Wow. Hard to believe we have already come full circle and completed our first year of graduate school!
Before recapping this semester and the year as a whole, I would like to briefly go over the my committee meeting from last week:
Overall, I thought discussions were productive, complimentary, and critical when needed. It seemed like all of the members were impressed by the amount of research I had collected and the literature I had read and collected as “comparable to that of a Ph.D. candidate.” My method was well understood: material culture as a lens into socio-cultural pastimes. With exception to log structures, I feel every member was in agreement with the appropriateness and usefulness of the objects I had chosen to analyze.
Moving forward, however, the committee did suggest that I will need to restrain and confine my focus a bit more. Everyone was pleased to see that I had taken their individual advice in breaking down topical considerations to a particular set of people and their niches, they insisted, however, that I be even more precise in my focus statement. “It is a MA thesis,” one member admonished me to repeat to myself here on. Admittedly, it was a tad hard to articulate to my members where I was coming from with regards to my argument(s) or premise(s). This was likely due to the size of the committee and some members having to leave early. Nevertheless, I agreed with their points and even anticipated that they would suggest that I continue to hone in on a manageable and more precise focus. I foresee my focus shifting to just German communities as the material evidence I have is predominately German-based objects. Doing so will still allow me to talk about cross-cultural interactions, I am just using these German families/ communities as a topical stage to discuss broader themes concerning NRV social and cultural foundations up to 1810.
I made sure before any members left that I would be sending them draft edits throughout the summer, while I am out doing field work or visiting archives/ museums. In addition, at the insistence of Dr. Puckett, I will be conducting some very brief oral histories of descendants of the NRV first families (Linkous, Price, Harman, McDonald, Kent, Harvey, Ingles, etc.)
In review, this semester was tough. Very tough. I had expected that my Fall semester would be more like Spring. The combo of thesis proposal writing and a research project of similar length was a daunting task. While I do see the benefit in assigning both classes at the same time, I did feel at times that focus for one was cut for the other.
Looking back at this year, I feel I need to make some continued improvement in my writing. I believe anyone would agree that I digest, analyze and vocally articulate my thoughts quite well. For some untenable reason, however, I seem to fall short when it comes to writing out my thoughts. Among my most commonly committed actions: clause use, long sentences, passive voice, word choice, sentence structure, are the most identifiable writing foibles. I have begun looking at several works that I have been advised to use over the summer.
Otherwise I cannot begin to be thankful for Dr. Jones and especially my group members (Kristin, Betsy) who have been an invaluable resource in identifying where and when I needed improvement throughout my drafts. This semester was a valuable experience and a mile marker that is now crossed. Let the research and editing/ writing begin!