Craving the Research Rush (Or, Is This Normal?)

I promise to not link to my thesis often, but at least knowing what I researched might be helpful for understanding what I’m discussing below. I also just feel like making a shameless (SHAMELESS, I tell you) plug to up my views and downloads because I’m superficial like that.

I make a lot of plans that don’t really pan out.

I’ve mentioned previously that I graduated with my Masters degree in May 2014. While grad school was incredibly taxing, it was among the most incredible two years of my life. When I left my undergrad career choice (Atmospheric Science and meteorology…we’ll discuss my path to student affairs at a different time) behind to start at Nebraska, I was petrified that I would get halfway done and realize I was on the wrong path.

Fortunately, that never happened. Sure, I struggled at times – like learning to write multiple high-quality papers every week that required an exorbitant amount of critical thinking whereas my undergraduate experience was far more concerned with understanding equations.

Then came time for thesis work. I’d been awaiting the day we’d work on theses with an equal amount of dread and excitement. I was finally going to be able to research something important to me, but I was also going to be asked to conduct professional research, write what is essentially an academic textbook, and become an expert in something I was just barely beginning to understand fully.

But I jumped in. Head first. I started meeting regularly with my advisor for thesis work in August and put together a strong plan. After receiving IRB approval, I was raring to go. Unfortunately, I woefully underestimated the population available on my campus and was soon faced with the challenge of finding more participants.

I had three options: continue with just one participant and attempt an ethnographic study; attempt to receive approval through other institutions and listservs and then recruit there; or scrap my idea and start over. After considerable panic and many, many conversations with my classmates, I decided to go for option two. And I’m so glad I did.

With the help of my incredible friends and colleagues, I was able to create something I am incredibly proud of. But the idea of beginning another research project or even taking a formal class within the foreseeable future sounded like a fate worse than death.

So I made another plan (because all my previous plans have worked out so well. I could probably fill an entirely blog with posts about my “best laid plans”). This new plan was to give myself two years at whatever job I found before considering another degree. That would give me one more year of validity for my GRE scores to apply to new grad schools. Whether I would work full-time and be a student part-time or vice versa was to be determined later.

My plan seemed perfect. I could get a break from school and get some excellent experience as a practitioner before restarting my academics and pursuing a career in the faculty.

But really…is this normal?

I’ve been at Oklahoma State for just more than four months. And while the summer was rough (new place with no friends, no hobbies, and no programs), the start of the school year has been phenomenal. My students are incredible. I am constantly in awe of their creativity, their sensitivity, and their dedication. They make me want to work harder.

But lately, I’ve been feeling the itch to get back to researching. I truly miss reading articles, reflecting critically on them, discussing them with colleagues and mentors, preparing a research methodology, and writing. Oh, how I miss academic writing! I feel like such a freak! I want nothing more than to write something new.

Maybe it’s the act of listing yourself as an author. Or maybe it’s seeing people google topics and download your thesis. Or maybe it’s the prospect of someone thinking you’re an expert.

Whatever it is, I just can’t shake the feeling that I need to be conducting some type of research.

The first time I mentioned to a friend that I was considering starting a new research project, I got a tremendous amount of side-eye (it was through the phone, but still – I can recognize shade from more than 200 miles away).

I’m wondering, if I have any colleagues reading this who have conducted research, is this normal?

Other terrifying thoughts

There’s a lot that goes into a research project. To conduct research at OSU, I’ll have to go through CITI training again (which is terrible and boring and just…ugh). This project would also essentially be unsupervised and would be my first professional work.

Another terrifying thought is attempting to narrow down a single topic enough to the point of being researchable. In my readings currently, I’m discovering a boon of new ideas and theories, which means my head is swirling with possible topics.

Right now, I’m reading up on sexual aesthetics and their use in “new masculinity.” I’ve also got some reading to do from Kimmel (my masculinities hero) on masculinity as homophobia. I’ve also got some interesting articles focused on the intersections between sexuality, gender, and other identities like race (how homophobia differs between white and black heterosexual men) and faith identity (how homophobia presents itself in the Bible Belt).

I am a firm believer that professionals in student affairs need to be constantly reading and learning about their students and at the very least, I hope to live up to my own expectations. I’m also seeing a pretty clear theme emerge among the articles I’ve found interesting enough to download in the past week.

In any case, I’m actually really excited to read these articles and begin a new research process. There’s a very real chance that I’ll be posting article reviews here just as a manner of safe keeping (look forward to that…). Or maybe I’ll just chronicle my attempt at creating a catalog of what I’ve read.

Wish me luck! 🙂