Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Final PhD proposal

It is not news that the road to a PhD is long. As opposed to my experience in industry, where a crisis may come and go in a week (or a day), and progress is made between meetings every Friday, research occurs on a much longer timescale. It may take me a week to do an experiment, and I might have a major update to give my advisor once a month.

So it should come as no surprise that the process of even getting the PhD proposal officially turned in takes a while.

Back in January I decided what my topic would be. And at that point, I did a whole lot of literature searching and reading of papers. To keep my mind in order, each paper I read I would condense into a few sentences or paragaph, and add it to my PhD proposal.

I continued to think about the topic through the Spring semester, while I TA'd and took classes and continued work to extend my Master's thesis. By March, I completed a draft of the proposal.

Then after the semester ended, I took another look at the proposal. I realized that it was not really a focused document - it was really more of a literature review of all the papers I'd read. So I tried to refine it, given the advice from my advisor.

Then I started to think about who my committee should be. I have two professors who are on it right now, and I need a third, but I wasn't sure who would be most applicable because I didn't know what direction my research would take.

This fall I have been working more on my PhD ideas, doing some preliminary experiments, and have a better idea where I'm headed. So I know who I want to ask to be my third member. And, my advisor has given me the go-ahead to have my first committee meeting. So I need to ask that last professor, and get the ball rolling.

It is customary to send your PhD proposal to the professor you are asking to be on your committee, so they know what you are working on. So I went back and looked at my PhD proposal. I updated it with what I learned this semester, and then I gave it to my advisor so he could approve it before I approached the final committee member.

My advisor basically told me it was way too long. My original paper, back in Jan when I just summarazied all the papers, was about 40 pages. In March when I focused it down, it was about 20 pages long. But the official recommendation for length is 6 pages.

So I cut it down to 8 pages, plus references. I sent it off to my advisor, and let's hope this is the final PhD proposal.

Now, on to completing the committee and scheduling that first meeting...

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