Thoughts on the Fall Semester by an LIS PhD Student

Kyle Jones shares some reflection on his first semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Library and Information Studies (LIS) doctoral program:

With good timing, a friend recently contacted me about his own interests in pursuing a PhD in library and information studies.  Knowing that I had just wrapped up my first semester and wanting to hear specific parts of my reflections, he sent me a few questions to answer.  Happily, he allowed me to turn these questions in to a reflective post for all to read.

What has taken you by surprise?

I was very much used to a study schedule that could be done last minute, to readings that could be skimmed, and to writing papers the night before on a pot of coffee.  Non of this works now and it would be amateurish to try it.

My assignments require close reading and constant reflection.  It’s quite easy to see well over 100 pages a week assigned, if not more.  And writing responses, while they vary in length depending on the professor, are always supposed to be critical and insightful – no summaries here.

Would you do anything different to prepare for your first semester?

I did try to prepare for my first semester by catching up on academic journals, honing my close reading, and picking up texts of a difficulty level that I thought I might be presented within my first term.  In hindsight, I would read much more about theorists that pertained to my research interests and begin to create an extensive reading list in advance.  Doing so would have saved me valuable time in research for my longer papers and cut down on some stress.

Also, I would emphasize the need to get into a strict schedule.  Over the semester, I struggled to discipline myself, which led to times of sleep deprivation and, again, increased stress.  If you can get yourself into a very controlled schedule for reading, writing, meal times, and relaxation it will most definitely help you to succeed.

Have you found anything (really anything) to be expected of you that took you by surprise?

I knew my program would be challenging.  Pursuing a PhD is not something you should compare to some minor in your undergraduate experience.  That being said, I really got blindsided by the amount of reading.  It took me several weeks to understand that I was entirely responsible for all of the reading and to be ready to respond to minutiae of the texts.