Monday, May 13, 2013

Blogging to My PhD: For Real This Time

Remember how I said I was going to blog about each of the texts on my exam list as I prepared for my comprehensive PhD exam? Then do you remember how I did it for about two weeks and stopped?

Yeah. Things got a little hectic. Then things got a lot hectic. I realized I was not going to be able to take exams this summer like I had hoped, so now I am taking them at the end of Christmas break. That makes it sound like I have a lot of time, but there are about 80 texts on my list, and in the fall I will be teaching four classes (on top of, you know, raising a family and whatnot). That means that this summer has to be reading-intensive.

So, I'm renewing my efforts, and I'm writing this to explain all of the random posts about ancient rhetoric (which will soon be followed by random posts about less-ancient rhetoric. Promise.)

Here're some of my books. Aren't they beautiful!?

So, if you've been through/are currently going through studying for comprehensive exams, what are your tips?


  1. I am looking forward to it all. Really. I find the study rhetoric fascinating (promise I am not being sarcastic) and I appreciate your perspective.

  2. I seriously have no idea how you find the time (or energy!) to blog in the midst of teaching/family/prepping for exams! When I was at that stage, all my free time went to cooking/baking, reading novels, and trash TV to give my brain a break!

    The best advice I received was to keep lots of good notes on each thing I read, particularly copying down all the good quotes I thought I would use (with correct citations in place). When I was trying to make a point, I could page through the notes on the relevant texts and then just copy and paste or paraphrase the supporting text without having to go back through the books.

    I also assigned a mass of keywords to each. They I could say broad sweeping
    things ("All of humanity is....") and look down the keyword list to make
    sure I remembered everyone who had actually said such a thing.

    I'm old school, so I ended up printing everything and color coding it in a binder, (I've had friends who just tag documents in EndNote) so I never had to get the actual books back out, just paged through my massive binder to pull my outlines together. It helped immensely!

    Best of luck with the prep!

  3. I'd love to know your book list for insight on ancient rhetoric. I can also learn from you on how to survive earning a PhD with everything else going on!

  4. Good luck!! I am taking my exams in September, so I will be reading all summer, too. You will be my inspiration!!

  5. Thank you for these tips! They are great. I especially needed to hear the "limiting note taking to two pages" and "even if I have to 'read' six books a week." I really think that my greatest obstacle is going to be my tendency to overdo it and try to carefully read every word and take notes as if I'm writing a detailed paper on each text, which just isn't going to be possible (or very useful, probably).

  6. September! Good luck! You'll have to let me know all your best advice when you get done.

  7. Oh my word, yes. One of the things that everyone told me (and I didn't believe) was that once I had written the first exam I would realize how ridiculously over-prepared I was. And it was true.

    You will be astounded how little time/space you actually have in the end to discuss everything you have read.

    I'm also someone who naturally errs on the side of too much detail in note-taking, so this was actually quite a useful exercise for me (and has proved helpful with the dissertation as well).