Vocabulary, Part 3: What I Learned (3rd edition)

This is my last post for the semester! At the end of my last two semesters, I wrote posts listing five things I had learned. I figured since this post is also serving as Part 3 of my vocabulary series, I’d try highlighting five things I caught myself saying recently that illustrate some significant learning over the last year and a half.


  1. As our last research team meeting, in a discussion about a study my lab-mate is planning, I said: Oh, so if that’s when you’re doing the measure, that works. Then it’s a delayed treatment design. I entered my research design class rather skeptical at the beginning of this semester, but it’s clear I picked up some useful vocabulary for talking about research. Even if I understood the concept of delayed treatment before, I couldn’t articulate it.
  2. It has been similar with specific processes of data analysis. A few days ago, my office-mate asked me something to the effect of: You have three research questions but you’re using content analysis for all three, right? My response made very specific use of the terms content analysis, thematic analysis, linguistic analysis, and discourse analysis with a particular meaning behind each one. I can’t write perfect definitions, but I understand the difference. A year ago those would all have had the same connotation to me. (Essentially, they all meant to look at text and try to find patterns. Which is not entirely wrong, but overgeneralizes.)
  3. In a class recently, while talking to the professor about an assignment, he said, You always seem to anticipate me disagreeing more than I actually do. My response? Well, I mean, I’m just participating in discourse as I’m thinking. This was a joke — one you probably won’t get unless you have read some of Sfard’s work recently. I was joking that as I’m writing papers, I have a hypothetical discussion with my mentors in my head, trying to anticipate how they’d respond. This fits with Sfard’s (2008) notion of thinking as communicating with oneself, a theory we had discussed that day in class. The joke isn’t all that funny, even if you do know Sfard, but I did think it was interesting the way I was able to spontaneously use her definition of participation in context.
  4. This semester, I wrote and rewrote my practicum proposal justification at least three times from scratch. This was a rough experience in a lot of ways — wildly frustrating and anxiety-provoking. But I have to admit that when I finally landed on an approach that was working, I thought to myself, Oh my gosh. I think I know what a concept paper is! We talked about concept papers in one of my courses last year, and even after reading examples and attempting to write one, I really had no idea what it was. In the end, I’m reasonably sure the first half of my practicum proposal became a concept paper. I could use that term correctly now in conversation. That feels like a victory given how much I struggled with it last year.
  5. And now for a bit of sappiness (it’s the holidays, after all). When I started my master’s program, I can remember needed to learn the specific meaning of cohort used by academia. I knew of the word before that, but I knew it as an old-fashioned way to refer to a friend, collaborator, or partner-in-crime. I didn’t know the collective meaning of a group of students who enter a program together. I re-learned it again over the last year and a half, and it’s become even more meaningful as a PhD student. My cohort is my tribe, and I’m grateful for them.

Have a lovely break, everyone. Reflect on all you’ve learned. Try not to think too much about how much there is still to go.


Sfard, A. (2008). Thinking as communicating. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


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