And coursework forced me to think critically about topics far afield from my own, helping me to ask new questions of my evidence and project. Keeping an eye on the dissertation prospectus can make reading for qualifying exams more enjoyable.
No matter how much you love your discipline or your research field, exams are hard and stressful.
It proved such a valuable opportunity, though, because it forced me to step back from my research and reevaluate what seemed most interesting and important about it. Writing the prospectus can feel a little bit like performing surgery on your ideas.
During the process of reevaluating my project, I found that breaking it apart into smaller research questions was helpful.
Reading a mountain of books and articles in order to demonstrate mastery of content, scholarly debates, and methodologies is enriching but also a lot of work.
But thinking about where my project fits in with the major themes and developments in my field helped me to corral all of this information and remain invested. Grant proposals are really good practice for the prospectus, and vice versa.
The process of connecting so many of my interests into one dissertation topic was invigorating. Coursework is a really valuable opportunity to rehearse your questions and to get to grips with the secondary literature.
I used research papers and course assignments during my first two years of the Ph D to try out versions of my dissertation question on a small scale.
I made a list of all of the questions and sub-topics I still found fascinating.
I also made a list of the smaller research ideas I’d jotted down over the past two years, that I didn’t plan to incorporate into my dissertation research, but which I hoped to investigate someday.