Monday, May 14, 2012

The working graduate student

I'm being reminded lately of why my first thesis experience was so enjoyable. I had a directed research and did the majority of my reading well in advance—even reading through the primary source and most of the critical analyses up to three times. Then I had nothing but writing time, with only housework and childcare in addition.

This thesis is challenging for a completely different reason: work life. I just changed jobs in March, after nine years as a contractor. I know have a full-time salaried position for the first time in a long time. And while it is a blessing, it brings some challenges when it comes to finishing the thesis. Today was a case in point. We're preparing for an important event, and today we had a planning meeting that showed some areas where we need more preparation. So, any time I'd hoped to have for reading or writing tonight disappeared.

But it's not just the overtime that pops up now and again. This work requires me to analyze and troubleshoot pretty much all day long. By 5:00 PM, my brain is fried. I often just have to get away from anything analytical. And, of course, scripture is very analytical—far more so than contemporary literary criticism. I thought I was a fairly good critic back in my English major days, but I have to say that more writers of contemporary literary criticism in English simply can't hold a candle to most scripture scholars.

And that also brings me to a challenge for this thesis. I will need to do a rhetorical analysis of the pericope I'm studying, and after reading H.D. Betz, John Topel, and many of these other fantastic scholars slicing and dicing the two sermons, I have become less confident of my skills in this area. Not knowing koine Greek is a biggie, and not having a grasp of classical Hellenistic and Jewish literature is another. I was growing concerned that it was beyond me.

Then, just the other day I was in contemplation during prayer about this insecurity when I had a sudden epiphany: my job is as a content analyst. I look at and determine how content is structured and how various content units can be discretely classified. I help people develop taxonomies for sorting their data. I help them learn to structure their data so it can be pushed out to automated publishing tools.

For Pete's sake, I do rhetorical analysis all the time! What the heck am I afraid of? So I broke through a block this weekend. I added to my introduction, and I am going to start forging ahead.

I just hope my job doesn't kill me first.
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