So while I was taking my courses, I was a PhD or doctoral student. Now that my courses have come to an end, I have started candidacy exams to hopefully embark on the next stage of my program. If I am successful, I will become a PhD candidate who has demonstrated the theoretical knowledge and research skills necessary to begin my own program of research. So what does candidacy involve? If you follow me on social media, you probably saw my exhausted and overwhelmed posts from the library, coffeehouses, and my little apartment in the last couple of weeks. I pretty much lived on popcorn and wore my fuzzy robe all the time...except when I went to yoga or the left the house. Candidacy is the hardest thing that I've ever done in my life...here's the breakdown:
1) First step is to form a committee: a committee consists of your supervisor, another faculty member from the same department, and someone from a different department or faculty at UVic. I have three people on my committee at the moment, and the third member is from the psychology department. I believe that a fourth member will be added down the road who will serve as my external examiner when I defend my dissertation.
2) Submit a candidacy proposal: this is a 5-10 page paper that outlines the direction of my future research. It includes an introduction, rationale, significance of my research, theoretical framework, research design, and review of the literature. It is really hard to fit all of that into ten pages, but we are encouraged to be succinct at the PhD level, or "parsimonious" as the Dean of Education says! My candidacy proposal was hugely challenging. All year I had planned to research community and family experiences of project-based learning in early years. but my supervisor felt that this might be limiting for my future prospects...and it wasn't aligned with the funding priorities for Canada's big research council that funds research. I knew that she was totally right of course, but it meant a switch in topics this spring. I'd spent the whole year amassing literature on project-based learning and diving deep into the topic. When we decided to change my topic, it was like starting from the beginning a month before candidacy started. My new topic investigates how technology is being used with young children in rural and urban Manitoba as well as teacher purpose for using technology. This area is another huge passion of mine and I have a lot of practical experience, but I had no idea about the body of research out there.
3) Present the candidacy proposal: I submitted my candidacy proposal on June 25 and my committee had about ten days to review it. On July 5, I met with the three members of my committee. I gave an informal presentation about my proposal that lasted about 25 minutes, then they asked me questions for another 25 minutes. Answering questions from three experienced researchers was very intimidating; however, I really felt like all my years of teaching and presenting had prepared me for this moment. Based on my proposal, they decided that I was ready to begin the candidacy process. I really wasn't sure if they would accept my proposal or not, because it just seemed so last minute and thrown together--although I worked really hard on it, I felt like I didn't have a handle on my new topic or the research design. But as my supervisor reassured me after the meeting, everyone feels exactly like that (or else she's just really nice).
4) The first question: after I left, my committee met and decided on two questions for me. One question is about research design and the other one focuses on theory and a literature review. I received my first question on Friday, July 6, which meant I had exactly one week to write and submit a 20-25 page paper answering my question. My supervisor is no longer allowed to help me as now is the time for me to demonstrate strong and independent academic work.
|My research process is a messy one|
So what am I doing for the next two weeks? Hanging out on the beach and doing lots of yoga? Well, I'll probably go to yoga everyday, but I have a new task right now. I'm applying for a research grant from SSHRCC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) which is a big process...it's unlikely that I will receive one as a first-year PhD student, but it's worth a try I guess.
If I pass both questions, I will defend my candidacy in a formal presentation and question session. If I make it through that, I will officially be a PhD candidate! It seems like a long way away, and I'm not confident in my ability to make it through all these challenges. I'm trying hard to only think about my current task, otherwise it just seems really overwhelming. When I move back to Manitoba, I'm returning to Oak Lake Community School to teach Senior Kindergarten every other day. The rest of my time will hopefully be dedicated to writing my ethics application and research proposal.
This first year has been a time of huge growth both professionally and personally (read more about my first term here and here), and it's far from over. I'm looking at another year to get ready to conduct research, a year to collect data, and then at least another year or two of data analysis and dissertation-writing and editing. Stay tuned--with some luck and a lot of hard work, I hope to be planning a huge graduation party in about four years!