How often have you felt close to giving up completely on your dissertation?
I hear that statement most frequently among my dissertation coaching clients who are practically within a stone’s throw of finishing.
What could make it so hard to keep going?
The outsider might think that during the long process of writing a dissertation, writers would have grown to self-confidently view themselves as experts.
The fact of the matter is that dissertation writers all too often aren’t encouraged to recognize or trust their expertise. The process is often riddled with self-doubt and uncertainty.
Even in the best of circumstances, writing a dissertation may be one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever take on. It’s made worse when an advisor offers little or no guidance or support. The worst stories I’ve heard range from advisors who are completely disengaged and want nothing to do with the ABD student to advisors who seem not only to lack empathy but also lack awareness of the effect of their sarcasm and volatile moods.
Since most ABD’s work with the same advisor for months, if not years, what looks for all the world like psychological abuse can take a toll on even the most resilient and determined student.
When dissertation writers are confronted by self-doubt and the desire to quit, it’s time to step back from the process.
As a dissertation coach and an academic career coach, I encourage my clients to view their experiences through various lenses. This may sound Pollyanna-ish, but you probably can’t change the process, so why not change the way you look at it?
For instance, what might a future employer—even if the employer is not in your field of expertise—infer about you, based on your having a PhD?
The knowledgeable future employer will understand that you know:
• How to bring the best you have to offer to a project and keep yourself in the game over a long period of time
• How to manage an extended project, specifically an extended writing project
• How to be politically savvy
This is just a start– What else have learned during this arduous process?
When you are honest with yourself, you must admit that you are learning a great deal about stamina and grit as you write this dissertation. The character strengths you are honing are perhaps just as important as your accomplishments in your field of study. What have you learned that will stand you in good stead after you leave the state of the ABD?
I’d love to hear from you.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach