Saturday, June 05, 2010

Organisation and the PhD

I think doing a PhD is mostly about being well-organised. I mean, it takes a certain above-average intelligence (does not demand as much great intelligence as in the past, what with grade inflation), but even the most intelligent person cannot write a good book if she is not organised. I'm not saying that I am any expert; in fact, I would say that I'm basically a failure and that I need to improve more. However, here are a few things that have helped me lately:

* Keeping a list of goals, and planning out how to stick to them.

A few months ago, I went to my university's second of two inductions on how to do a PhD. It was basically practical stuff on writing well, organisation, new technologies, how to successfully pass our transfer exercises, etc. One workshop was about planning for the PhD, such as when certain chapters will be completed and contingency plans for when life gets in the way. I drew up a plan for each stage of my PhD process and writing the dissertation and immediately felt better.

* Doing a little bit each day, no matter how small.

As a PhD student, I am often overwhelmed with finishing the dissertation and the writing process, and making it perfect. This means that I can sometimes not write or read as much as I would like, because I live in fear of it not being perfect enough. It was a huge relief to be OK with whatever work I do accomplish, as long as I complete my small goals.

I'd love to have others share their opinions.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Come listen to Sammee speak musicological things...

List of conference I'll present papers at this semester:

March: Cambridge University, the Plainsong and Medieval Music conference

May: University of Calgary, Confounding Expectations, Inspiring Minds Graduate conference

July: Royal Holloway University, the Medieval and Renaissance Music conference

July: the North American British Music Studies Association conference

Monday, December 21, 2009


... although I'm not sure who might read this post. How did you go about completing the Literature Review? What did you do when you read all the recommended books by your supervisors and still had a pathetic list of sources because your topic has not been written about since 1901? I know the most obvious thing is to bug my supervisors about this again, but I'd rather be more independent than that. Any recommendations? RILM, Grove Music Online, JAMS, JSTOR turn up nothing really useful. Bibliographic material in footnotes from the small amount of sources I have are merely tangential. Archives next? What about doing the literature review... how did you go about doing it and be most successful? What was your format?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh the odds and ends...

... of a PhD dissertation/thesis (if I were in the UK, it would be thesis, but readers in the US will be more familiar with dissertation, very confusing and I often don't know what to call it). Right now, I'm overwhelmed by the UK PhD skills audit, which is a requirement for UK postgraduate students. We are supposed to graduate without merely just the knowledge of our PhD topic and subject area, but also with a recognized list of transferable skills that can make us attractive candidates within and without the academic job market. Much of it is very useful, but some of it is a bit redundant if you have a B.Mus., an M.St., and an M.A. already under your belt (which I have). This morning, in order to complete the requirement of "self-awareness," I took four online information literacy surveys that measured my familiarity with research databases, search engines, and how to best use keywords in order to get the best search and information possible. I was relieved to know that I had "excellent ability" in these three areas.

One thing that I am not very good at is this business of conducting a literature review without becoming overwhelmed with data or following side topics that are fascinating to me. I'm signing up for an online short course about this, so I am grateful at least in part for this PhD skills audit.

I've changed my blog name again... hopefully this makes the most sense and is the most appealing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Preliminary research on Ruth Crawford

Disability Studies and the PhD dissertation

The conference paper I gave on scholars with invisible illnesses has been published in the journal Music Theory Online, issue 15/3, August 2009. If anyone would like further details about the study I did, or would like the details to be published in blog form, please let me know. The article will also be published in an Israeli disability activist newsletter. I am still interested in disability studies, and am particularly interested in analysis of Ruth Crawford's late works in light of her diagnosis of intestinal cancer. Listening to the Suite No. 2 now...

I struggling with maintaining a regular work schedule as a part-time PhD student, especially since I have no local community. Mostly just working on my PhD skills audit as an Open University student. Any suggestions welcome.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's all this about fairness?

I'm not really sure what I'm doing with blogging, as I often don't have the time or health or readers to encourage me to pursue it. I see all my friends writing these lovely, thought-provoking blogs, and I want to do the same. However, I also don't like the idea of putting it all out there on the Internets for everyone to read.

What I'm going to pursue for this blog will be a collection of thought-provoking, not-necessarily-musicological-or-academic writing. I'll challenge myself to write one post a week. We'll see what happens.

In other news, academically, I've been active. I'll be posting the anonymous results of my Scholars with Disabilities survey soon. TBA.

OK, what I meant by this post was to go on about fairness in academia and this concept's relation to disability studies. Then, I was distracted and too busy. This theme of "fairness" is something that I came across over and over again when working on my study. For example, "It's not fair to give a disabled person more time, because everyone else has to complete assignments within another shorter period of time." This is an especially frustrating remark, because it makes no sense that someone who has to struggle just to type sentences on the computer should be denied the ability to take longer to complete assignments. Similarly, it seems more unfair that someone with demonstrated creativity and dedication should be told they cannot have accommodations because it "isn't fair" to other people in the program.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shame, Shame, Shame

As I've discussed earlier on this blog, I am conducting a study on music scholars and students with invisible, chronic illnesses. Please do not badger me with comments as to why I have not updated my blog. I am a very busy and/or infirm person and blogging is not, at the moment, high on my agenda. When I am not facing the challenges of my auto-immune diseases, I am functioning as a graduate student. However, I would like to occasionally blog about my study and what I'm thinking as I prepare for the AMS/SMT panel.

I have noticed, in my initial foray into disability studies, that there are two polarized viewpoints on the subject. There are those who want disability studies to be politicized and to enable those who are differently-abled to "come out" and be accommodated and supported for the unique contributions they can lend to academia. This viewpoint originated, I believe, because it is well-known that many people with disabilities have diseases or challenges that are chronic, serious and lifelong. Those with auto-immune diseases with no cure cannot help that they are often bedridden; those in wheelchairs because of diseases that attack their nervous system cannot help their inability to walk. This side of the argument views disability as culturally constructed, and challenges others to overcome their preconceived disrespect and prejudice against the disabled.

On the other side, there are those who want to keep their disabilities a secret, often because their conditions are considered shameful. For example: Mental illness, by and large, is still very marginalized in the United States. Also, there are various disabilities that can be corrected or at least drastically improved through scientific improvements. There was a thread on the American Musicological Society discussion list that presented this side of the argument, which argues against disability as a negative that must be corrected in order for its sufferers to fully function as academics.

Both viewpoints are valid and offer important insight into the predicament of the disabled. We did not ask to be this way, and with certain accommodations we can function as academics. Without these accommodations, many of us find even the act of writing papers or studying for an example to be insurmountable challenges. However, we do not want to be told we cannot do something because of our disability. To say we cannot study or cannot read or think because of a physical or mental ailment is psychologically destructive and marginalizing. It seems to be that both viewpoints are important in moderation. To an extent, disability is a cultural construct, because it was our culture that decided disability = BAD, IRREGULAR, UNACCEPTABLE, UNINTELLIGENT, etc. However, we still need certain accommodations and levels of tolerance of our challenges, and recognition of the setbacks we will therefore face. This does not mean we are not good enough to be academics, or even that we are want to leave our disabilities behind and try to live life as "normal," just that we will need help in our endeavors for these unavoidable challenges.

MOREOVER, the scholars I have talked to overwhelmingly experience some level of shameful feelings because of their conditions. They feel marginalized by their institutions and are, to an extent, embarrassed to ask for what they perceive as "special treatment." This is a huge problem, and is just unacceptable. No one should feel shame for being born with both above-average intelligence, a love for music, a high curiosity and desire for knowledge, and also moderate-to-severe illnesses. We are a viable part of the academic community, and without our voices, we and other scholars who could benefit from our research will suffer.

Currently Listening...

  • Pearl and the Beard
  • The Dodos
  • Andrew Bird: Armchair Apocrypha
  • Anna Ternheim
  • NOFX
  • Fairiborz Lachini
  • The Clash
  • Rufus Wainwright: Rufus Does Judy
  • Radiohead: In Rainbows

Currently Watching...

  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Mad Men
  • South Park
  • Zach Galifinakis

Currently Reading...

  • Bill Bryson: A History of Nearly Everything
  • Gabriel Garcia-Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • The House of Leaves
  • Robertson Davies: The Rebel Angels

The World Outside


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