I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I was one of the student reps on the FMC this past year (2012-13) and will be on the committee again for 2013-14. I’m happy to talk to anyone about the FMC process, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. But read below first:
– The FMC holds most of us up a bit (or a lot). I did my orals in fall 2010 and did not bring my proposal to the FMC until Feb 2013. That’s a long time. I took the do-research-first approach that I think can really work for some people, especially those doing qualitative work that will involve interviews and field work. Trying to write a proposal that gives detailed information about what you’re doing and why without first having done some research was, for me, really hard. At the same time, the is supposed to be a proposal, not an introductory chapter. What the FMC members want can be a bit difficult to navigate, but they generally seem to want you to propose your research while also having a strong background in what you plan to do.
– BUT! No matter how you decide to do your proposal, remember to think of this as a useful exercise in a) concise writing, b) a start of an intro chapter, and c) great practice for taking criticism. No everyone will like your work, but just about everyone is giving helpful and supportive feedback on the terms of your project (not totally judging it based on their work or field). Go into the room with responses to the key points the committee members made (especially if multiple members commented on similar issues), and keep it short (5-10min MAX). Treat it like a conversation similar to orals.
– The page limit is 15. Don’t go over 18, but don’t go any shorter. Again, what the committee wants can make this difficult to negotiate. Your longest sections should be the methods (be as clear and complete as possible… explicit) and what you’re doing, what you’re looking at, and why it matters. Keep the literature/theory section short but fairly comprehensive in order to situate your work, but don’t go crazy here. It’s a great section to work a lot on, even getting 10 pages of just lit/theory, but know you’ll have to cut it. But it’s great to have so you can insert it back in for the start of an intro chapter.
– You will feel so much freer once you have done your proposal. You are then officially ABD and on your own! It’s a great feeling. You’re then only working and writing for you (and your committee, but they probably already like what you do) and don’t have to worry about so many other opinions.
– Relatedly, one final note on writing – keep really topic-specific jargon to a minimum. Seriously. Don’t get overly theoretical, or overly methodological, or overly anything. You’re speaking to a wide variety of knowledges.
I’m happy to talk to anyone about the FMC, or look over proposals, send you mine, anything you need. But don’t spend a year writing it. I think I spent about 2-3 months putting semi-serious time into it (as much as someone who teaches and does lots of other things can). Do it and move on! Take it seriously as something that can be useful for you (not just a hoop to jump through), but don’t let it slow you down.
(Posted by Erin Siodmak 6/27/13, also under Level 3 Advice)