Preliminary Exams

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(While this is from the UC Davis Grad School website, it is the closest thing that I could find that simply and accurately explains the process — just change Qualifying Exam to Preliminary Exam and you’ll have a pretty good idea of both where I am in the program and what is still left to be done.)

It seems as if I’m always apologizing for stepping away from the blog for various reasons (illness and the like). For the past two weeks, I’ve been in “crunch” mode for reading trying to prepare for my Preliminary Exams. So, what are preliminary exams? Well, they work differently at different schools, but essentially they are the “final exams” that one takes before moving on to the dissertation phase of graduate work.

PhD Student

So a PhD student is much the same as any other Master’s level student as we attend the same classes. The primary difference is the amount of work we have to produce for those classes. Generally speaking (with some few exceptions), PhD students are required to produce longer works and provide more in-depth analysis for scholarly materials. There are other things that we are supposed to do that is more than a Master’s student might have to be responsible for, but in general, we simply produce more volume and are required to use more sources and go into a topic in far greater depth. At the end (or close to the end) of one’s classes, there is some sort of “gateway” (usually in the form of some sort of test) that one has to pass. For me, this is the Preliminary Exam.

PhD Candidate

Once one passes the Preliminary Exam (again, this specific to my program, although it can be somewhat generalized to other programs), one moves from being a “student” to a “candidate.” This means that one either has passed all of the preliminary stages (or in my case, will soon pass) all remaining requirements. For me, I have a couple of more electives that I need to take as I am finishing the last of my “required” courses this semester. My next major responsibilities will be coming up with a Research Proposal/Prospectus for what I want to do my dissertation on and putting together a committee to direct my dissertation. I’m planning on locking this down over the summer.


ABD = All But Dissertation. Unlike the previous two headings which are official, there’s a third, unofficial heading. When one has completed everything (classes, submitting dissertation proposal, putting together committee, etc.) and all one has left is the actual writing of the dissertation, we informally call that person ABD (All But Dissertation). While technically still a PhD Candidate, ABD just communicates the fact that the dissertation is the last remaining hurdle to complete before that person can graduate.

Right now, I am still waiting to hear back my results from my two Preliminary Exams. I’m hoping to move from the first stage (PhD student) to the second stage (PhD Candidate). If successful, I will use the summer to put together a strong research proposal/prospectus and will try to have a committee in place before the middle of the Fall semester (Sept./Oct. 2019), so that I can spend the rest of the year and the first part of 2020 writing the dissertation.

I know that’s probably WAY more than you wanted to know about my school life, but I hope that it, in some small way, explains why the blog has had to take a backseat for the past two/three weeks due to these Preliminary exams and illness. Well, that’s all I have for right now. Have a good day!


Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:

  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Stop Signs, Part II

stop signs
Stop Sign (United States)

Graduate Teaching Orientation

So, apologies to all for not posting to my blog all week and especially for not letting you know about my (unintentional) mini-“vacation” from blogging. For those who don’t know, as part of my studies as a PhD student, I also teach introductory English classes here at Middle Tennessee State University (in addition to being a Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer). Every year, the English Department sponsors a week long (Monday – Thursday) Orientation for returning and incoming Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs for short). I really enjoyed my time in these, this year especially, but they do take a lot of time. They start at 9:00 am and don’t generally release until 3:30 pm or so (although they do feed us as lunch is provided!) 🙂

However, unless you plan ahead, it is difficult to blog either in the mornings or afternoons.  My evenings are now pretty much filled, so this week has been a “wash” in terms of writing (either on the blog or my own creative works).

Stop Signs

So, I’ve written before about “Stop Signs” and times when life just tells you that you need to take a break for some period of a time. That was what this week was for me. I knew that I needed to get up early for the Orientation sessions and I was asked to co-present with another GTA on “Multimodality” (text with images, video, etc.). I realized Monday night that I probably wouldn’t be able to really work on the blog in any meaningful way for a while, which is why I wrote the quick blog entry earlier this week.

However, in this case, learning takes precedence over creative endeavors (including blogging). I learned quite a bit during the sessions, and since school (classes) start on Aug. 27, I need to firm up my syllabus and assignments during this upcoming week (so I may touch on that in a blog post at some point).

Currently Reading & Writing

I’m also in the process of updating the way I communicate what I’m currently reading and writing (word count on projects). It may live at the bottom of the post now (like this). I like the immediacy of having it at the top, but it interferes with the blog topic. I could give a weekly update, but then that doesn’t hold me as accountable as I’d like. I’m not sure quite what I want to do with this yet (so stay tuned).

I will also be redoing my Signature Line at the bottom of the page. Why? I didn’t make enough money for under their Amazon Associates Program during the 6 months trial period, so they’ve stopped allowing me access to the program. Ce’st la vie. I don’t work for Amazon, so I’m not going to go out of my way to sell their wears on my site. If people click on them (and quite a few of you did–Thank You!), then that’s awesome, but to ask people constantly to buy my work smacks of “selling out.” I may look for other ways to promote my work, but for now, I’ll settle for a redesign of the signature at the bottom.

Well, that’s all I have for now. Regularly scheduled blog posts should resume on Monday (hopefully), so have a great weekend!


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