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what i did on my summer vacation

maura @ 8:30 am

Yesterday was the last week of summer hours at my job, when we work extra on Mondays through Thursdays and get Fridays off. Other than vacations I’ve been using my Summer Fridays to work on my research project, but yesterday I took the day off. I did some chores and errands, then Jonathan and I took advantage of the Gus-at-camp time to go see a matinee of Inception (which totally lived up to the hype, imho).

This has been a grumpy summer for me, scholarly work-wise. Mostly the problem is that I can’t help comparing it to the past two summers. Two years ago I spent the summer analyzing a small data set and writing it up into an article with a colleague. Last summer I wrote an article all by my lonesome, which I’m happy to report was just published. And even last semester, which was totally busy, another colleague and I wrote an article that we submitted to a journal earlier this summer.

This summer my main work has been writing up a preliminary report on the research project I’m working on with a colleague. I finished a first draft of the data from my site this week, and at 20 pages (single-spaced!) it’s definitely something real and tangible, the product of my summer. Absolutely I’m proud of it, and the project, too, which I love and believe has real value. But at the same time I can’t help feeling like it’s somehow less than my work in previous summers.

I’m heading into my 3rd year in my job so there’s still another 4 long years until I come up for tenure. I try not to freak out about it too much; it’s still a while out, and I think I’m in pretty good shape. But it’s sometimes it’s hard not to worry. The research and publication bar is inching ever higher, and it’s not always clear what’s sufficient. What is clear, of course, is the gold standard: the peer-reviewed journal article, the monograph published by a scholarly press. A preliminary report on research, even a 20-page one, isn’t one of those.

I don’t regret the summer’s work. It needed to happen. Our project continues and expands this coming academic year, and it’s important to get a sense what went well and what didn’t before we dive into data collection again. We’ve identified lots of themes that we’re interested in exploring further in our interviews with faculty and students at our four additional research sites. And this report will serve as a starting point for articles, presentations, etc. we write in the future (and, eventually, a book).

So why am I still so grumpy? A wise friend suggested that it’s a combination of settling into my job (both the librarian and researcher parts of it) and tackling such a big research project. She’s probably gotten it spot on. I love this project, but it is enormous and I am constantly fighting guilt that I’m not paying as much attention to it as I should be. There’s big things, like coding transcripts from all 82 interviews we did this past year and entering the data into our qualitative analysis software. There’s little things, like writing the reports for the IRB that approved and grant that funded last year’s work. At any given moment there is something I could be working on related to this project.

Which I guess is my task for this year: making progress on the project in a sustainable way. With an article in our sights, even if it’s not right now.

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