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Thoughts about My Doctoral Experience

September 28, 2012

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a relaxing weekend planned and that your Friday is going well. Today, I just want to write a short post about some thoughts on my recently completed doctoral experience. I felt the need to write this post because I’ve been getting a steady flow of questions from students who are interested in the program that I completed and I’m hoping that this post may help anyone thinking about applying to the Gateway PhD Program.

First, I have to say that the website about the Gateway PhD Program is a wealth of information and I highly recommend combing through it if you are thinking about the program. But I know that it can be useful to talk to someone who has gone through the program so I’m going to give my personal thoughts here about the program and what I think you need to succeed.

The program was a great fit for me. I wanted to go through a doctoral program, but I needed to keep working full-time in order to support myself and right after I was hired at my current position, this program opened up literally down the road from my house. I applied, got accepted, and really never looked back. I think that there are many reasons that the program worked so well, the two main reasons being the supervisors and the cohort model.

My supervisors, both from San José and from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), were absolutely fabulous. They pushed me to be more precise, more informed, and better able to defend my research and conclusions. They made me such a better scholar and communicator than I was at the beginning of the program. They were also so supportive and helpful. The residencies, when I could meet in person with my supervisors, were energizing. The monthly online meetings were also useful in checking in and keeping in contact so I never felt on my own.

My cohort, along with the other students in the program, was and is an incredible group of people and a wonderful support group. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and friends in my cohort. We are still in touch and I’m sure will remain so. Isolation was not a problem, which I know can be a worry to some who are thinking about this mainly online program.

Another reason why I’m so thankful for my doctoral experience is that the QUT model, which is used in this collaborative program, is based on research and reading, not classes. I had no desire to sit through more classes and appreciated this model where I was expected to know my field, the literature, and start thinking deeply about my potential area of research on day one. And for those who might be wondering if the program provides breadth since there are no classes, it completely does because it behooves you to read widely on theories, methodologies, methods, and current research in order to understand and to help your fellow students with their research when they bring it to the group. I now know more about grounded theory, case studies, public funding of libraries in Canada, social networks, etc. than I ever thought I’d know. It has been wonderful and helps me so much in one of my current roles as a member of EBLIP’s Evidence Summary Team.

So what do I think you need to succeed in this program or a similar one? I think you need to be self-motivated, independent, willing to listen and learn from others, and deeply passionate about research. Since there are fewer hard deadlines for deliverables, since there are no classes, self-motivation and discipline is key to staying on track. Being independent helps in not feeling lonely when you are staring at your computer screen for 8 hours by yourself with piles of notes and books sitting around you. On the flip side, being willing and able to listen and learn from others is so important. I saved so much time on paperwork and forms by listening to the experiences of others. I learned how to avoid pitfalls in research and figure out time-saving tricks by listening. Be a sponge and soak it all in and then discern what will be useful for you. Being deeply passionate about research and your chosen subject is essential. Without this passion, the process would be unbearable. With this passion, the stumbling blocks are only temporary setbacks and there is the joy of discovery in the midst of a lot of hard work.

So that concludes my thoughts this Friday on my doctoral experience. I’m always happy to answer questions about the program for those who are interested, just contact me in comments or via email.

Also, I’ll be speaking with two of my doctoral program colleagues at the Library 2.012 Conference going on online next week. You can see the full schedule here. We’ll be speaking on October 3 at 9am PDT if anyone is interested in hearing about turning your thesis and dissertation research into conference presentations and articles. The sessions are going to be recorded so you can listen to them later, too.

Now, to leave you with something fun to get you ready for the weekend, I give you this kitty wandering out in the wide world because I hope you’ll take some time to explore this weekend, too, dear readers.

photo of kitten walking down a road by herself

“Exploring This Big World” by Piccsy via Beautiful Portals Tumblr

Have a wonderful weekend full of exploring, relaxing, and reading, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more. Allons-y!

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