Presenting ... The Epistemologizer. -- PGOAT
Writing cover letters is giving me panic attacks. I'm trying to get input from a number of different professors, so it's not just my committee telling me "Yes, your letters look good. Now get back to writing your dissertation." Perhaps predictably, the advice I've been getting from the different professors I've shown my letters to is all over the map. So far I've received, on the one hand, a multiple pages-long response giving me paragraph-by-paragraph suggestions. On the other, a six-line email saying that you can never really help yourself by saying things in the letter, really you can only harm yourself, so in that respect the less said the better. What does one DO with a response like that?
Then there's the conversation I had with another professor today, in which he said: "Well essentially this has been rehashed already for the past decade by plenty of people, so what makes your dissertation project new and important? How is it different from what X said in 1996?" I think my mouth was open, but no sounds were coming out. Not a good sign. (Mental note: start prepping for job interviews so I can actually answer that question should anyone decide to interview me after reading whatever becomes of this cover letter.) So not only do I not feel so great about the state of my cover letters, but now thanks to my efforts at trying to improve first impressions, I've been thrown into a crisis of self-doubt that my project is at all worthwhile or philosophically significant, so should I even make it through the first round by some miracle, I'll blow it once I get to the interview stage for lack of being able to answer very basic questions like the one just cited. Did I mention that I've only written 12 pages of my third chapter? There are four chapters of my dissertation, so really I haven't even written (and therefore have no idea what will be in) the end yet. Come to think of it, my committee might be onto something.
-- The Epistemologizer