January 12, 2010

The Very Last Semester of Coursework

When I first started here at Purdue in August of 2007, I never thought I would be able to survive. I thought sociology would kill me. I thought statistics would torture me (prior to death by sociology). And I thought that I was a scientist through and through, with no mercy for the social sciences.

I take back everything now.

The social sciences twisted my brains and turned them inside and out. I had so much work to do reasoning-wise: I had to get out of the exactness of science and see a world so different from what I had been used to. I had to see so many different worlds, in fact, that I had to twist, re-twist, and un-twist my mind at every turn. Post-positivism, constructivism, constructionism, post-modernism, critical theory, Marxism – everything threatened to be a mishmash of theory.

As I sat in my last class tonight, I realized that all my work on theory, numbers, and social science methods had woven themselves into a network that I could navigate without fear. As I listened to my classmates talk about their research, I began to see what theoretical frameworks they were operating in, why certain methods worked with their research problems of choice, and why some things just didn’t make sense.

I am by no means an expert. I am still learning. But as I sat in class tonight, and as I spent the last hours of my coursework enmeshed in the network of theories and knowledge, I realized that 2007 felt far away, and the years before that even farther. My brain has gone where it never dreamed of going before.

In three semesters, I am going to graduate with a PhD. In the meantime, I have to do research, and I don’t have to worry about classes anymore. The worries will be different: I will take my preliminary exams in February, finish transcriptions before the New Year comes around, and simply work. It’s not going to be easy; it’s going to be an adventure.

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