Superintendent? I Super Intend Not.

It looks like I can confidently write that I will graduate this fall.  My Chair has even said so on the phone AND put it in writing that he believes this is it.  Not only that, caps, gowns, and diploma stickers are all over my 2014 vision board.

Naturally, people are asking me what I will do with “Doctor” in front of my name.  I checked out the Education Portal page that shares career information on my specific degree.  Examples are Superintendent, Director of Student Services, and University Professor.  The first two sound like mood-altering medication would be required, and I have done the third one for a few years now.  It’s okay, but middle school was a hundred times better.  So how will I maximize my new prestige and do the Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In?”

I will not.  Thanks, anyway.

Maybe you know Zosia Mamet from the HBO series Girls, or maybe you know her famous father, playwright David Mamet.  She wrote an article in Glamour magazine about not leaning in, and I thank her.  We do not all, as she states, need to build an empire.  It doesn’t look good for me anyway if I am pushing 40 and still reading Glamour and watching Girls!  Success is achieving what you desire.  That decision is up to you alone, despite pressure to lead, change the world, act, accomplish, boost, achieve, express, identify, channel, aid, and fight.  By the way, each of those verbs are taken from only the homepage of the Lean In website.  No way am I clicking.  I’m exhausted already.  Although, I really want to make a “hokey pokey” song and dance entitled “Lean In.”  Is that mean?

Next time someone asks, these are my top three choices in no order.  They are not on the Education Portal site under jobs requiring a doctorate. All terms are subject to change.

Poet.  There is such a thing as educational poetry.  Maybe an alive poets society?

Maxxinista.  If you don’t know what this is, I cannot explain it.

Tutor.  There is something awesome about a kid getting the right answer in math.

So…. Are you getting your doctorate to lean in?  I think it’s great!  I hope everyone gets his or her dream job or jobs.  I also hope I can fight the pressure that the biggest degree means the biggest job.  Superintendent? I super intend not.

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Phinished.Org – Why You Must Register

Have you visited this website yet?  It is the place for you if you want to be “phinally phinished!”   In case you have not found your tribe on campus or in your online program, this site is a forum for others experiencing the rollercoaster of the doctoral courses, dissertation, Chair, IRB, committee, and the like.  Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.00.07 PM

Hosted by Dr. Thomas Jankowski of the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in Detroit, Dr. Jankowski provides the website and its services free of charge and free of advertising.  He also serves as the webmaster, all volunteer services on top of his research and administrative duties at the Institute of Gerontology.

Page of Phame:  Several names are listed each month on the page of Phame.  Besides the gratification of the upcoming letters behind your name, this is an added bonus to share with family and friends.

Phorum:  Posts including “A Day in the Life of a Writer”, “I have a DATE”, and “Feeling Isolated” garner virtual hugs and comments from phellow sojourners who can truly relate.  People also reply to posts from newbies and those asking for feedback on work.  People are good.

Tech Support:  Over 1,000 topics and 6,000 posts on software and separate operating systems are here.  Still, I am terrified of messing up my tables in APA, but resources exist for any computer or data processing hurdle you face!

Calendar:  You can publicly post your personal mini and major goals on a timeline for all to see.  People will congratulate you or give you a friendly push.  The site will email you as you progress, ensuring that you do, in fact, progress.

Shopping:  For those times you are procrastinating (yes you, never me…!) , you can buy the cutest “stuph” with the PhinisheD logo.  Teddy bears, clothing, computer bags, housewares, you get the idea.  Some people believe in buying themselves a coffee mug when phinisheD, but I say drink out of one every morning and see yourself as a graduate!

Say hi on the chat board when you sign up!  My username is JillCraddock.

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Recurring Themes in My Comments: Chapters 4 & 5

These may help you, so here you go.

Know What You Are Talking About.  This means to go back to your statistics book and figure out what a t-test is to explain and reference before just willy-nilly discussing your application of t-tests and the like.  Don’t assume that what you may (not) remember from statistics courses will cover you.  One of my comments in the t-test discussion literally includes the words, “know what you are talking about.”

Past Tense.  My Chair wore out his caps lock button this go-round and I must have tried his patience with my inconsistent attention to converting my verbs to past-tense.  The study was finished so went through your ENTIRE DOCUMENT and converted verbs to past tense.

Number and Percentages. In reporting data, triple check how you write out your facts and figures.  Numbers below ten are written out; numerals are used higher than ten and for times, dates, ages, and as part of a series.  Use the percent symbol when it is preceded by a numeral.  If you spell out the number, spell out the word “percent.”

Figures and Tables.  I included every figure and table possible to computer generate, and this was not well received. The feedback was to narrow it down, and that the demonstration was confusing. The upside was that my Chair was very explicit about his expectations and even sent example tables to include for each research question.  Don’t be afraid to ask for examples and templates of what is expected.

Consistency in Word Choice.  Findings and results are synonyms, but pick one and stick with it.  Same goes for participants and respondents.  I also switched a couple of times from referring to “secondary students” to “middle and upper grades students.”  If you are flipping in your jargon, stop and select your favorite descriptors to commit to scholarly posterity.

So these were the themes in my last batch of comments, and if you read the last post, you know that I am attacking them as I would eat the proverbial elephant, and achieving Dissertation Zen as each one is completed.  The last comment, of course, was something very brief and constructive that requires tripling the discussion in my Interpretations section. Zen…….

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Dissertation Zen

Think back to when you started your doctoral program.  If you had to do it all over again, would you do it?  Would you advise others to do it?  I quit after three years, and I’m re-enrolled against a clock that expires in just five weeks.  Then I will write a letter explaining why I need an extension. zen-stories-620x315

When I quit, I couldn’t stomach so much as the sight of my school’s website. After a topic change and a coach that encourages me weekly, I have learned dissertation Zen and improved my disposition.

Courage.  After telling everyone that I would never go back to school and what a cluster the dissertation process is, I ate my words.  Putting my ego aside took a lot of courage, as did heading back into the mire.

Humility.  I thought I was smart and could do what I needed to for myself.  During this process, I have met true scholars that I admire for their pure dedication to expanding knowledge.  Asking for help is humbling for me, but I have learned to ask, not ever argue, and be grateful.

Patience.  The first time I was writing my dissertation, I frequently felt annoyed about committee rotations or research debates. These days, I am happy to have a supportive Chair and trust that his comments will arrive at just the right time.  If I don’t finish on my summer deadline, in the scheme of things, we’re not talking life or death…. I can try to blame someone, but that is wasting more time.  I’m so happy for that lesson.

Serenity.  The serenity prayer is not just for alcoholics.  Accepting the things I cannot change, like the amount of time a new draft takes to get approved, brings peace.  The courage to change the things I can has come much easier with simple, clear direction from a good Chair.  As for wisdom, that is always a work in process, just like the dissertation.

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Dissertation to Journal: 5 Considerations

Working your dissertation down to a journal size article requires much more than deleting pages to fit the requirements of the publication. If you are considering publishing in your field, everything you need to start is in your very own dissertation.

scholarlyjournalsConsider Your Motive. Sometimes people are required by an institution to publish. If this is not the case, go back to your intrinsic motivation regularly as you submit and resubmit. It may be to build your reputation, create contacts in your field, leave work for others to build upon, or simply because it is a simpler process than writing a book.

Rejection is in Your Future.  It is rare for a journal to accept a first submission.  Examples of replies include minor problems with a request for resubmission, major problems with a request for resubmission, rejected with a consideration for resubmission, and altogether rejected. On top of this, expect to wait three months for a reply.

Write With the Publication in Mind.  Develop a list of publications you would like to contribute as a researcher. Check your literature review and references for ideas. For each, write with a model article from that publication at least somewhat related to your topic. Adhere to the formatting, flow, language, and graphic display. Be sure also to triple check that your submission fits the publication requirements.

Determine the Three Most Important Findings. Write them on an index card in clear and plain language. Find a middle school student, read your findings aloud, and ask the student to state in his or her own words what you said. If you can do that, your work is clear. When you write, however, assume your audience is your peers and select language accordingly. The index card is an exercise in organization and, well, getting out of your own head.

Use Direct Language.  Get rid of all the passive language from your dissertation about the so-called actions of the study, surveys, or data that were tabulated.  Tell the story, using data, in active voice.

Are you planning on publishing?  Did you publish anywhere?  What was the experience?

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Your Dissertation: There’s An App for That

I was just asked to take part in a beta-test for a new app and started wondering just how many apps there may be for dissertation writing.  A quick search on my phone showed me ten apps that fall under the “dissertation” key word search.  Most are not in English, one is for punctuation pitfalls, and one is to fill in the overall framework (on an iPhone?).

These are not useful to me, so I did a search on dissertation software, and what I would have or could have used during my writing.

If there is a program out there that could have magically generated my tables and figures in APA version 6, I would have bought it.  I realize that program is Microsoft Word, but this was so hard for me I had to ask the town square of Craigslist to sort my SPSS mess into APA version 6.  My own editor said no!  I recommend Craigslist for this. There are people out there who can do this sort of thing in a snap while I can barely center a textbox.  We all have our talents.

Top mentions in dissertation software programs include Scrivener and other formatting apps that I might buy if I planned to write a book, screenplay, or a magazine.  Pomodoro is an app that is helpful for some people.  It is a 25 minute timer to force you to write.  Someone decided that is a productive length of time for increased focus.  Please refer to my post about ditching Facebook, and I believe you do not need this app.

I also saw a number of graphic organizer programs that offered the opportunity to create bullet points and mind maps in fancy ways.  Those things I can do in MS Office.  I was mistaken and thought one of them developed mind map content, which would be worth money, but if it is a matter of filling in the shapes with words, then no thank you.

I did find a program out there that is extraordinary for brainstorming and would be helpful to developing a topic or ideas for a literature review outline.  Paramind is a site that is now one of my favorites, and I will re-visit with students.  It generates hundreds of ideas by manipulating language, all based on a single sentence.  I am not sure if I will buy the software, but it is worth sharing and experimenting.

Other than Paramind, I have been good with MS Office and a couple of people who know more than I do about formatting tables and figures.  Let me know if any dissertation software has changed your world!

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Ten Things To Know Before Starting A Doctorate

1.    Do It For Yourself.  Why are you doing it?  If not for personal development, it is too easy to quit because start to finish is boot camp for the brain and spirit.    

2.    Select a Topic You Love.  My first topic was one I only liked and a problem that I only, let’s say, noticed.  When I consulted with my coach and knew my data was old, he said, “What do you love?”  It turns out you can do a dissertation on what you love!  For me, that was reading and musical theater.  And I kind of love writing it.  Not the statistics, I don’t love that.   

3.    Get a Coach.  See above.  If it weren’t for my coach holding me accountable to both a topic and weekly work, I would not be closing in on a final draft in double time.  Remember time is money when you write those tuition checks, and your coach gives you a speed advantage. 

4.    Fast Track Your Course Work.  If your school offers the opportunity to take two or three classes at a time instead of one or two, do it.  You can do anything for a short amount of time.  Research for one class will help for another class simultaneously, and you will become more efficient at writing and school culture.

5.    Reward Yourself.  Nothing will ever be perfect.  Your paper or assignment can always be better.  Whatever motivates you, set a time to do that thing when you finish the week’s work.  Visit with a friend, do something special with a family member, see a silly movie, anything. 

6.    Have a Friend. It is better if your friend goes through the doctoral program with you, and you can support each other.  It can be a person you know before the program, meet in class, or connect with online.  You will have a sense for someone that is part of your tribe and can hang in there with you.  You are all alone in the dissertation, which brings me to the next “thing to know.”   

7.    Have a Pet. Dogs are known for loyalty, and, without fail, mine lays right at my feet when I sit down to work.  Any pet would be okay, but without my dog in the office, I would feel pretty lonely, which contributes to depression, which contributes to less work.  It is my personal experience, but there may be an article in the Lancet or American Journal of Medicine.  Or it could be a dissertation topic if you are looking!

8.    Don’t Take Anything Personally. The third reader told me to get an editor after oh-so-many readings of my proposal. Much of it was related to APA, but I was so offended.  I thought I was a good writer, and how could someone insult me like this?  Then I started a new book by one of my favorite authors, which began with an acknowledgements section thanking his editor.  Duh. 

9.    Lose Facebook. It will take up way too much time, and you don’t have it.  You won’t want to look up how to reference a chapter in a book, so you will scroll through Facebook.  Twenty minutes later adds up.  Get a friend or spouse on your account to change your password, and if your personal pride is anything like mine, it will be embarrassing for that person to know that you tried to sneak back on, and this has worked for me for well over a year.  Also, I am happier. 

10.Don’t Talk About Your Work. Just like your regular job, I kind of feel like no one really cares about this stuff.  It’s research, it’s very complicated, and to most other people, it is boring and irrelevant.  It is your baby, but think how you feel at one too many baby pictures.  And babies are cute.   

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Saving Money on the Editor – Check These Five Items

If you need an editor, take the time to review your work carefully before shelling out up to $100 per hour or more for a professional to fix errors that you can find.  Common mistakes include:

1.     References Check. If you cite a work, double check that it is cited also in the references page and cited correctly. You know how to do this by now, and it is surprising how many careless errors those diligent editors will find, so beat them to it.  This includes dates and spelling of names.  It also includes delineating between source material a and b if you have the same author and date that could confuse your reader (Example:  Eisner, 2009a or Eisner, 2009b).  

2.     Number Check.  Write out numbers except in these cases:  minutes, hours, weeks, days, years (not school years – example 4th grade, not fourth grade), decades, or time-related data (write four people, but 4 hours).  Use numerals for 10 and over as well as percentages (also use the % symbol here).

3.     Acronym Check.  Define acronyms your first time in the paper.  Thereafter, use ONLY the acronym, even if it feels like your reader may have forgotten the acronym or you haven’t mentioned it in a while.  This took me a long time to fix when it was pointed out to me.  Use the full term in table titles and table of contents.

4.     Table Check.  Use a 10, 11, or 12-point font with projections in parentheses.  Be sure your table fits on one page with descriptive text above it.  Title should be in italics as well as the word at the bottom, “Note.”  Follow this with any further description of the table, but do not put this part in italics. 

5.     Form and Style Guide Check.  Your school may have a form and style guide that will trump any rules in the APA manual.  It is wise to know this guide inside and out before submitting your work to an editor if you decide to use one. 

I’m still working out tables, but these are the areas that I could have saved some cash by sitting down one, two, or ten more times with my document.  My bank account would be thanking me now, but at least I have a starting point for another submission.  Let me know any other tips that editors flagged for you!   

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Descriptive Statistics Vocabulary

Now that it is time write up results in Chapter Four, it is also time to revisit some statistical terms.  White space under the words “Chapter Four” brought panic.  Instantly, I related to students who complained of not knowing what to write, so there is that silver lining. 


Revisiting terms for descriptive statistics reminded me that I know more than I thought for this chapter.  Here are a few terms to pepper in your chapter, for statistical description.  No academic embellishment here.  I boiled it down to my understanding to avoid embarrassment for the very exciting submission of my first final draft.

Sample Size:  How many participants interacted with your study

Population Group:  What group of society your participants represent

Population Subgroup:  Divisions within the sample sizes; often separated by demographics

Central Tendency:  Measures used to describe data; mean, median, and mode

Measures of Dispersion:  aka measures of variability.  How close your data lies together on a scatter plot, histogram, or what have you.

Standard Deviation:  One measure of dispersion.  It is demonstrated in the bell curve that shows the “bump” between the measures of data.  So Einstein would be very far to the right in a demonstration curve of IQ.

Variance:  Another measure of dispersion.  How far your data spreads out.

Interquartile range:  Yet another measure of dispersion.  Difference between upper and lower quartiles of the data.

Univariate Analysis:  Discuss one variable at a time in the descriptive portion, unless this variable is part of your research question.  Then discuss under a research question heading.

Bivariate and Multivariate Analysis:  Use this to show how variables interact and whether correlations exist in your work.

Okay, I think I am ready to give it a better shot.  Any other basic terms to include?


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Seven Types of Instrument Validity

Recently, someone mentioned “face validity”, and I nodded along, but had no idea what face validity meant versus just plain old validity.  I was happy enough knowing the difference between validity and reliability.  I probably read this somewhere during my coursework days.  It turns out that there are seven types of validity, and more I may have forgotten. 

Face Validity

This examines that an instrument measures what it is proclaiming to measure, and that participants understand this.  It is not always necessary to demonstrate this, but can be useful to know how people react to a survey or questionnaire for repeating and possibly modifying the research.

Content Validity

Showing that the instrument is in line with the theoretical basis of the research provides content validity.  If you have more than one theory, this can be easier to demonstrate, but makes for a harder discussion in tying your results back to theory for the reason of selecting the appropriate theory or theories to discuss.

Construct Validity

Confirming that the instrument has demonstrated what it was designed to measure and what was actually measured gives you a picture of construct validity.

Factorial Validity

Show that clearly measurable (empirical vs. theoretical) question items can be reproduced across groups.  If the questions are statistically reliable, you have factorial validity. 

Convergent Validity

This measure exhibits that the scores of validity are consistent, in either a positive or negative direction, with other instruments founded in similar theory.

Discriminant/Divergent Validity

This demonstrates that the factorial validity is not confused with construct validity.  In other words, make sure that the theoretical basis for the questions is not confused to achieve discriminant validity.

Criterion Validity

Verify that the evidence differs between two greatly different collections of survey respondents to report characteristics of various groups.

As you can see, with all the measures of validity to consider, it is a good idea to use an existing survey instrument so you know that this has all been considered and completed by someone else!   

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