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A journal: progressing forward

Happy New Year! Stay warm!

Happy New Year! Stay warm & dry (& upright)!


I hope that the start of the winter term has been going smoothly for everyone and that everyone is surviving this crazy weather. I have spent a large part of this past week (our first official week back) putting together a progress report for a committee meeting a couple of weeks from now. In Biology, we are required to meet with our committee (our Supervisor(s), 1 faculty member from our research area and 1 not from our research area and 1 external to the department) at least once every calendar year.

Interesting fact: I am one semester into the second year of my PhD and I have never written a progress report. At the beginning of my masters I had a meeting with my supervisory committee to get advice about the project I was proposing and then in the blink of an eye (or so it seemed) I defended it. I had a meeting with my committee about 9 months ago (6 months into my PhD) where I did the same thing, except proposed a different project for my PhD. Now I have to sum up the last 9 months in a few short pages. I had absolutely no idea where to begin. This is my story (dun, dun).

Monday: Wake up. La dee da da daaaa. Beginning of a new term and no more field work for me, which is good news given Mother Nature’s recent affair with Jack Frost. Slide on down (literally) to campus for a start of term meeting with the good ole Supervisor. “Committee meeting,” he utters. How dare he use the ‘c’word? It’s only the first day back. “Next week,” he adds. NEXT WEEK?? Is this real life? Despite many attempts to look fearful and nervous, he’s persistent. Ok. So, this is clearly happening. I can do this. “Write a progress report!” he says. Progress report? What’s that? I have no idea, so I might as well just worry about that tomorrow. But to get a head start I’ll e-mail committee members (I have 4) with a doodle, and suggest 15 possible meeting times the following week.

Tuesday: Wake up. Check e-mail. Oh, everyone did the doodle, yay! Wait a second…there isn’t a time that everyone can attend, shoot! Re-do doodle for the following week and cross my fingers (or not). Open Microsoft word and type my name and the title…oh wait I don’t have a title yet, so how about Progress report. Yeah, that’ll do. Progress report….progress report…progress report. Oh better type my name! Wait I already did that. Flash, flash, flash goes the cursor.

Wednesday: Wake up. Check e-mail. The doodle is complete and there is 1 of 18 new times that everyone can make. Guess that’ll have to do. Confirm date and time. Book room. Open Progress report. Oh darn! It didn’t write itself overnight. Leaf through my field book to try and spark my memory about what I did this summer. Oh look something shiny…

Thursday: Wake up. Check e-mail…not really expecting anything exciting but it’s a good distraction from the real task ahead. Progress report…progress report….progress report. What does progress even mean? I’ll google it. Progress: the forward or onward movement toward a destination. Ok. So destination is the end of my PhD. So I guess the question I really need to answer is what I have done in the past 9 months to steer me in the direction of that destination. I start by writing out my project’s questions, the respective methods for each question that I completed over the past nine months including setting up my massive main experiment and collecting data for two others and then I finish with the predictions for each question. Wow, that was a productive day. Reward self with cider and deep fried dill pickles at the Grad Club.

Friday: Wake up. Write. Rewrite. Reword. Make a timeline for how my project will progress from here on out. This part challenged me. When your project (like mine) is a field experiment it often ends up being at a total standstill at this time of the year #fieldbiologistproblems #ygkice #canadianwinters. That being said when I realized that my looming qualifying (comprehensive) exam is less than 2 months away, it was easy to fill in that blank. Send off for revisions and wait for the massacre or some massacre-like event.

All in all my first progress report took a while, but I managed. I figured the start of the term might be a popular time for these types of reports so hopefully this little journal about my progress report: 1) helps you work through your ideas 2) doesn’t confuse you and 3) makes for an interesting look into the inner workings of my mind which is indeed an interesting place to say the least!

Anyone else out there writing a progress report? I’d love to hear about your experiences, tips, tricks, etc!

Posted in All, General, New Students, Student Perspective, Thesis, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,
2 comments on “A journal: progressing forward
  1. Colette Steer says:

    Good one Amanda. I like the links and your honesty! Time to write out a plan for the year? Does anyone have some ideas to share?

  2. Sharday says:

    Something I never seemed to have internalized the same way I did with, say, the how, when, and why of critically questioning an article as I read it, is the how, when, and why of devising a structure for writing projects, whether mostly administrative or theoretical. I love writing. It’s a big part of my sense of self. But despite that–or maybe because of it–I have always tended to let it unfold as it will. And the writing projects tend to take so much time from start to finish–and from the finish of one to the start of another–that I often failed to notice a pattern in what about them worked or didn’t work. To know that the first step of any task is to transform it into a question like “what I have done in the past 9 months to steer me in the direction of [the completion of my PhD]?” is to massively streamline things by giving yourself an automatic place to start.

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