completed. This chart will help you track your progress. It’s also a great kick to see it fill up!

10. Plan celebrations at key milestones. One fourth of the way there. Half way there. Three fourths of the way there. Do this for interviews scheduled as well as for interviews completed. You have to do something to keep yourself going. This helps!

11. Buy a gift for your lap coach. Buy a gift for your scheduler. Thank these people profusely for helping you complete your interviews.

* * * * *

“Thank these people profusely for helping you complete your interviews.”

- Bennett McClellan

* * * * *

12. You now have the interviews in a binder (or electronic file, or whatever). Congratulations! Now get to work analyzing the data. You may want to keep your lap coach on the team for to keep your process on track as you report pages completed, chapters completed, etc. Having to be accountable to someone for your actions is a great way to keep yourself on track.

Thank you for the helpful tips, Bennett!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Writing 5 Pages a Week

Recently, my dissertation chair advised that I make 5 pages a week my writing goal. It's a pretty feasible number, so when you sit down to do it, you don't feel overwhelmed. At the same time, each time I set out to do it, I always end up writing beyond the 5 pages. So it's been a successful guide, so far.

I shared this with the group a few weeks ago, and now several others decided to give this a try as well.

Depending on what type of dissertation you are writing and what stage you are in, the "5 pages a week" goal can be modified to fit whatever you need. Tanya, for example, is reading many, many pages of testimony for her dissertation, so she suggested she might make a goal of how many witnesses a week to finish, or how many pages of testimony to read a week.

Another goal might be a time frame, for example, "I will write for 2 hours every day."

Try it out - pick a number of hours, or a number of pages, or even a number of paragraphs if you're really struggling.

How do you keep writing a certain amount consistently?

You say to yourself, "Every day, let's pretend like I know what I'm doing!" Jumping around to different parts of your dissertation is fine - there's no rule that says you have to write sequentially, and just about no one does.

You might start with an introduction, just to get your mind started. John started off with a fascinating quote to get himself motivated. You can always cut and paste it and put it elsewhere.

You might also try outlining to get started - outline section by section the whole dissertation, or just the particular chapter you want to work on.

John said that he recently met with his chair, who said, "No more outlines! Put it in writing!" So he wrote 5 pages at once, then used the rest of the week to tweak them.

Soomi also worked on a schedule, but used data sets as her measurement instead of pages.

So if you're at a stuck place and need to make some fake deadlines for yourself, try 5 pages a week and see what happens!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Your Questions, Problems, and Solutions

For today's post, the pictures speak for themselves. We had each group member write on the board a problem they've been wrestling with this week and then as a group we offered possible solutions.

Whether it's killing time on the internet, chowing down on chocolate, or struggling to organize chapters, you'd be surprised how much dissertators have in common.

Question: How do I stop playing internets? (grin)

  • Stop beating yourself up. The more you beat yourself up for killing time on the internet, the worse you'll feel, and the harder it will be to focus on your dissertation again.

  • Go to a cafe where there's no wireless.

  • Find the button on your laptop that turns the wireless off. TURN IT OFF!

  • If you're really serious about it, call your internet service provider and either turn your service off for a "vacation" or cancel it for good. (read: cold turkey)

  • Give yourself a designated time to check e-mail, etc. Then only check then. Stick to it.

  • Use the internet as a treat. "I will go on the net as a reward for finishing Chapter Two."

  • Set a timer with a buzzer. Then work until the timer goes off and you allow yourself some net time.

Question: How do I stop eating chocolate?

  • Figure out what's driving you to the chocolate. What's the payoff for you when you eat chocolate? If you can determine that, then you're more able to replace it with something else.

  • Try substituting gum or other chewy / crunchy foods for the chocolate.

  • Buy bite sizes of the chocolate, so it's easier to eat smaller portions and keep track of how much you are eating.

  • Drink water or tea instead.

  • Don't stop! If you're not gaining tons of weight and your teeth aren't falling out, are you really sure you need to stop the chocolate? Is it really doing you any harm? The dissertation really isn't the best time to make major life changes. You can always give up caffeine, chocolate, etc after you finish. It might be worthwhile for your stress levels and sanity to just let yourself have some vices during this time.

Question: How can I read faster?

  • Judge the book by its introduction. If you really don't like the intro, that can be a real indicator of the style of that author, the argument she is making, or the information in the book. You don't need to read every single page of every single book on your list. Consider moving on if you find a book that doesn't seem to be useful or accessible.

  • Determine what your goal for reading is before you begin.

  • Use the "cheap way" to read the book: Read the index, preface, table of contents, and chapter titles first. This will give you the big picture of the book. Then you can scan for the areas that are most important for your research. Remember, a good scholar knows what not to read. Don't waste time reading items that won't be useful for your purpose.

Question: How can I do the reading and writing at the same time?

  • One idea is to have your laptop out and spread your reading around you. Read for a bit, then go to the laptop to make notes, then read some more. You could do a synopsis of your reading or go into RefWorks and add notes on the material you're reading.
Question: What other verbs can I use?

  • Some professors will advise you to avoid jargon verbs, or recent trendy verbs or phrases, such as "to process" something (try "to reflect upon" instead) or "to unpack" (try "analyze" instead).

  • Use the list of "signal phrases" found in Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference. You can find the information online, check out a copy at the library, or look at the copies at the CGU Writing Center (also available for checkout).

  • Try declare, explore, further, demonstrate, study, examine, identify, imply, theorize

Question: How do I force myself to write about x?

  • Ask yourself, "What don't I like about x? Why do I think x isn't the main point?" Be critical. This could lead you to the way you're going to talk about x.

  • Take the opposite position of how you feel, defend the opposite side. This can be a great writing exercise to start with.

  • Recognize that critical trends change over time. Maybe writing about x was really important in the past, but is it still that way now?

  • You might be the new Judith Butler or the new Edward Said of your field - meaning, the person who breaks from the critical tradition with a whole new way of looking at the topic. Give x a brief mention or nod in your text, but then go on to what you see as even more important. Create your own brand of critical theory as the scholar who does x...or not!

  • Footnote x.

  • Suck it up and write about x!

  • Eat more chocolate.

Question: I have the big roadmap of my dissertation, but how do I plan out the smaller, more detailed close-up map?

  • Write the subheadings and guides first, then write around them. For example, write your table of contents, list your chapter titles, create your headings and subheadings.

  • Figure out your sequence. Imagine that your dissertation is a short story or a novel. What's the climax of the story? Who's your main character? Then start writing right there. Kill all the backstory - only include what's essential to set up the climax, which is what your dissertation is about.

Question: How do I start writing when I'm stuck on the first chapter?

  • Try starting with your last chapter, which may help clarify where you end up. Once you know the end point, it may be easier to start the beginning.

  • Define the terms that you will be using, or your methodology.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Protecting Your Time / Setting Boundaries

It's hard to get a grip on time.

At a recent meeting, someone brought up the perennial problem of Other People.

You know.

The people who say, "You're not working, so can you do this for me?"

Or who decide that now would be a really good time to come and stay with you. For a week.

Or who find out that you quit you job to finish your dissertation, and say, "You're so lucky not to be doing anything!"

Or who keep asking you, "Did you finish that paper yet?"

Or even worse.... "You're still working on that?"

There can be a lot of shame and guilt wrapped up in writing a dissertation, which is compounded by people who just have no idea of what you're going through.

So how do you protect your time so that you have the time and space you need to get this thing finished?

This was the topic of a recent meeting.

"The dissertation's showing me that a lot of my relationships are actually lopsided," one dissertator in the group said. "I finally had to say, please don't call me before 5:00 p.m. Or tell them, 'it's best for me to talk to you at 7:00 p.m. And then don't pick up the phone if it does ring."

"I tell people not to call me when I am writing unless it is an emergency. When they did call, I let it go to voicemail, and then called them back after 5:00. I put it on me. I said, 'It's important to me to talk to you, but I'm not answering the phone until after 5:00.'"

"What we're doing, it's not like a 9 to 5 job like everyone else has. It's like you're self-employed. So you have to set the boundaries. I'll tell people ahead of time, I'm going to the library, so I can't talk. Or I use my weekends to write my dissertation, so I can't go to movies on weekends."

"It's not my friends that are the's my family! You just have to remind yourself, don't buy into the shame and guilt. Whenever people ask you to do things, ask yourself, what can you actually control? What can you afford to do right now?"

"You have to model for other people how to behave towards a dissertator. People always ask if you're done because they don't know what else to ask. Just tell them what you need right now, even if its space or not to talk about the dissertation at all."

Setting your boundaries can be one of the hardest parts of writing the dissertation. But being blunt and honest with your friends, colleagues, and family can make a world of difference. Even just using the phrase, "I have to protect my time to write the dissertation" can be extremely useful.

You can also bargain with people. "I can't come to the party on Friday night, because that's when I do my writing, but would you like to do coffee on Saturday instead?"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash For Clunkers (Printer Edition)

Famous scene from the 1999 hit, "Office Space."

As many of you know, a few members of our group have been on a Quest For A Decent Printer. You know the drill...years ago, you were suckered into buying a cheap printer at Costco, because, well, it was cheap. And you've been paying for it in $40 ink cartridges and crappy, sideways-eaten paper jams ever since.

The cheap grad student in you won't allow you to throw out a printer that, okay, technically, sorta works.

But as Margaret, Tanya, and several others have noted, going into your dissertation, you're going to be printing a lot. So it's worth the investment to finally put the nail in the coffin and upgrade to a printer that doesn't make you homicidal.

The student loan checks for the fall semester will be released soon, so you might want to know about this deal:

Office Depot (location nearest to CGU is 2268 Foothill in La Verne, on the south side of Foothill near the Edwards movie theatre) is having a promotion where they'll take your crappy old printer - it doesn't matter what kind - and they'll recycle it for free and give you $50 towards a purchase of a HP printer. The promotion runs August 2nd through September 26th. Only certain HP purchases apply, there's a list on the website.

Traded in a much-despised Lexmark Z55 for a HP Officejet Pro 8500 (in its enormous box)

In addition, if you sign up as a teacher (adjuncting counts!) you get a 10% discount on top of the $50 off.

Price of the printer, minus automatic rebate, printer trade-in, and teacher discount

$50 for that hunk of junk ink-vampire that's cluttering up your desk and making your laptop announce "The printer is jammed" every five and a half seconds.

And they'll recycle it, so you won't have "I just gave a shitty printer to some poor sucker at Goodwill" on your conscience.

Who hasn't fantasized about dragging their printer out into a field and beating the living daylights out of it?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wrapping It Up

Graduation cake of Dr. Sara Moslener, CGU Religion Ph.D. '09

Wrapping it up. There are still a few steps left in submitting your dissertation after a successful defense.

Edris Stuebner (Assistant registrar) came to one of our sessions (see April 7th blog) with a handout containing instructions for turning in the dissertation to the registrar, format, fees, microfilming, binding, etc. I tried to follow the information on the handouts to a T, and this helped on the day I actually submitted my dissertation to Edris (and yes, she does count all the pages!).

The handout can be located at

On the day I decided to turn in my dissertation, I took one copy to Edris for her to ok before I made the second copy (no point in having 2 copies with mistakes). She okayed the format, etc. and I went to make the additional copy and fill out all the forms (there is a national survey and forms for microfilming and copyrighting).

I also needed a personal check and a cashier's check. One of the options is to copyright your dissertation. I decided to do this and therefore needed a $65 cashier's check with an expiration date later than 7 months from that day's date.

This was one of the most challenging aspects of the final wrap up.

Bank of America's cashier's checks have a 90 day expiration date (although they claim they can be cashed after the date, but I didn't want to take any chances). U.S. Bank's cashier's checks have a 6 month expiration date. Chase bank's cashier's checks have no expiration date, so I opened an account on the spot (with cash, or else my personal check would take 7 days to clear before I could access my new account and get the free cashier's check).

When I returned to Edris for final submission I mentioned how hard it was to get a cashier's check with a late expiration date and she said Stater Brothers (the grocery store in Claremont) would do them for a fee of $1. Had I known that, I would have saved myself the hassle of running around to 3 banks.

I also chose not to have the same company that officially microfilms and binds your dissertation, bind my personal copies. I chose Kater-Crafts in Pico Rivera to bind my copies. Their minimum charge is $75, but that binds three dissertations. The other "official" company that microfilms your dissertation charged something like $147 for two copies. Plus, Kater-Craft's turn around time is 4-6 weeks (much quicker than the "official" company). They accept dissertations in person, by mail, or by email.

I also should mention that I wished I had done my dedication and acknowledgments much sooner than after my defense (perhaps in one of those lulls when I couldn't seem to get anything written). By the time I was done with the defense, I just wanted to turn in my dissertation to the registrar, and never see it again. Instead, I had to take a couple of extra days to complete these items.

(note from Tara: this is a guest post by Margaret MacKenzie, newly minted Ph.D. Thanks for the great advice, Margaret! For more of Margaret's tips, see here).

Tips from the Other Side: Margaret Finishes!

There may be days when it feels like you'll never finish...but someone in our group just has!

On July 6th, Margaret successfully defended her dissertation! As the most recent member of our group to pass the finish line, Margaret offered some sage advice about her experience.

Dr. Margaret MacKenzie

This included:

  • BUY A DECENT PRINTER. The little aggravations, like having a crappy printer? They're not worth it. I invested in a laser printer...I bought it for $800 a few years ago, they probably sell for a lot less now. I got a Hewlett Packard 3005 Business Printer. Prints 5000 pages on one ink cartridge. It's high volume - you can print up lots and lots and lots of pages and it lasts forever. (Tanya also bought a printer specifically for her dissertation). I printed 1,200 pages at home, which was was cheaper than going to Kinko's. You can get some printers that have the photocopying function as well.
  • MAKE IT AS EASY AS POSSIBLE FOR YOUR COMMITTEE MEMBERS. I printed every chapter out all over again before giving it out to my committee members one final time before the defense. I binder-clipped individual chapters, and then gathered all the binder-clipped chapters together in one expandable file folder (since the whole thing is too big to staple). It was 326 pages long. I went to Staples, put each professor's name on a label sticker and put the labels on the folders, then put the folders in their mailboxes. The professors later thanked me for giving them their own binder-clipped copies. Ideally, I'd put these in their boxes 2-3 weeks before the defense.

    On the day of the defense, I brought Some Crust cookies and cold bottles of water for my committee. If my defense had been in the morning, I would have brought coffee.

  • PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATION. I slept the night before my defense, no problem, because I knew I was prepared. My committee chair had suggested, "PowerPoint is quite useful at this stage," so I put together a PowerPoint presentation and practiced it twice a day, every day. I don't know if that's typical for other defenses, but I made 60 slides and used them as notes / outlines for myself as I talked. The defense was at noon, so I set up my breakfast preparations the night before.

  • DRESS AHEAD. My defense was in McManus 31, a basement classroom, right after the 4th of July, so I knew the room would probably be warm because CGU turns off the air during holidays. So I wore layers. I dressed dressy casual (dress pants, sweater top, short sleeves), hair back. I get warm when I'm embarrassed, so I wanted short sleeves.

  • KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT. In my department, they announce the defenses to the whole listserve and invite everyone, so a totally random person came. But that was good - I could explain more basic material to her, and she didn't ask questions (although she could have). My defense lasted about 90 minutes. I got in there half an hour early to set up with AV - the secretary of my department reserved the room and AV.
  • BRING FORMS. The secretary had taken care of the official form, but had asked me to bring the title page and signature page to get them to sign then and there. It's good to remind them to sign it at the end, because they often pack up and leave soon afterwards. And who wants to track them down later?

  • THANK EVERYONE BEFORE YOU START. Thank them, then introduce everyone before you start.

  • GET EDRIS TO OKAY ONE COPY BEFORE YOU MAKE THE OTHERS. I took Stephanie's advice (Stephanie McKinney, recent CGU Ph.D. in History who came and talked to our group) and only took 1 copy in to Edris. Then, only after it cleared with Edris, did I go and make the other copies.

Congratulations, Margaret! Tullach Ard!

(the MacKenzie war cry)

Curious about Margaret's dissertation? She kindly made an extra copy for the Writing Center's library. Stop on by and take a gander at it!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dissertation Boot Camp

Are you looking at this blog right now, when you should be writing?!

On Saturday, July 25th and Sunday, July 26th, the CGU Writing Center had its first official Dissertation Boot Camp, open to all students at CGU who are ABD and working on their dissertations. The camp filled almost immediately, so there is really a demand at CGU for this type of event.

The "hard core" writers in the back room.

The idea for the Boot Camp originally came from a trip Tara made to the Graduate Writing Center at Yale. (CGU's Writing Center and Yale's Graduate Writing Center are some of the only graduate-only writing centers in the U.S.) Tara met with the center's director, Elena Kallestinova, who told her about Yale's Dissertation Boot Camp. Tara liked the idea so much, she brought it back to CGU!

The philosopher and mathematician gravitated to the middle room.

Campers arrived early in the morning (8 a.m.!) and staked out workspaces in one of the Writing Center's rooms.

Campers came prepared with coffee mugs, book stands, laptops, and roller bags.

All of the tables were covered in butcher paper so that you could jot down ideas, sketch, or write notes to yourself throughout the day.

A sample work station.

One room had background music playing, the others were silent. Tutors Tara and Eric worked in the front room, making camp near a cabinet and on the sofa.

Whatever is happening in this picture, it is *intense*!

Some people like to spread out.

Like the earlier test run, the boot camp featured a very Californian take on the typical boot camp under the oak trees and fresh sushi!

On Saturday, Nancy Sassman lead the group in a one hour yoga session.

Nancy leads the crew in Warrior II.

On Sunday, boot camper Marie lead the group.

A shady respite from dissertating.

After stretching and relaxing, it was back to work!

Fingers furiously typing.

At 12:30, everyone broke for lunch. This was a great opportunity to meet other people at CGU who are also working on their dissertations, hear about their projects, and commiserate!

Sharing advice over chow.

At 2:30, everyone headed to the back yard for a stretch break, in this case, involving Affirmation Frisbee (great idea, Fay!)....where it doesn't matter how bad you are at throwing or catching, because everyone will find something positive to say about it!

A common sight during Affirmation Frisbee...picking up the frisbee.

It was a very productive weekend for everyone! The Boot Camp was so popular, we hope to offer it at least once a semester in the future. Stay tuned for the next one!

The end of a long, productive weekend!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Building a Winning CV

Stop by Career Management, across from Harvey Mudd on Dartmouth,
and say hi to Jackee Engles!

At our recent meeting, Jackee McNitt Engles, Assistant Director of the CGU Office of Career Management, was kind enough to share her knowledge about curriculum vitae development. She even brought each of us a wonderful booklet, Building a Professional CV, to use for future reference.

CVs are much longer than resumes, tending toward completeness rather than being concise. It is acceptable for your CV to be as long as it takes to highlight everything relevant to the position. Name dropping is acceptable in CVs when it is relevant.

CVs have a very flexible format, although education is always listed first. CVs contain many more categories than resumes. List categories in order of importance, then use reverse chronology within each category. How you construct your CV says something about your personality. Regardless of how you construct yours, make sure that it is clean, consistent, and readable. Katie mentioned that she has a master CV that she tailors to each job. Jackee said this was a great idea.

The "heart and soul" of a CV is the accomplishment statement. This differs from a job description because it gives you the opportunity to describe what you actually did, rather than what the job required. It is extremely important to quantify your experience in terms of scope and results. The group took turns writing sample accomplishment statements. For example: "Increased sales 50% in the first year of business."

Jackee reminded us that your CV is one tool in your job search arsenal. By far the most important tool will be your personal contacts.

She recommended that if you use a portfolio, it would be appropriate to take it to an interview, but for the application it is better to post it on a website and list the link to it on your CV.

Jackee also told us about a service called interfolio, which applicants can use (for a fee) to store, manage, and send electronic and print files.

Is there anything I should leave off of my CV? Definitely leave off information that is illegal to ask. For example, leave out information about your marital status or age. There's a reason these questions are illegal. People do have biases. Typically, you would also leave out hobbies and personal information, but there is the exception to the rule - in some cases it makes sense to add them. And if you have volunteer work, definitely add that under a separate heading for volunteer work.

How far back should a CV go? CVs can go back forever if relevant, but at least ten years.

What font should I use for my CV? 12 point is ideal; 11 is the smallest. Any font that is standard in emailed documents will work, such as Times New Roman, Arial, and Garamond.

How should I send a paper version of my CV? Paperclip pages together and put a running header with your name, email, and phone number on each page except the first one.

How do you ask for an informational interview? Call the person and say that (your contact person's name) suggested that I call you. Ask for 15 minutes of the person's time, although it would be extremely rare for the informational interview to limit it to 15 minutes.

What if you aren't sure of your exact quantifications (in your accomplishment statements)? You need to feel comfortable with what you have written. If you aren't it will show in an interview. If you are not sure of your exact numbers, use qualifier words like "approximately" in your statemtents.

What additional services does your office offer? I thought you would never ask. Page 15 (of the booklet) lists our additional services, as does our website Also, in my office I have a list of 500 alumni in various fields who are willing to conduct informational interviews.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dissertation Boot Camp Test Run

You didn't think it'd be *all* drill sargeants and pushups, did you?

On Saturday, June 6, we did a test run for the Dissertation Boot Camp, which will run Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26 (to give the most people a chance to attend, we may have different sign-ups for the different days - let's see how the RSVP list goes).

The schedule for the test run was as follows:

8:00 a.m. - Begin by writing out your goal for the day.
9:00 a.m. - Work, work, work.
10:30 a.m. - Yoga session with Nancy Sassaman
11:00 a.m. - Work, work, work.
12:30 p.m. - Lunch / phone / internet break (Sushi)
1:00 p.m. - Work, work, work.
2:30 p.m. - Outdoor "Affirmation Frisbee" break
3:00 p.m. - work work work

We met at the CGU Writing Center and made camp in the two tutoring rooms, each with butcher-papered tables. The rooms were stocked with candy and junk food (turns out, too much!) and the kitchen was stocked with coffee, tea, juice, and sushi.

We learned that sushi + wasabi = alert grad students.

We also learned that Cheddar Cheese Pringles are pretty much carbohydrate meth. So we're going to skip them next time.

The rules:

- No cell phones
- No internet*
- No talking

* Because using the internet is sometimes necessary during writing, we designated a time during lunch that allowed internet and phone use. The idea is: if you feel you have to get on the net, write down what you want to check up on, then move on. When the internet break comes, then you can look it up.

Fay had a fun variation on the internet rule: every time she was tempted to use the net, she drew a heart next to her laptop. The hearts added up pretty quickly!

Although we originally planned to have a "quiet room" and a "background music room," everyone wanted music, so we left the doors open and used iPods and a docking station to play classical / instrumental / wordless music (including Mozart, Irish trad, and cellist Zoe Keating).

This worked really well, so when we do the real deal, everyone should bring their iPods and their favorite writing music.

The group turned loose on the back lawn for energy / stretch breaks. We were incredibly lucky to have the talents of Nancy Sassaman to lead us in a yoga session underneath the oak trees.

Imagining what life will be like when the dissertation is done...

Nancy has agreed to come and do another session for the real Dissertation Boot Camp in July, and we are so thrilled to have her!!!

Nancy demonstrates "Happy Baby" pose, a great counter-pose to "Been Sittin' On My Butt All Day Typing" pose

The lawn behind the Writing Center is ideal for picnicing, group frisbee, and hopefully....croquet. If the Writing Center can get ahold of a cheap croquet set, there will definitely be some mallet-whacking at the next Boot Camp!

So, mark your calendars: July 25-26 2009: Dissertation Boot Camp.

You're Not Alone - Here are some of the members of our group!