Tuesday, May 30, 2006

what, and why

I had hoped to have completed a last section of the lit review this weekend. I'm adding this because I discovered in one of my drafts of the proposal that I'd missed a key component.

Basically, I'm assessing the welfare policies of 1988 and 1996, but in order to assess the '88 policy, I need to go back to the policy in place prior to 1988, so that I have something to compare the '88 changes with. So I needed to go back and add that piece into the lit review as well.

I didn't get the piece written this weekend, but I did get some decent reading done that will help with that section.

Also, the friend who is helping me to get re-organized gave me a little 'assignment' intended to move my thinking back into the dissertation and why it's important. I'm going to include what I sent to her here.

Why is this dissertation important to me?

Well, the first reason, and the one I always joke about, is that if I don’t finish the dissertation, I won’t graduate, yet my student loans will come due. I’ll be paying for something I didn’t finish. And although I joke, it’s a very serious issue.

I want to teach full time, and to do that and make a livable salary, I need the completed Ph.D. In fact, even if I found something other than teaching, I’d need the Ph.D. to negotiate an appropriate salary.

I’m stuck floundering in my current – very boring and non-challenging – job, as I can’t start something new until I finish the dissertation. Trying to start a new job would be too time-consuming, and the additional pressure and pull away from the writing would only delay the final product even more. So if I want out of this job, I have to finish my writing.

It’s a personal goal for me: first the goal was to be the first to graduate high school in my immediate family; then it was to get the bachelor’s, then the master’s; now it’s to be the only one to really complete my education successfully in my family.

I want to be able to say ‘I did it.’

Why is this dissertation important to the public?

First, it’s always important to assess the effectiveness of social policies. How can we possibly know if we are doing what’s best for the people who will be affected by the policies, if we don’t evaluate the results of the policies?

We also need to know if smaller subgroups within the population are being unduly harmed by a particular policy. For example, among other goals, this dissertation seeks to replicate the findings of a particular study which found inequitable effects of welfare policy among African American and Hispanic women in terms of college attendance.

And, when advocates fight for policy changes, it’s vital that they have accurate, current research to support their points – which is where the importance of research like that of this dissertation comes in.

It’s been documented that a college education can be a conduit to moving out of poverty and into a livable wage. If our welfare policy disallows that college education, we’ve eliminated a path out of poverty for millions (and stacked the deck so that they will be hard-pressed to move out of the very welfare program that they are supposed to leave).

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