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1wasistweimar Primeira Mensagem
Jul 26, 2006, 6:07pm

How many hours of work a day do you have to do to get rid of the lingering guilt?

(Now we could go high and brag, or we could lowball it and make everyone feel good--how many hours of work a day does it take to get rid of the lingering paranoia? The suspicion that the department made a horrible mistake in admitting you? Oh God, am I the only one??)

Jul 26, 2006, 6:30pm

wasistweimar, you have spoken to the very essence of everything that is "graduate student" in me. How many careers involve the impulse to work in the middle of the night, and a profound feeling of guilt if you choose instead to, say, go to sleep? (Ok, perhaps several.)

Another strange effect of my graduate student lifestyle: I have had a lifetime habit of daily voracious reading. In the months leading up to my oral (qualifying) exams, I read at a pace previously inconceivable to me, putting away huge quantities of The Faerie Queene or obscure works of historical tragedy by Dryden at a single sitting. After I passed my exams, I found myself actually UNABLE to read for several months. I mean I genuinely felt slightly ill when I caught sight of a book. Many of my colleagues who also study literature report the same horrific burnout, although sometimes it is less complete, as when it takes the form of being only able to read Harlequin Romances.

So here is my question for the group: is this a symptom confined to those of us who study literature, or does it apply to everyone who goes through the intensive reading involved in qualifying exams?

(By the way, I have now fully recovered from my reading surfeit and am a contented bibliophile once more.)

Jul 26, 2006, 6:59pm

I need to confess up front that I'm a would-be-soon-to-be grad student. I'll be applying this fall to start next fall (I'll be done with my Bachelor's in a few months).

So I'm here to be a fly on the wall and read what everyone has to say on the topic of life as a graduate student. :)

4RicardusTheologus Primeira Mensagem
Jul 27, 2006, 1:22pm

Well, I'm in grad school wondering what I am doing here and wondering how many more languages I have to learn! Thus far it has been Greek, Latin, and now, Arabic. My brain is so fried with learning grammar and vocabulary, using different alphabet systems, and writing in different directions!
I've been told German and then French and/or Italian and then perhaps Spanish. There has to be an end to this nightmare! I have been reading books on Islamic Occasionalism and the history of Islamic Philosophy and Kalam (speculative theology). I want it all to end so I can work out at the gym and check the magnificent female specimens that are kicking my ass in the aerobics classes!

5kcasada Primeira Mensagem
Jul 28, 2006, 8:25am

Personally, sycoraxpine, I intersperse a lot of Harlequins with my reading on medieval Hispano-Arab garden imagery . . . .

6Chelidona Primeira Mensagem
Jul 28, 2006, 12:49pm

Why is it that every time I have a major school deadline - such as 6 pm tonight - do I find the most interesting things on the web. I think I have been working on my catalog and surfing this site for the past 3 hours. Today is my first day as a library thing person and I think I am hooked!

Jul 28, 2006, 1:01pm

I think there's a law about that . . .

Jul 28, 2006, 1:01pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

9RabidGerbil Primeira Mensagem
Jul 28, 2006, 6:28pm

I'm in the sciences and I had a similar burn-out period where I didn't want to look at anything nonfiction (not even things way out of my field like history). I didn't stop reading entirely - light fiction was the only thing that kept me sane throughout the exams and the burn-out period.

Jul 28, 2006, 7:39pm

I completed my 1st year in the library science graduate program in May. Now I'm taking 2 summer classes.
I'm in grad school full time and live on campus. The majority of my university's student body is undergrads so we grad students get lost in the crowd.
I've been able to have time to participate in campus life but still the workload...

Jul 29, 2006, 12:54am

kcasada said "I intersperse a lot of Harlequins with my reading on medieval Hispano-Arab garden imagery..."

I've just learned that someone wrote a romance novel about Kierkegaard (it's called Loving Soren, I am waiting with baited breath for its arrival) -- so I've now decided to combine research with Harlequinning. Nothing alleviates stress like bodice rippers about your thesis subjects!

Jul 29, 2006, 1:17am

There's also Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets by Jude Morgan which I got for a good friend of mine getting his doctoral in Literature. One day I'll get it for myself, as well!

*waves to all* I'm a bit of a hasbeen here, I suppose, as I just finished my master's in May and am looking for that elusive bird, "employment"...perhaps barring that, I'll join you all properly again for a doctoral!

Jul 29, 2006, 5:07pm

Actually, it's usually Silhouette romances. They're tamer. (No bodice-ripping.) For anybody fighting with Arabic, allow me to gleefully recommend Cara Colter's Precious Gifts. I got to help her put some Arabic lines in there for the hero. I also want to read Loving Soren. Has anybody else here read The Lions of Al-Rassan?

14smfmpls Primeira Mensagem
Jul 31, 2006, 2:38pm

I read YA novels to get my brain back in order, which is especially nice after a long day in front of the microfilm machines. I find myself reading even more novels recently, I think to avoid writing that last chapter.

I did read The Lions of Al-Rassan: was that the one in crypto-medieval Spain, with the physician character? I'm a historian of medicine, so it was of professional interest as well. All of his books blend together for me, I'm afraid.

Jul 31, 2006, 8:08pm

Yep, that was it. I haven't gotten through any of his others, though.

Ago 1, 2006, 12:44am

sycoraxpine: You describe a textbook case of PQS. It is an affliction common to all graduate students. In my opinion, the best treatment is this stuff.

17Sydney Primeira Mensagem
Ago 1, 2006, 10:19pm

daschaich - that's FANTASTIC! You provided me with a valuable hour of amusing procrastination today. And now back to preparing for prelims, lest I never progress to where you *advanced* folks are now.

Ago 2, 2006, 12:08am

I agree! What a great website. I have already sent links to a bunch of grad school friends. They must share in the joy of it.

19lettie Primeira Mensagem
Ago 2, 2006, 11:50am

I'm about to start my library graduate school course. For the past i have been working in a library in preperation for the course, and have been trying to shake the student lifestyle and now i'm going back to it. To say i'm confused would be an understatement cause i am currently neither a student or started working properly people have no idea how to react to me when they say so what do you do and i have to answer with my whole life history! Also does anyone know when you stop living like a student?

20Sniv Primeira Mensagem
Ago 3, 2006, 1:49pm

"Also does anyone know when you stop living like a student?"

Do we have to stop?

Ago 4, 2006, 1:57am

Wait, is there a particular way that students stop living? Like, one too many No-Doz and the heart explodes, or terminal boredom?

I hope to stop living through natural causes... ;)

Ago 4, 2006, 8:23am

Now this is getting very deep! I'll rephrase the question. when we eventually stop being official students at get actually real jobs do we start living differently?

Ago 4, 2006, 1:42pm

I gotta say that I tried the stopping of student-dom and it just didn't take. Maybe because my lifestyle didn't change all that much?

Ago 4, 2006, 1:47pm

Stop, Sydney, stop! You're scaring me to death! ;)

Ago 6, 2006, 8:24am

It's been two years since I finished my PhD, but I'll share a few thoughts with those of you who are still climbing up the mountain.

-- In the last two months of writing my dissertation, I saw Return of the King in the theater at least once a week. Just to see the look on Frodo's face after the Ring went into the fire.

-- At graduation I asked about a dozen new PhDs in English what they had been reading since finishing their dissertations. The unanimous answer: Harry Potter.

-- You should expect to fall apart a little bit when it's over. It took me about a year to adjust to not having to work all the time.

-- Even if you don't work as a professional academic, you don't have to stop being a student/scholar. There are plenty of opportunities to go to conferences, give paper, even publish if you want to. Scholarship is a way of life and an end in itself.

Good luck to all!


Ago 9, 2006, 9:52am

I'm just getting to the end of the 3rd year of my PhD. My money's about to run out, and I'd love to finish asap, but I reckon it's going to be at least another year, judging from my friends / colleagues.

How many hours do I work? Never enough. I have phases of really appalling procrastination - I mean whole days in front of the computer where nothing really gets done - and then I have weeks where I don't leave the house, and just sit up all night in front of the computer, smoking and drinking coffee until I can't see straight any more. Then I go to sleep, get up and start again. I don't seem to be able to work in a more measured way; it's all or nothing!

I agree with sycoraxpine that the strangest/worst aspect of doing a PhD is the feeling of guilt (or blind panic) which can strike at any time. I'm sure some of my friends in 'proper' jobs work harder, but at least on a Friday night they can really relax (without the gnawing feeling of 'I really should be working').

Ago 9, 2006, 1:23pm

eccentrica, having just finished my 1st year of D.Phil, I feel exactly the same :) I was rather hoping that this summer vac would be a smoking/coffee/work bonanza, but it's rather turning out to be a procrastination marathon! There's plenty more time to get that chapter finished...

Ago 9, 2006, 4:15pm

I took a vacation right after quals, so I did some light reading then (some David Eddings and The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde) but after that I didn't read anything for about a month - and I'm in the sciences, so it's not as though I was reading (many) books for my quals in the first place.

And wasistweimar, in response to your original post, I think everyone goes through a period of thinking that they've got no business being in grad school at all - mine lasted for about my first year and a half before it went away... to be replaced with panic about quals... which was then replaced with panic about my proposal... which is now replaced by panic in the face of trying to do all the work I said I was going to. :)

Ago 10, 2006, 12:31am

The hardest thing about working for a few years and then coming back to grad school is not having that 9-5 set period of "work" after which you are free to amuse yourself however you want, resulting in long periods of procrastination that run roughshod over all good intentions of working. And also those guilt-inspired periods of working that prevent you from having a weekend just for fun.

I'm another of those folks who always has to have a non-academic read in progress. Taking a class on Writing for Children required me to read YA books every week, and this is one of the best ways to relax. Plus, the books are shorter, so you don't feel as bad when you get sucked in and just have to finish before you can go to sleep.... As a high school English teacher-in-training, I'm glad I'll actually have an excuse for continuing this habit.

30verbaiche Primeira Mensagem
Ago 12, 2006, 12:52pm

Another procrastination-friendly link for the underpaid and overeducated:

Like another poster, I'm not IN a grad program but am in the process applying (for English). Already, I've gotten wonderful questions about what I'll "do" as an English PHD -- and not to mention what I'll do WITH an English PHD...

Ago 13, 2006, 8:31pm

Already, I've gotten wonderful questions about what I'll "do" as an English PHD -- and not to mention what I'll do WITH an English PHD...

People ask me the same about my film MFA. I usually answer, "Nothing worse than what I would do without it."

Ago 14, 2006, 11:25am

Good answer! Good answer!

Ago 22, 2006, 10:59pm

Reading children's and/or YA books is a great way to relax. My primary area is comp/rhet, but I also work with children's lit and I take every opportunity to "catch up" with that reading. I always feel refreshed after that.

And remember, a picture book might take just 10 minutes of your over-scheduled life!

Editado: Set 4, 2006, 6:39pm

From the tone of the question, I have to ask--is anybody here a fan of ?

I'm sure many have seen it...

Maybe especially relevant is this comic:

Set 5, 2006, 8:12am

Heh, I love Ph.D. comics. Jorge Cham gave a talk at my school last year - it was great.

The real question is: where on that graph is "messing around with my librarything tags instead of working"?

Set 10, 2006, 6:16pm

I am currently working on my second masters degree, a M.Ed. in Secondary Ed. My first is in Philosophy, and my BA is in Physics. Can you tell I have a lot of interests?

I agree with the others before that said they could not read anything after they finished their degree. After my MA in Phil, the only thing that I could even look at for over a year was Sci Fi. I would buy a phil book and shelve it in the 'to be read' section, and it would never get read. I was physically sick at the though of reading anything philosophical.

Thankfully I got over that.

Editado: Set 11, 2006, 9:05pm

Fyrefly, they have that productivity graph though... Heh

Set 18, 2006, 5:56am

I had a huge list of 'pleasure' reading to do over the summer when my course finished last term, but I only managed to read two books over the summer.

Now that my course resumes next week, I've been busily enjoying myself with loads of non course books knowing full well I need to read my course books. For some reason, everytime I try to read a course book, I'll read for finve minutes and then switch to a non course book.

And, when I have a paper due, I'm brilliant at coming up with everything in the world to do other than the assignment. When I was an undergrad and not working a full time job I could pull an all nighter to get the work finished, but now (I'm sure due to my age as well) the last all nighter I did nearly killed me.

39aproustian Primeira Mensagem
Set 20, 2006, 9:17am

Ok, I feel appropriately chastised--I'm a physics grad student, and among grad students (and undergrads) in the hard sciences, there's definately a prevailing smugness about how much harder it is to be us than to be a grad student in the humanities. But while I spend all hours doing quantum mechanics and electrodynamics homework, at least there's the happiness of getting a problem done--and the excuse then to read something fun. The idea of reading so much that you can't read anymore is really horrifying.

Set 20, 2006, 11:46am

The best is when you're handed a 4 page single spaced sheet of paper that contains the full reading list for the module; the module is only 6 weeks.

Fortunately, the reading for the module I start next week is not too bad.

41quisira Primeira Mensagem
Set 22, 2006, 5:17pm

as for the suspicion........ah well, have been fighting it for the past 4 years. In fact, there are already two departments who made a horrible mistake, the first one of course setting the second one up to do the same.

42Neferu Primeira Mensagem
Out 8, 2006, 7:07pm

I love PhD comics, too!

Out 24, 2006, 9:11pm

'siyo/hi folks,

I wanted to pass word along about this. Please pass word along!

Conference on Cultural Rhetorics
May 16-18, 2007
East Lansing, MI
Michigan State University

Call for Papers, Performances, and Exhibits

What are cultural rhetorics? Who writes, performs, displays, digitizes, crafts, and creates these rhetorics? What do they look like? How do specific cultural rhetorics differ from, overlap with, and/or engage in dialogue with Cultural, Ethnic, African American, Asian American, American Indian, Arab and Middle Eastern American, Chicano/a, Latina/o, Indigenous, Disability, Queer/LGBT, Performance, and Working-Class Studies? What are their relationships to Rhetoric Studies, Theory, and Pedagogy? Composition Studies? American Studies? Literary Studies? Digital, Visual, and Material Rhetorics? Scientific, technical, and professional communication studies? Are there pedagogies of cultural rhetorics? Methodologies? Theories? Performances? Materialities?

We welcome papers, performances, and exhibits that articulate, engage with, provoke, analyze, theorize, and practice cultural rhetorics. We are particularly interested in scholars/artists/performers/writers/knowledge workers that engage rhetorics that are too often marginalized, tokenized, silenced, and ignored. We welcome work that happens at the intersection of various disciplines and fields in the humanities and invite scholars, artists, and writers to join us at these intellectual and creative crossroads. Please join us in creating a space of radical interdisciplinarity in which to explore rhetoric as a distinctive constellation of methods, methodologies, and pedagogies for the study of culture and to think through how the frame of “culture” expands our understanding of rhetoric and the responsibility for rhetoric to be ethical in its engagement with culture.

While we are very interested in proposals for individual papers and panel presentations that address these questions and/or further scholarship in these areas, we especially encourage art, craft, multimedia, or imaginative resentations/demonstrations/installations that provoke other methods of intellectual engagement as well.

Proposals of 300-500 words may be submitted via US Mail or online. For the proposal form and submission process please visit our website: Please direct any questions to Malea Powell at

The deadline for submissions is January 1, 2007.

Dez 18, 2006, 11:35pm

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Jan 6, 2007, 10:49pm

The new semester is starting in about 2 weeks, and it will be my first as a grad student in my History Master's program. Most of my courses only require 3 books to read, but one class has a reading list of 21 books!

I've heard tales that long reading lists are normal at the graduate level. My first question, Group Members, is Why so many books?

My second question, what tips can you give how to read them all and process the information?

-- Robertus Minimus

Jan 8, 2007, 1:38am

Dang. They really expected me to *read* all the books on the lists? ;-)

21 required books or 21 recommended books? If recommended, check reviews on the internet (if history books, check sites by history buffs, not general "amazon" type sites) to see if the book is worth your time. Look online for a synopsis of books that look promising. That will give you a more in-depth overview than a review. Then pick a managable number to actually read.

If required? Pray? Sleep with them under your pillow?

Good luck!

Jan 9, 2007, 1:00pm

I've had classes like that. Usually don't have to read the whole book, but just sections from it. Or, it will be on the "recommended" list, which for one of my professors means, "pretty much required for grad students, who should want to read everything out there in their field anyway."

Just make sure you read a few hours every night so you don't get behind.

Jan 9, 2007, 2:13pm

I've finished all my course work in my PhD program in history and I've found along the way in grad school that often a course may have a certain number of required books, but that individual students may only have to read about half or a third of them. In other words the class may be divided so that one half is responsible for reading and reporting on half the books while the other part of the class does the remaining books. I've had that happen several times.

Jan 10, 2007, 10:06pm

I've heard of heavy reading loads in grad school. I didn't have a huge load in library school but it still took time to read assigned chapters and required articles.

Jan 10, 2007, 10:48pm

You have grad classes that only have three books? *Sob* Almost all of the classes I've taken (including all of the reading seminars) have required 8-12 books + journal articles. Reading them is not optional. Last semester, I was averaging over 300 pages of text per class per week of reading (I'm doing a masters in History (medieval europe & middle east)) for a 15 week semester

The only way I managed was to work out what I needed to read carefully and what I could skim. Books I only had to discuss that I didn't have to review or otherwise include in papers, I skimmed: first paragraphs, conclusions, whizzing through the rest... It is the only way to remain sane, especially when my texts included 300 pages of post-modernist claptrap on the evils of empire that could have been written in klingon for all the clarity therein. Books I had to review, I still skimmed, but jotted down keywords, important arguments and a few choice quotes by page number when they jumped out at me. Helped a lot later processing the information into a useful form and for referencing.

Another thing I usually do is to email the instructor in advance and ask what books are going to be set in the first few weeks. That way, I can get a jump on the reading before the semester begins. (An added advantage is that I can order the texts over the internet instead of getting them from the college bookstore - which overcharges - saving some moolah)

Others in the class joined up into reading groups, each person in the group taking a section of text and then meeting up before the class and summarizing their sections for each other. Not too bad an idea for a generalist text, but some of the more complex works need the whole text to stand together.

I have also pretty much given up my social life during the semester. Who needs a social life? Not me. No sirree. *Twitch*

Anyhoo, good luck in your studies RM. And have fun.

Jan 12, 2007, 4:30pm

Reading is like working out -- you build up stamina by doing it. I had to read some 200 books + articles for my exams. By the end of the run I could read a book a day. Take lots of notes or you will forget what you've read. I took my exams just 6 months ago and I can still go back and read notes on books I don't even remember reading.

For the most part, reviews and notes posted online, even on library sites, are worthless, because only *you* would know what was interesting for *your* purposes in any given book. Also, reading for exams lets you know how much peer-reviewed crap is out there. Not everything you will read is good.

After awhile you will be reading faster, because you will know the geography and the arguments and be able to recognize the common points most people make, and you will be able to identify the truly good stuff.

But it sucks -- reading for exams was the worst ordeal of my life -- I am still recovering from a sort of PTSS.

Unlike others who would read Harry Potter or Harlequin romances, I found that I loved my subject, but rebelled by (when reading from a book containing a collection of academic essays) reading the essays adjacent to the essay for which I had checked-out or purchased the book. Thus, although I study a nineteenth-century French topic, I know alot about what Freud thought about single-celled organisms, and what kinds of iconographical problems arise when one needs to mark nuclear waste sites for our great-great-great-great 1000+ x decendents.

Make sure you have good prescription glasses (if you need them).
Run or yoga etc. once a day.
Buy a coffee-maker if you don't have one.
Give yourself one full no-work day a week with NO GUILT! (I didn't do this, and I regret it).
good luck.

Jan 19, 2007, 11:24pm

Thanks for the advice about reading lists. The 21 books I mentioned are required reading, not recommended. As Guernicus recommended, I will be skimming some texts and taking lots of notes. Reading groups sound like a good idea, too.

And yes, I did buy some books from from other students, thereby saving some "moolah," as Guernicus called it. Most of these books I will keep as part of my personal and professional library. But others I will be selling back after the semester. C'est la vie!

-- Robertus Minimus at Transmutations

53jrochest Primeira Mensagem
Jan 20, 2007, 2:23am

I finished my grad work a few years ago, and am now one of those awful people who assigns massive amounts of reading. The problem is that you think "well, of course they need to know this, and this, and this, and wouldn't it be cool to get them to read *this* and *this* together...."

As to the 21 book list, unless they're all impossibly dense, you can manage. Carry the more accessible ones with you or read them in bed at night. As to the more complex stuff, take notes. File or organize them so you can go back to them. Read daily, which will help you make the connections between the texts.

And when in "god the class is in 20 minutes and I HAVE to read this article" mode, read the first sentence of each paragraph. This gives you a good sense of the larger argument in its most sketchy sense. It's also a handy way to skim an article to judge if you need to read it. Also, use indexes in books: it gives you an idea of what the author's covering.

Jan 29, 2007, 4:05pm

i am a 5th year psychology phd student. the dissertation is close - hopefully i will finish in may. im glad to see that other people are pulling their hair out, banging their fists and ramming their heads into their computer screens...
i thought it was just me!

55cmcgowan Primeira Mensagem
Fev 16, 2007, 7:35pm

The guilt! The guilt! I try to remember that reading is not an end in itself, there is no sense in pushing your eyes along lines and lines of text if you are too tired to understand or remember them. I personally find it easy to read - and find it very hard to stop reading and start thinking!

Mar 29, 2007, 12:12pm

Hi rikker,
I am beginning my first year as a graduate student at New Mexico State in May, which is a great relief! The process of applying to graduate school was even more grueling than the GRE. I don't think I remember how many hoops I had to jump through. A friend of mine (Ph.C. at University of Washington) applied to 6 schools, and only received an answer from one! I applied to 4, was accepted into 3 programs, and did not receive an official answer from 1. If there is one piece of advice I can give about the graduate school application process--have lots of faith, and persevere. Good luck!

Mar 13, 2008, 6:03pm

WOW! this was a great board. I thought it was only me --289 books and articles and one falls out of my head as fast as I scoot 2 more in!! and I passed my first two with flying colors and then had a split grade on my specialist exams (one reader -- 5 high passes; reader two and reader three both failed me!) So I'm taking specialist exams AGAIN two years later. I will say that I have been studying a LOT smarter this time and was advised to write little 2-3 page mini-papers summarizing the connections between article A, B, and C before I forget them. I've got timelines all over my office walls (I teach 5-4-3 each year with grad school on the side) AND I try to work what I'm learning into my lectures in undergraduate-speak. I feel so much better prepared for taking them again March 22 -- prayers still accepted, however. (Pray that I can think clearly, remember what is important for my committee, and write the best I've ever written!!) As much as I have screamed, hollared 'unfair', and cried over them, the result of these two miserable years has been a LOT clearer knowledge of what really is important.

Maio 19, 2011, 5:05am

How is the lifestyle of a graduate student related to its standard of living in each of the following criteria: (1) food, (2) hobbies, (3) dress, and (4) language
Thank you graduates!