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X. Establish Yourself as a Member of the Research Community

Apr 27, 2011 by Dr Sally

Join the Community of Scholars

The extent to which you participate in, become involved with, and begin to identify with a community of scholars will have important implications for the success and quality of your doctoral experience.

This sense of integration into the academic community begins with active participation in the activities of your department. You are much more likely to experience academic and social integration if your program offers you financial support in the form of teaching or research assistantships or fellowships. Securing office space in the proximity of other faculty and students in the department is one means of increasing the opportunities for developing the critically important relationships that are likely to sustain you throughout the process. Other ways of building relationships in your department include serving on committees and attending colloquia and other events.

It is equally important to become a player in the larger research community by subscribing to professional journals, joining professional associations, attending professional meetings, and presenting and publishing your work, although a good rule to follow is that you should already have written these papers for a course or as part of your dissertation. You do not want to be adding extra writing work to your already busy writing and research dissertation schedule.
These activities serve to validate your emerging Creative Scholar and signal that you are ready to make that transformation into the world of academia.

From Networking to Relationship Building

Gaining entry into the research community requires attending conferences, meeting others in the field, and getting your message out. But to be successful at building a network of supporters requires more than just introducing yourself at conferences. To be a successful networker means understanding the power of personal relationships and having a plan to build them. It means making the effort and taking the time to develop relationships.

One of the ways to meet other researchers is to plug-in to the on-line communities with scholars who share your interests. Join the conversation and cultivate your professional identity. Then make a point of meeting people you have been corresponding with at conferences. Another way of meeting fellow researchers is by presenting at conferences. And when you present at conferences, people will approach you to find out more about your work. Make the effort to attend workshops, serve on committees, join the organizations in your field. And nurture the relationships with the people you meet. Talk about your research interests and listen to theirs. Learn about their work. Maintain the relationships with e-mail. And reconnect at conferences. Be open to opportunities to collaborate and exchange writings and ideas.

The most effective way of creating a dissertation support structure for yourself and to avoid being left in a lurch is to create and nurture new relationships that support your Creative Scholar. You will create a feeling of belonging to a shared community that supports and values you!

Speaking Out!

Growing your professional identity involves active participation in conferences and workshops, publishing papers on your scholarly work, and developing and maintaining contact with colleagues in your field.

Attending professional conferences provides an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of what is going on in your field and to build relationships with researchers who share your interests. Observe others’ presentations and see for yourself what works best and what mistakes to avoid. Conferences also provide opportunities for interviewing potential employers and representatives of funding agencies and for finding publishers for your scholarly efforts.

Presenting at conferences establishes you as a serious member of the research community. The more you step into your future role, the easier it becomes. However, the first time you present at a conference, read over your presentation with your advisor or someone with more experience than you so that you avoid some common mistakes. By all means, practice before a group of peers before you get to the conference.

If you fear public speaking, recognize how important public speaking is to successfully defend your dissertation and to build a successful academic career. Find a good coach or a class and begin to develop your speaking skills.

Publishing

Publishing papers is also important to establish yourself as a member of the research community. If you plan on an academic career, begin to establish a record of publications during your graduate training. Published papers not only affirm your Creative Scholar, but they can make the difference in obtaining a job, not to mention boosting your credibility with your committee. Once you are a recognized member of the Academy with a record of publications, you will gain the respect of your committee and will gain the right to be treated as a colleague.

Begin submitting for publication early in your graduate career. Typically, students’ first publications are co-authored with an advisor or someone else who is well published. Usually faculty have established a track record with particular journals and have a good idea of what is likely to be accepted or at least can point you to a journal that would have an interest in your work.

Each journal has its own requirements for content, style, length, and guidelines that are spelled out by the publication, either online under “Submissions” or in the first few pages of the publication. As you are learning the preferred writing styles of your profession, you will want to acquire the appropriate guidelines and style manuals, and you may want to obtain one of the various software programs that provide assistance formatting and citations. However, you should never rely on software entirely, and you will want to have an experienced proofreader look over your papers if you are unsure of your own abilities in this area. If you do not have a faculty advisor who is willing or able to do this for you, professional editors specialize in this service. If you are submitting to a refereed journal, solicit critical feedback from researchers at other institutions familiar with your topic to first obtain some friendly, but objective comments before your submission.

Since it often takes a year or longer from submission to publication, begin work on the next paper so that you establish the writing habit and have several works in progress. Typically, conference papers can be revised and turned into journal submissions. But you cannot send an article to more than one publication at a time. You must wait until you hear back from one publication before you resubmit your article to the next. So it makes a great deal of common sense to set up a yearly cycle of one or two conference presentations, conference papers, subsequent journal articles. This habit will ensure success in graduate school and in the years ahead in the Academy.

But what if your paper is rejected? No doubt you will be bitterly disappointed, but don’t give up! Rejection is always painful so learn not to dwell on it. Put the reviews aside for a short time, but no longer than a week or it will get increasingly difficult to start up again. When the initial sting is lessened, revisit the reviews. If the criticisms are valid, decide how you can address them and resubmit as soon as possible. If no comments are included, ask for copies of the reviewers’ evaluations.

Sometimes a journal will ask for revisions and sometimes it will simply reject a paper. If you have been rejected, revise your manuscript and submit it somewhere else at once. Just keep trying until you get a “Yes!” If you try several refereed journals and receive rejections, try some that are not refereed. If that does not work, submit to student publications. If you can come to terms with rejection and see it instead as a critical part of the academic review process, you will have gained an important dissertation survival skill.

Thank you for following this blog series on getting the support you need to complete your dissertation. Take your time selecting your advisor and committee members and nurture those relationships. By building connections with your peers and with a community of scholars, you will create a powerful support structure for yourself and will avoid the isolation that defeats so many capable and hardworking would-be PhDs.

  • CHERYL LAMBERT says:

    Aug 14, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Interested in joining.,

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