my paper was accepted!!

Update: It was accepted!!!Β 

Update: I submitted to ASA this afternoon.

I finished my master’s thesis. My adviser has signed off on it, and it’s in the second reader’s hands. It’s the first real piece of original academic research I have produced, and I’m pretty proud of that accomplishment. The problem is…

I’m afraid it sucks.

It doesn’t “really” really suck. I think it’s perfectly acceptable as a master’s thesis that will hang out in a bounded volume in the archives of the School of Arts & Sciences. But my adviser wants me to condense it and submit it to ASA for the relevant section and student session. The thought of it makes me want to throw up.

The issue is that I don’t do well with criticism and I’m afraid of being a big sociology failure. Most things I do, I do well, and those things that I don’t do well, I don’t do. Despite my adviser telling me it’s good enough to submit, and current faculty telling me I’m doing a good job, I still have this nagging suspicion that I may not be any good at this. (Yes, I clicked the link and don’t feel any better.) I mean, if seasoned faculty can write shoddy work, what will the reviewers for the conference think about my feeble attempt at statistical analysis?

I tried to think of what I would say to one of my children if they came to me with this delimmna. What I often try to to say, besides reminding myself that I was accepted here for a reason and my adviser wouldn’t sell me down the river, is to contemplate what the worse possible scenario would be. 99% of the time, I realize that the worst possible fallout is actually not so bad. In this case, the worse possible consequence of submitting my paper is that it’s actually accepted (being rejected would be bad, but at least I would spare myself widespread ridicule). I go to the conference, and am completely torn apart by some a$$hole participant or presenter. Word gets around that my paper was the absolute worse of the conference (thinking kind of high of myself, no?) and my name, along with the impression of “idiot” is ingrained in the minds of anyone I might possibly want to get a job from or get an article published by, in the future, thereby ruining my career and bringing disgrace to my department.

This is my first year in this doctoral program, and although I have* a master’s degree, I’m just not used to being in such an intellectually intimidating environment. Everyone seems so quick, like they were born knowing all this stuff or at least are just so smart that it takes them no time to get everything. I’m learning, don’t get me wrong, but I just feel so inadequate that the thought of submitting this paper to a real professional conference is laughable to me.

I’m obviously freaking out here. Any advice is appreciated. Preferably before the 16th when submissions are due, please.

*to be conferred in May 2008

18 thoughts on “my paper was accepted!!

  1. Hi,
    I just clicked on your blog from another sociology blog…but I can relate to your concerns!

    I am an undergrad at Oregon State University in Sociology. I had a professor recommend to me that I should submit a paper to the PSA for the annual conference this spring. I was also scared and uncomfortable with the thought, but I did it anyways thinking what do I have to lose?? My paper was accepted!!! So even though the thought might kill you it will be worth it in both regards. If you do make it into the ASA, then you will have a great academic experience. If you do not make it then you can always ask for important feedback and learn from the experience. I say go for it! πŸ™‚

    Andrea

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  2. Congratulations on finishing your thesis. It is scary when you finally get to a place where there are a lot of other smart around you. This feeling of looking over your shoulder and wondering how you compare to everyone around you is pretty much normal academic behavior. The longer you are in the environment, the more you’ll know. And often the people around you have learned how to act like they know more than they do or are more self-assured than they really are. And conversely, there are some really stellar people who constantly feel inadequate.

    Submit the paper. Be sure to set up your choices so that a round table is a back up. For some areas a lot more papers get submitted than there is room for, and even the most senior people sometimes get rejected from a “main” slot and have to take a slot at a round table. You cannot ask a session organizer to guarantee your acceptance, but you can inquire whether a given session is “what you had in mind” with the session and/or whether they have gotten a lot of submissions. Part of being an academic is risking rejection. You have to get used to it. The worst that can happen when you present the paper is that the discussant will criticize it. You can live through that, too. I received very hostile criticism at two (regional) meetings early in my career — it did not hurt my career at all. (The criticism was deserved for one of the papers and not for the other.) If you get attacked, just say: “Thank you for your comments. I’ll need to think about them.” You are allowed to say more, of course, to reiterate why you are right, but if you are too shocked or scared or upset to respond, you can stick with “Thank you for your comments.” Nobody will think the worse of you for it. Hostile comments to young scholars at ASA are very rare, by the way, and the odds are that your discussant will provide constructive and useful feedback. But as you are feeling scared, I thought I’d help you mentally prepare for the “worst case.”

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  3. Congrats on finishing your thesis! I felt the same way when I submitted my paper to ASA last year. Just do it and forget about it. ASA is not as terrifying as it seems! I’m sure all will go well.

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  4. In my experience, people only criticize the papers that are fair to middling. The ones that suck and the ones that are awesome get little response. If you paper’s really bad, a) your advisor wouldn’t let you submit it, and b) the session organizer wouldn’t accept it.

    Do you know anyone who is brutally honest and familiar with your topic? Have them look at the paper.

    Congratulations on an awesome feat!

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  5. thank you all – i really appreciate the specific advice. before grad school, i wasn’t one for having people read things before i submitted them, but now i see that’s it’s a necessity. even though my advisor has read it, it’s only been the two of us for several months so some fresh eyes would probably be great. so anomie, i will get one of my more critical cohort-mates to look it over before submission. kikibe thanks for letting me know that i’m not alone πŸ™‚ and olderwoman, thank you for your advice. i was confused by the selection process and roundtables and whatnot, but i’ll go back and read that more carefully. and you’re right – criticism comes with the territory. i’ll remember “thanks for the comments.” wish me luck!

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  6. My experience is that the jerk who attacks the second year grad student gets talked about more than the second year’s paper that might not have seemed up to par. Remind yourself of that over and over again.

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  7. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Chris Moran

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  8. Congrats on the acceptance! I only just came across this post and I’m afraid I don’t have any useful advice, but I can tell you (helpfully or unhelpfully, I don’t know) that you are certainly not alone on this one. It’s hard to imagine that we could ever be like the people we look up to, even though deep down we know it’s only the beginning of our careers and we have so far to go. One thing I do know though, from seeing the quality (or lack thereof) of presentations at ASC, is that whatever you think of your own ability (and I think you’re awesome, but I know people never believe it when they hear it πŸ˜‰ ), you really are at the top of the pack just by virtue of having had some of the best training this country can offer, and this is your chance to show that off.

    Of course, if you ever find the key to self-belief, please do let me know!

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