About a month ago, I became/went ABD (All But Dissertation, for those fortunate to have avoided such a silly acronym). I did so before the official beginning of my fourth year in the PhD program, which puts me right on track with the norm. In our program, you’re meant to be done with your coursework, minor field, comprehensive exams, and dissertation prospectus by the end of your third year, and I just made it. So hoo-ray for that. Since then, I’ve been busying myself with teaching two classes (African American history is going quite well, thank you for asking), occasionally looking through microfilm for an article I’m revising, and playing Civilization, one of my favorite video games of all time. What I haven’t been doing is my dissertation. I’ve read a few books, spoken with some people in the field, and put in a few billable hours of “thought” or “conceptualization,” but I haven’t done any real research. Nor have I looked into fellowships and grants, which I’m pretty sure I should be doing.
Today, I make a concerted effort to do what I should be doing. But what should I be doing, exactly? The last three years have consisted of identifiable hoops through which to jump. Now I’m on my own, equipped with a vague sense of what I need to accomplish–get fellowships, write a dissertation, get a job–but little idea of how to do those things, exactly. There are some more experienced graduate students whose example I can try to follow, but (a) I’m frankly unimpressed by much of their work and their (lack of) progress; (b) no one provides specifics on what they’re doing, exactly; and (c) everyone’s case is different.
So off I go.