At some point, usually after qualifying exams have happened, every doctoral student has to begin writing his or her dissertation, which will ultimately end up as a lovely dust-covered leather-bound book somewhere deep in the stacks of his or her respective university library (this is how one “contributes to human knowledge” officially). But you have to start thinking about what, exactly, it is you’re going to write well before those qualifying exams occur; in our program, for example, you have to develop some sort of focus statement document thing roughly a year into your studies, and that is essentially the time when you decide what it is that you’re going to research and write about. This is the point where your professional hat is more or less hung on the coat tree of your permanent focus, to use a horribly tortured metaphor.
I’ve been thinking about this for a bit because I have two rather divergent fields in mind that both fit under the umbrella of “Communication and Society” (though apparently at some point in the last month that was changed to “Media Studies,” unbeknownst to pretty much all of us), and yet they really don’t relate to each other at all. Thus my dilemma–which do I ultimately pick?