In graduate school, the initials "ABD" commonly stand for "All But Dissertation." This informal title is bestowed upon graduate students who have finished all of their coursework, have successfully completed their qualifying examinations in their chosen sub-fields, and successfully pass a comprehensive examination, which consists of orally defending one's dissertation proposal (called a "prospectus") to his or her dissertation committee. Such individuals are pleased to know that the only thing standing between them and a Ph.D. is writing a dissertation and defending it to their committee one final time. These individuals also get to trade in their title of "Ph.D. student" for the more prestigious title of "Ph.D. candidate."
Incidentally, on February 16, 2009 (President's Day) at approximately 6:00 PM Central time, I also offically became "ABD". Whoo-hoo!
I was successfully able to defend my dissertation proposal to my committee earlier today. It wasn't a pretty affair and I was glad when it was over, but it got the job done. The project is entitled "Understanding the 'New Nativism': Causes and Consequences for Immigration Policy Attitudes in the United States." I know that no one is really interested in the gory details, but the bottom line is that the project is trying to create a more comprehensive quantitative model for anti-immigrant attitudes in the mass American public. (I can email a copy of my 58-page prospectus to anyone if they're really interested in more detail... Alternatively, a more concise summary is available on my website: http://myweb.uiowa.edu/bknoll/currentresearch.html)
Thus, my primary academic objective from this point forward is to spit out a 200-or-so-page manuscript over the next fourteen months so I can then graduate in May 2010. Of course, it may be only a symbolic accomplishment at this point, as the current economic situation is going to severely restrict the number of academic faculty openings for the Fall 2010 semester, and thus also my chances for getting a job after I'm done. Oh, well!