April 2019

Interdisciplinary Audience teaser image
Last week I was invited to a dissertation workshop as part of an academic conference. As I’m writing my dissertation proposal this semester, the workshop was quite timely and beneficial. I particularly enjoyed the interdisciplinary intellectual environment because of the following reasons.
First, an interdisciplinary audience forced me to re-consider the words I’m using in my writings. Are they clear enough? Do I overuse jargons? Should I explain the logic and narrative in another way? My cohort at this workshop came from many different humanities and social sciences majors, and I was the only one in my field. Because we all need to present our work, present each others’ work, and discuss the common issues in our works across academic fields, I was amazed by the fruitful questions, comments, and suggestions I received.
Second, an interdisciplinary environment helped me to take a step back to think about my own field and topic in a larger context. Sometimes we as graduate students are so deeply infused in our own literature, and it can be hard to see the application and significance of our work from other perspectives. People from outside of the field can help us to redefine the “why” questions that we all need to answer to justify the purpose of our work.
Finally, an interdisciplinary cohort gave me much emotional support. Although graduate school is a lonely endeavor, having people with similar problems and concerns can be quite a relief. During the workshop, we not only talked about our writings, but also our coping mechanism with work-life balance. It is always good to know that many people are in this struggle together, and many before us made it.
So I really recommend getting into this kind of opportunities. Look for associations and conferences in your field and see if they provide such interdisciplinary environment. You will improve your writings and make friends from diverse backgrounds.

--- Mingqian Liu
Mingqian Liu is a Ph. D. student in the Department of Architecture

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