Recently in Ph.D. life, etc. Category

My dissertation abstract

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Open Access Repositories in the Cultural Configuration of Disciplines
Applying Actor-Network Theory to Knowledge Production by Astronomers and Philosophers of Science

This qualitative study provides an understanding of the role of self-archived disciplinary open access repositories in the cultural configuration of scholarly disciplines. It examines the implications of the technological and organizational layers of access tools and open access repositories and researchers' lived experiences and perceptions layer on researchers' localized knowledge production context and the construction of disciplinary knowledge production contexts. The actor-network theory, which posits that technological and social actors reciprocally affect each other, is applied to compare and contrast the information practices of two groups of researchers: the use of arXiv by astronomers, and the use of PhilSci by philosophers of science. Six astronomers and five philosophers of science were identified through purposeful selection. The interviews with the researchers were conducted over a period of five months, ranging in length between 40-75 minutes. Primary documentary evidence, describing open access repositories and access tools, is also used for the analysis. The findings show that the open access repositories, the access tools, and researchers' individual knowledge production contexts are co-constructed as researchers search, discover and access scholarly artifacts. Open access has impacted researchers' knowledge production by realigning the existing processes and by instigating the emergence of new actors and constructs. Four themes emerge as researchers articulate their perceptions about the value and the role of open access: impact on scholarly process, impact on scholarly output, integration with scholarly context, and democratization of the scholarly discourse. Congruent with the domain-analytic approach, two distinct socio-technological models emerge. Astronomers perceive arXiv as important and critical in their scholarly information practices, with a central role in their discipline. However, philosophers of science perceive PhilSci as having a limited value in their scholarly information practices and rather minimal role in their discipline. The properties of disciplinary cultures, such as the mutual dependence between researchers and the task uncertainty in a specific discipline, are implicated in the appropriation of the open access repositories and access tools at individual and disciplinary level. The socio-technological co-constructionist approach emerges as a viable theoretical and methodological framework to explicate complex socio-technological contexts.

Done with my dissertation

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This past Tuesday I passed my dissertation defense and presented my public dissertation this afternoon. Yes, I'm all done! :) Hopefully now I will have more time to keep writing here.

Dissertation title:
Open Access Repositories in the Cultural Configuration of Disciplines:
Applying Actor-Network Theory to Knowledge Production by Astronomers and Philosophers of Science

In 'response' to Theories informing my research, I would like to bring to attention another issue of concern regarding the empowering or restrictive properties the tacit and explicit theories have on individual's way of thinking and research.

Sooner or later many of us are guided by set of theories, frameworks and paradigms in our research work, some of them tacit and some explicit. They direct our research within the appropriate and relevant scholarly community, thus increasing the chances for scholarly collaboration and communication with like-minded folks.

However, the same theories, paradigms and frameworks also limit our imagination and innovative thinking, they create the box within which we think and operate. Thus, they can have potentially negative effect by filtering away problems and issues that merit scholarly scrutiny but are not scrutinized because our mode of thinking does not allow them to reach us.

In this sense, the explicit theories and frameworks we subscribe to are perhaps less inhibitive to our abilities to explore and innovate beyond our current interests. We are well aware of the explicit theories, we use them to conduct our research, and we can decide to go beyond.

The tacit theories seem to be more inhibitive than the explicit. Because of their tacit nature they direct our research in a way we might not be aware and thus do not know how to go beyond and expand our mode of thinking.

Certainly, there is a benefit in structured way of thinking and research; its awareness helps us position ourselves and our work within the relevant communities of practice. However, often a times the excessive structureness in our way of thinking might be depriving us of the ability to see various phenomena with a new 'eye'.

How does one go about identifying and discovering his/her tacit theories, frameworks and paradigms?

(Originally published Nov 18, 2004)

back after some time away from my blog

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After few years of quiet from my blog, I finally think I have some time to write again. Not that I have not been writing for the past two years. I have actually been writing more but around my qualifying exam and my dissertation proposal. Finally, after passing my qualifying last year, I'm almost done with my proposal. One more meeting with my committee and should be ready to start data collections and work on some preliminary data analysis.

I'll write more about this but my dissertation is about scholar's interaction with open access repositories. Given that OA is a new phenomena in the scholarly communication, I thought it would be valuable to understand it in greater depth.

why i'm in academia

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apophenia: why i'm in academia is a very interesting and thoughtful post by Danah. More or less I could have written the same, I feel the same. Managing and balancing the industry experience and involvement, and pursuing academic path is not easy. But certainly challenging… individuals in such positions can act as catalysts for learning experiences in both directions.

presenting at ASIS&T 2004

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Whoever is reading this, just to let you know that I will be presenting at the Annual ASIST&T Conference "ASIST 2004 Annual Meeting; "Managing and Enhancing Information: Cultures and Conflicts" (ASIST AM 04), " in Providence, RI, on November 16th, 2004, at 5:30p-7:00p.

As a part of a panel titled Diffusion of Knowledge in the Field of Digital Library Development: How is the Field Shaped by Visionaries, Engineers, and Pragmatists?, I’ll be “theorizing on the implication of open source software in the development of digital libraries”.

Will you be there?

Panel Abstract:
“Digital library development is a field moving from diversity and experimentation to isomorphism and homogenization. As yet characterized by a high degree of uncertainty and new entrants in the field, who serve as sources of innovation and variation, they are seeking to overcome the liability of newness by imitating established practices. The intention of this panel is to use this general framework, to comment on the channels for diffusion of knowledge, especially technology, in the area of digital library development. It will examine how different communities of practice are involved in shaping the process and networks for diffusion of knowledge within and among these communities, and aspects of digital library development in an emerging area of institutional operation in the existing library institutions and the specialty of digital librarianship. Within a general framework of the sociology of culture, the panelists will focus on the following broader issues including the engagement of scholarly networks and the cultures of computer science and library and information science fields in the development process and innovation in the field; involvement of the marketplace; institutional resistance and change; the emerging standards and standards work; the channels of transmission from theory to application; and, what 'commons' exist for the practitioners and those engaged with the theoretical and technology development field. The panelists will reflect on these processes through an empirical study of the diffusion of knowledge, theorizing on the implication of open source software in the development of digital libraries, and the standardization of institutional processes through the effect of metadata and Open Archive Initiative adoption.

The panel is sponsored by SIG/HFIS and SIG/DL”

phd weblogs

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From apophenia: phd weblogs:

"I just revisited phd weblogs which is a collection of PhD students blogging. There are only 170 of us on there and i know that there are a whole lot more. So, if you're an academic blogger and you're reading this, add yourself there. And tell your friends. It's really fun to surf and find out what other folks are researching."

"Oh, and it's a great way of procrastinating when you've read PhD comics so many time that you have half of them memorized."

Searching for work: The challenges and concerns

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Current situation
As I have mentioned in my previous blog entry regarding my current status as a Ph.D. student, I just finished my coursework towards my doctoral studies in Information Science (minor in Media Studies) at SCILS – Rutgers University. My plan going forward is to start a full time job and continue working on my qualifying exam and dissertation on part time basis. I would love to concentrate full time on the rest of my Ph.D. studies, however, my personal situation does not give me the luxury to do so.
Thus, by April of this year, just before the semester was about to finish, I started looking very actively for a full time job (including here consulting / contracting / or short term projects). It is almost the end of the summer and I'm still looking for a job. I've had a number of interviews but was not prepared to hear the reasons why I didn't get the jobs that I thought and still think I was a good match.

In continuation, I will try to describe my experiences with the search process, and would appreciate any comments from fellow readers with similar experiences and challenges, as well as those that care to share an advice or point to a resource that can be helpful to individuals in similar situations.

The two sides that ought to meet (and do meet) – but recruiters and HR staff don't seem to see how, where, what and why
Before I continue, here is a short description of my industry experience as well my recent academic training as part of my Ph.D. studies. I have extensive experience as information systems analyst / engineer / architect, working with various systems primarily in the telecommunication industry [more detailed description]. My deliverables usually have consisted of specifications and requirements writing in the form of requirement documents used as inputs to the developing and testing teams, as well as architecture slides. In addition, the systems analyst position most often requires one to act as a facilitator between the business / user side and the technical side of the product lifecycle development. This role as a facilitator usually requires the understanding of the 'big picture' in order to better asses the feasibility and deliver-ability of a product or subcomponents (features, functionalities) in line with the business needs and tasks. As far as my academic experience is concerned, my interests have evolved around the interplay between information systems/structures and the social structures within which information systems are embedded. More specifically, I'm interested in digital libraries, system design, open source software, actor-network theory, the concept of openness, the social construction of IT and IS, etc.

The challenges
I believe there is a tremendous and unique value in the conjecture of the type of industry experience I posses and the type of academic training I have recently gone through as part of my doctoral coursework. One would think that HR staff, and recruiting and consulting companies would be able to see the advantage and be able to leverage such experience coupled with theoretical / academic knowledge. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. What follows are some specific experiences and challenges I have faced in the job searching process:
  1. Overqualification / underqualification. The most frequent comment I hear back from recruiters and HR folks is that I'm overqualified for the types of jobs I used to do before (i.e. Systems analysts / eng / architect), or that I'm not ready yet for the type of jobs that require an earned Ph.D. While I can understand the 'not ready yet' argument and it does make sense since I'm not done with my Ph.D. yet, it is hard to fathom that more education and more knowledge would be a barrier to finding a job, especially when this education is very closely related to the previous industry experience. I've tried to make sense and it could be argued that companies are afraid to loose individuals who aim at getting their doctoral degrees; this would make sense if one is looking for a permanent position within a firm. But, shouldn't the companies be less concerned with retention if the job is consulting / contract position?

  2. The wrong time to be looking for job. The additional challenge in my case I think is that this is the wrong time to be looking for job since the economy is not what used to be few years ago, and this is further made harder by the fact that HR folks consider this type of change as career change. Even though I don't see it that way.

  3. Must have exact experience. Moving to another industry and away from telecommunication in order to expand the possibilities is a real challenge. Companies seem to want an exact experience in every sense of the word, including here relevant industry experience. Looking at current job requirements makes you wonder who are they writing those requirements for. Most of the times it is not possible to get everything in one individual. I guess companies can do that nowadays considering the number of people looking for work. It is a managers job market.

  4. Recruiters and placement agencies unable to link my industry experience and my academic training. More than often HR folks concentrate on my working experiences as a systems analyst forgetting the value I bring to the table I have gained through my coursework as part of my doctoral studies. At the end of my resume I list all of my courses. The following courses (Human Information Behavior, Experiment and Evaluation in Information Systems, Quantitative Research Methods, Qualitative Research Methods, Towards a model of open source digital library system) are directly relevant to the type of work I have done during my industry experience, and yet recruiters and HR folks don't seem to make the link.

  5. Lack of Information Science / Studies job searching websites and tools. What are the online resources one can turn to for help? Many sites related to LIS type of job search list library jobs and lack substantial listings of Information Science / Studies related job openings.

  6. Lack of recruiting and placement agencies who are specialized in placing professionals with Information Science / Studies backgrounds. There is a lack of recruiting and placement agencies that can understand the potential an Information Science / Studies professional brings to the table. Few agencies I have spoken to have been helpful, but even they are not able to properly articulate the benefits an Information Studies professional can bring to a company.

  7. The industry appears blind to the knowledge and potentials that Information Studies / Science professionals can bring to the table. As I have mentioned above, the lack of helpful tools and recruiters that understand what Information Science / Studies education can do is perhaps directly related to what appears to be a blind spot in the industry as far as the abilities and expertise of an Information Science / Studies professional are concerned. More specifically, the people (interviewers, managers, recruiters, etc.) I have spoken do not seem very aware that system design strategies can be enhanced through various Human Information Behavior studies and thus yield better systems in the long run. This is even more true for those systems that directly interface with people and other social structures in the work place. An effort should be undertaken by Information Science / Studies school and departments to establish connections between theory and practice, between theoretical knowledge and how it can be utilized in practice.

Needless to say, the above experiences are those that I have encountered, limited by the information and resources available to me and performed by my previous experiences, my understanding of the current job market, my (un)luck with finding the right recruiters and placement agencies that understand the value of information Science / Studies doctoral education, and the limited knowledge of how all things should work especially in such tough and volatile times.

Why I wrote this entry?
In order to help, share and learn from each other, I would love to hear from others that are in my position or face similar challenges, especially those that have previous industry experience and are currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Information Science / Studies. Even better if I hear from potential employers; here is my resume. :)

(Update on 9/19/2004: I have accepted an offer and will be starting work in few days.)

ph.d. status update (Summer 2004)

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Well, with the finishing of this past semester (i.e. Spring 2004) I completed the required coursework for my Ph.D. in Information Science (with minor in Media Studies).

Right now I'm concentrating my efforts towards getting ready for my qualifying exam and trying to concentrate further and deeper into the issues I like to treat in my dissertation (obviously the proposal comes first:)).

Not sure if I'll be taking the qualifying exam this coming semester (Fall 2004). If not, then my plans are to take the exam in early Spring 2005.

In the meantime, a lots of reading, reflecting, mental summarizations, re-reading of article that I read early in my coursework, making new connections between theory and practice, further indulging and trying to understand the explicit and implicit theories and frameworks that guide my thinking and research pertinent to my Ph.D. studies, etc.

Similarly to Kylie Veale (in the comments of Dissertation blogs), I also find it interesting and rewarding to write in my blog. Once in a while I go back and read what I have written in the past. It is amazing to find thoughts and ideas that come handy in the present research projects and interests, especially since I'm about to finish my Ph.D. glasswork and embark on my dissertation.

The pseudo-serendipitous discovery in things one has written in the past is not so much of a discovery since you have written it. It is amazing however to try to understand the framework and the mental state present at the time one wrote an earlier blog entry (i.e. the source of the pseudo-serendipitous discovery).

Theories informing my research

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Understanding the implicit and explicit theories of a research article most often means carefully reading through the article for the explicit theories stated therein, and also browsing through the bibliography to see who else or what other theories, frameworks and paradigms have informed the current article. This also provides an insight about which implicit theories the author subscribes too.  To understand authors fully in this respect, it would require reading many of their works.

At the beginning of the Ph.D. program I was unaware of my theoretical framework, or better said, I would have been unable to answer such question if I was asked. At that time I would have thought that I didn’t really subscribe to any particular theory, framework or paradigm. One semester after another I struggled to identify my interests. I wanted to place and find myself within a particular school of thought. This was further complicated by the fact that information science as an interdisciplinary field of study is not yet well define by its theory or paradigm as understood in the traditional sense.

However, as I was writing more and more papers for my coursework, I started realizing that my writings usually concentrate around the subject of information artifacts (i.e. information, information structures, and information systems) and their role in the social structures that utilize them. At this point I decided to re-read all of my papers, four semesters worth. To my surprise and delight, I realized that all this time I was not just writing. I was actually trying to explicate and elaborate (with the language available to me at the time) on how various information technologies effect the social structures around them and concurrently are affected by the same. I recognized this theme throughout my papers.

Yet... more things to learn in the new semester

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The new semester (Spring 2004) has already started and seems exciting. I'm again a TA (Teaching Assistant), and would be assisting Prof. Wacholder in her two classes similarly to last semester.

As far as my classes are concerned, this semester I'll be taking three classes:
1) Qualitative Research Methods [16:194:603],
2) Current Research Issues [16:194:605], and
3) Experiment and Evaluation in Information Systems [16:194:619].

I also have to complete an independent study which I have already started. This would mean I'll be done with my Ph.D. class work by the end of this semester; than planning for the qualifying exam during the Fall of 2004. :) In the meantime, I’m also working on the dissertation proposal.

A lots of new 'knowledge' (or is it 'information' :)) to learn in this semester.

on meaning making - marks on articles

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The following paragraph is an excerpt from my previous blog entry (Actor-Network Theory and Managing Knowledge), triggered for repetition after I read James Robertson's Making meaning who refers to Denham Grey's share meaning.

The excerpt:

Next, I would like to demonstrate the naming and the power of the semantic tool with two examples reflecting from my personal experience upon embarking on the Ph.D. program. First, I would like to describe the performative power of the marks I inscribe on the pages of articles and books I read for my classes. Usually, at the start of a new article, more so if the article presents concepts that I perceive unfamiliar, my red pen inscribes all sorts of marks (stars, checks, circles, question marks, exclamation marks, underlining, etc.) with their intended and perceived importance. The first run through the article produces a set of marks placed mostly in the sidelines of article’s pages, each of them with their perceived meaning of what I think is important and necessary for me to master the ideas presented therein, or because I believe that a particular quote will be useful later on. At times I wonder if I’m overdoing with these marks as the more I inscribe they tend to loose their relative significance. The topology of the marks on the pages would have been much different (in relations to each other as well as their quantity) had I had some prior understanding about marks’ meanings. Nevertheless, the point I’m stressing is that the marks tell me different things the next time I look at them for just making sure I have understood a concept or for review purposes. Sometimes I even wonder why have I underlined a certain sentence. At other times I discover that I have missed a certain concept. However, the result is that these entities have performed on my knowledge structure and have also been performed upon themselves, as some of them do not carry the same meaning I attached to them at the time of inscription. The topology in this case would be the article with its marks and also my knowledge structure. However, the article is also part of other topologies, such as the set of articles written by the same author, the set of articles contained in the journal it was published, the disciplines or studies it was intended to perform upon, etc. In my case the marks have performed mostly vertically (affecting my knowledge structure). They probably would not mean much to anyone else, unless I write a page of rules and guidelines describing the marks together with their intentions as I perceived them. But this would be a very hard task because they might not be of much benefit to others given the personal performative nature. (Full article)

Ph.D. Dropouts

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An interesting article by the The Chronicle of Higher Education: Doctor Dropout: High attrition from Ph.D. programs is sucking away time, talent, and money and breaking some hearts, too

"If actual attrition is really around 50 percent, then this is a scandal," says Michael S. Teitelbaum, a program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "It's a serious waste of resources and a terrible waste of time and energy on the part of students."

(thanks to jeremy for the link)

Networking on the Network: A Guide to Professional Skills for PhD Students is an invaluable resource by Phil Agre for Ph.D. students and others who like to find their way around the modern day maze we call network (social and cyber).

"The first thing to realize is that Internet-world is part of reality. The people you correspond with on the network are real people with lives and careers and habits and feelings of their own. Things you say on the net can make you friends or enemies, famous or notorious, included or ostracized. You need to take the electronic part of your life seriously. In particular, you need to think about and consciously choose how you wish to use the network. Regard electronic mail as part of a larger ecology of communication media and genres -- telephone conversations, archival journals and newsletters, professional meetings, paper mail, voice mail, chatting in the hallway, lectures and colloquia, job interviews, visits to other research sites, and so forth -- each with its own attributes and strengths. The relationships among media will probably change and new genres will probably emerge as the technologies evolve, but make sure that you don't harbor the all-too-common fantasy that someday we will live our lives entirely through electronic channels. It's not true."

The most relevant aspect of the engineering courses (my background) is the emphasis on the systems mode of thinking which has helped me tremendously in my present course of study here at SCILS, especially in Information Science.

So far, the challenge has been to build a frame of reference or a mindset through which one is able to see the problems related to information science and the resolutions proposed to resolve them. Personally, I believe that the systems way of thinking is a very insightful and powerful tool, especially because helps you study a problem by identifying the boundaries around it, its scope, what happens within the boundaries, and how the issues with the problem at hand interface with the environment (i.e. with outside of the relevantly defined boundary).

Another challenge for me was to adjust to the statistics methods used in social research. Despite the obvious difference between the statistical results of technical systems and those related to the relation between the independent and dependent variables in social phenomena, the statistics background from my engineering courses has helped me in the quest to identifying the conjecture between statistical analysis of engineering data and data gathered from information science experiments. Another benefit of engineering statistical courses is the ability they provide to better understand the fundamental background of the particular statistical tools, in light of the fact that courses that deal with statistics for social research emphasize mostly on usability and applicability of statistics, and do not necessarily stress enough on the actual derivation of the statistical tools and procedures.

The concepts of interconnectivity of various technical elements within the information and communication systems and the multitude of services they carry almost directly relate (albeit at a different level of application) to various practical communication tools and services that affect the social realm. An information and communication system is not a goal in its own; it is produced and used within the social web of interactions composed of human and non-human entities, or networked actors as suggested by the actor-network theory (ANT) and actor-network methodology. Considering that the actor-network theory considers human and non-human entities/elements in its analysis and methodology, it would be interesting to identify and describe a possible link between the variations and changes at the lowest levels of interactions (i.e. technological) and their potential effect on the interaction at the level between a system as a whole and the user(s).

Through these few reflections, I have attempted to link the experience and knowledge I have obtained from my engineering education and systems analyst/eng experience, with the role they have played so far in my PhD. level classes in Information Science. I hope to have more of these sorts of reflections in the future, as they pop-up in my head. :)

information science in Directory of Open Access Journals

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I just came across the Directory of Open Access Journals and was amazed at the number of open access peer-reviewed Library and Information Science journals. The "Directory of Open Access Journals ... covers free, full text, quality controlled scientific and scholarly journals ... [with the] aim to cover all subjects and languages."

TA (Teaching Assistant) position

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I've accepted a TA (Teaching Assistant) position for this semester (Fall 2003) in the SCILS department for the LIS program.

I'll be assisting Prof. Nina Wacholder in her two classes: 1) Retrieving and Evaluating Electronic Information (547:220 undergraduate), and 2) Organizing Information (610:520 masters level).

Catalog Description for Retrieving and Evaluating Electronic Information:

"Examination and analysis of electronic information to evaluate communication processes, content viability, aesthetic and technical factors as well as the quality of information structures. Includes the exploration of information retrieval, information seeking behaviors, and user perspectives and preferences in meeting information needs."

Catalog Description for Organizing Information:

"Introduction to the options and methods for describing and organizing messages, texts, and documents of all types (audio, visual, linguistic, graphic, multimedia) for retrieval. Classification; indexing languages, vocabulary management, and thesauri systems; human and machine techniques; and rationales for decisions about the organization of materials In various contexts. Students apply theory by designing and evaluating an Information retrieval (IR) database."

I hope to learn few things myself from these two courses while working on my Ph.D. coursework. :)

more things to learn in the new semester

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I've just created two new categories: 1) Quantitative Research Methods (for class 194:604), and 2) Mass Communication Theory and Research (for class 194:631).

In these two categories I'll be posting comments, ideas, thoughts, and reflections, pertinent to the two classes I'm taking this semester (Fall 2003).

It would be nice to hear if other bloggers are taking similar classes so we can exchange ideas and thoughts, and help each other. :) So far I've identified Edward Bilodeau who will be taking both Qualitative and Quantitative Research classes this semester.

Update (2/1/2004):
I've renamed the above category Quantitative Research Methods into Research Methods, Methodologies, Issues in order to reflect my targeted interest. In this new category I'll be writing about research in general as it pertains to my dissertation interests (for now) and not necessarily only about Quantitative research methods and methodologies.

In Ph.Ds in IT - Good or Bad for a Career? referring to a Slashdot entry, George raises an interesting question regarding the value of a Ph.D. in IT related fields of study.

From purely philosophical perspective it can easily be argued that a Ph.D. is definitely good as you gain more knowledge and more knowledge is better. At least this is the common sense understanding in our human society.

From pragmatic and utilitarian perspective, working in the industry, having a Ph.D. does not necessarily mean more money, better job, better work conditions, or more opportunities. In my work history as information systems analysts, I've met colleagues with Ph.Ds who were performing the same jobs as those with masters.

And yes, it is definitely true that a Ph.D. can be a barrier in getting certain types of positions as it might suggest over-qualification.

Usually, what I sense from discussions with friends and my fellow Ph.D. students, most of those who continue their Ph.D. studies are motivated by factors other than industry work opportunities. Here are some of my thoughts about why I started with Ph.D. studies.

Needless to say, if one aims at academic jobs (i.e. teaching), a Ph.D. is the 'license'.

how to publish in top journals

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How to Publish in Top Journals by Kwan Choi, is a very valuable resource to any publisher, especially to current Ph.D. students on the road to academia and publishing.

Brief and to the point, it covers the following topics:

- Introduction
- General Publication Strategies
- Writing Strategies
- Preparation and Submission
- Rejection and Revision
- Being a Good Referee
- Questions and Answers

About me ...

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In these few paragraphs, I would like to summaries my interests that led towards my decision to start the Ph.D. program here at SCILS - Rutgers University.

After finishing my masters in telecommunication engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in May 1997, I embarked upon a career as Information Systems Architect / Engineer / Analyst, primarily in the telecommunication industry. During my masters program at Stevens-Tech I worked as a teaching assistant and instructor where I came in close contact with freshman students while teaching the basics of Internet, HTML, electronics and microprocessors labs, C++, etc. In addition to this I worked with Engineering Information as content designer and consultant on their home pages.  For further details on my employment history please see my  resume.

Throughout my educational and working career, I have been always puzzled by the fact that many tasks and processes are performed very inefficiently, when it is almost obvious that there is an efficient or a better way of performing the same. This becomes even more evident with projects that span across multiple business units in a particular organization. The lack of communication and the miscommunication among the participants can be identified as major obstacles. This is partly because employees keep the knowledge to themselves believing that if “Knowledge is Power” they should not share it easily. The other element seemingly results from the fact that employees do not necessarily know what others around them know, hence reinventing the wheel all to often. Certainly, an organization can perform better if it tries to discover and learn what it actually knows (“If We Just Knew What We Know”) and apply the knowledge appropriately.

Why a Ph.D. ?
In the attempt to find an answer and study the reasons behind such lack of
communication and the miscommunication among team members (and across various business units), I came across information technology related readings dealing with groupware and collaboration tools, online discussion forums, virtual discussion groups, virtual teams, knowledge management systems and processes, decision support systems, etc. These tools and processes were described as capable to play an important role in discovering, sharing and utilizing the knowledge, experiences and skills, with the ability to effectively minimize the gap between the knowledge available for utilization and how much the participants know about its availability at a particular instance.

Having said the above, my particular interest at the start of my Ph.D. were directed towards:

  1. The utilization of information systems and the related information technology tools, and their impact on individuals, society and organizations.

  2. Knowledge Management (KM) as a process for discovering, creating and sharing knowledge and its related use as a tool to drive organizations towards learning organizations.

  3. The Internet as information and knowledge exchange medium and its impact on grassroots activities to further human rights and freedoms around the world by informing and influencing governments and other relevant international institutions.

The teaching assistant (TA) experience from Stevens Institute of Technology added to my desire to further my education such that I can work in the academia. I liked teaching, being with the students, answering their questions. The Ph.D. degree would enable this opportunity and provide the venue for serious theoretical study.

Why a Ph.D. @ SCILS?
After extensive search for a Ph.D. program that would engage me in a discourse related to the above matters of interest to me, I came to realize that the Ph.D. program in Information Science at the School of Communication Information and Library Studies at Rutgers provide versatile yet specific courses taught by renown faculty in their respective field of study.

I'm in, what now (my questions in Fall 2003)?
I guess my main concern is deciding on an area I would like to focus going forward. Before coming to SCILS (started part time in Fall 2001) and during the first semester, I was mostly thinking knowledge management and collaboration tools for knowledge management. While I'm still interested in knowledge management, in the past few semesters I've been exposed to many other interesting research problems. The challenge I face now is deciding on the research problem/area that I would like to continue further. How does one chose among few competing interests?

One good way of finding the strengths and revealing the interests that are worth pursuing further, is to read the papers and research projects written/done for the previous classes, in order to asses any patterns of interest and discourses presented in them. If we wrote meaningful papers, there ought to be some revealing patterns. :)

Research interests:
From the courses I have taken so far (as of Spring 2003), 601, 610, 663, and 612 have helped me discover, identify, and narrow my research interests. Certainly, the topics covered in the Human Information Behavior (HIB) and the Seminar in Information Studies class were challenging and academically most appealing. At this point, it appears that my research interests are closely related to the type of material covered in the HIB class. I’m especially interested in the interplay between information and information systems, and the social structures within which they are imbedded.

To this extend, articles and materials related to knowledge management, collaboration, information systems design, the actor-network theory and methodology, and social constructionism, were the most illuminative and informative.

I’m looking forward to further narrow my research interests in the next two semesters (Fall 2003 and Spring 2004).

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Ph.D. life, etc. category.

Openness is the previous category.

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