I have this hoop to jump through, the second-last one, as a matter of fact.
All grads know about hoops. You'd swear we were trained Pomeranians in the circus. For the uninitiated, here's a brief explanation:
Hoop #1 = assessment exam. You start off in grad school, you have to write a full-day exam on the basics of your field (or of the department that deals with your chosen field). You're then deemed worthy to enter the secret realm, which is not unlike the great Water Buffalo Lodge. (It is my life's goal to someday be someone's Grand Poobah)
Hoop #2 = Candidacy exam - the opportunity to show how just how smart you are, and that you deserve to really do your work, and if you want, skip from a Masters program to a PhD program. Write a 15-page report, including justification for your methods, give a 20 minute presentation, and then you're examined by your committee. Not unlike a firing squad.
Hoop #3 = Comprehensive exam - where you prove that you've been able to keep up with the published literature in your field while being über-productive at the same time. That is to say, you're smart enough to juggle. Write several critical essays on your field, give a 20 minute presentation, then an hour or so of questioning. Wunderbar.
Hoop #4 = Preliminary thesis defense, where you provide a healthy background of the literature, decide which camp you like and why, and present your results as they relate to that camp. You guessed it - 20 page report, 20 minute presentation, then firing squad yet again.
Hoop #5 (aka Final Jeopardy) = Thesis defense. later, rinse, and repeat. (but, instead of 20 pages, you have to come up with anywhere from 250-500 pages).
I'm a big fan of Hoop #4, the barrel of which I'm staring down, because it's another essay. An essay, not a scientific paper. No serious nit-picky explanations of methods and quantities and statistical tests. Just my thoughts on my work - why I think that some of the people that came before me are absolutely correct, and why the others are completely wrong. It's so much easier to ramble in an essay, and this particular one only has to be 20 pages.
Countdown to Hoop #4:
24 days (subject to change depending on committee schedules).
Pages written towards Hoop #4 to date:
2 (3.5 if you count the detailed outline that I plan to expand like an accordion)
Total hours spent on the 2 pages of Hoop #4:
Theoretically, that's 2 hours per page. Which means I have about 36 hours of work left.
Holy pipettors, Batman. I'd better get back to work.