Thursday, July 30, 2009

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!

1 comment:

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