Constructing an Academic Self: The Worksheet

This follows up on my previous post, concerning the necessity of renewing resolve and reorienting goals for the forthcoming academic year. Over the last month, in starting to capitalize on the commitments I explored there, I’ve increasingly realized the importance of utilizing reflective writing to actively work through the process of beginning the dissertation, and for the first time really envisioning what type of scholar I’d like to become through that particilar endeavor. As I imagine is the case for most romanticists, certain professional investments have started to become clarified as a result of engaging in the intense, challenging, and rewarding project of dissertation writing–in my case, guided by reading Donald Hall’s The Academic Self, Jean Botkin’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, and Timothy Morton’s Ph.D Advice. To honestly think through these core themes that I’m realizing connect work, communities, and more (and, especially, because I’ll be going on the predoctoral fellowship market next year, and think the activity will be helpful for writing research statements), I’ve developed a series of fifteen questions to answer to better understand how areas of academic research, values, and goals are shaped by a longer history of development, different institutions, multiple great mentors, and romanticist friendships. In this blog–an unconventional one, admittedly–I am posting these questions I’ve generated, in hopes that they might be helpful for other grads to think through. I also invite others to post additional questions in the comments you’ve found helpful in creating fulfilling academic trajectories.

Part One: Professional Self-Identity

1. How do you imagine your professional self-identity to be defined?

2. What are 3 key processes that have contributed to the formation of this professional identity?

3. How will it feel to have completed the work, to have done a doctorate?

4. What will your process be like to complete the dissertation?

5. How would you define “value” in relation to exercises integral to the academic profession? (scholarship, teaching, academic organizing, community outreach?)

6. What do the professional categories you’ve listed above—and the order by which you’ve listed them—indicate about your professional self?

7. How do you define success at this point in your career?

Part Two: The Profession and Publication

8. What are the types of publications you desire to produce over the course of your career?

9. What are the kinds of audiences you want to reach? How can you properly structure your time to be able to fulfill your career goals, in these respects—in integral relation to taking good care of yourself, teaching, institutional service, professional community support, taking an active role in friend and family life, and perhaps even volunteer work?

Part Three: Dissertation Questions

10. What is the single question that grounds the project and how does it connect with multifaceted, theoretical explorations that connect fields and disciplines beyond your own?

11. What academic writing and research do you most enjoy, and why–in terms of inquiry and on the level of style? How might it connect with, and inform, your own?

12. How do you imagine/desire your project defining you on the job market?

Part Four: Ph.D. Questions [Adapted from Morton, Ecology without Nature Blog]

13. Imagine The New Yorker is doing a piece on something of interest to you and that you want to be seen as an expert by that publication on. What is it they’re calling you about? Why are they calling you, and not another scholar?

14. What are the hypotheses for your dissertation? They should be able to be tested by a robot or undergraduate researcher. If you had an undergraduate researcher to do this work, what would they do?

15. How do you resist adverse aspects of professionalization, which inhibit good research at the Ph.D. level?