Posts Tagged ‘dissertation process’

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


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Most of us in the U.S. turned back our clocks this morning, giving us one extra hour.

Now you may think I’ll say that everyone writing a dissertation had one extra hour today to write.  Not me.  Not this time.

As I read the Washington Post this morning, a little earlier than I usually do on Sunday mornings, I was struck by the gift of an hour and what was available to me—I read the Post’s “Picks” and “Can’t Miss.”   But when I was writing my dissertation, if I had received the gift of an extra hour, I doubt that I would have spent it doing what I really wanted to do.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have.

Writing a dissertation can move us into survival mode.  We may stockpile every minute, push ourselves beyond what’s reasonable, prop ourselves up with caffeine and sugar, and push away others, compounding the isolation. 

That’s crazy.

You will finish your dissertation, but in the meantime, you need a life.

If you have children, you probably feel as if you’ve been taking something away from your family.  They’ll be o.k., but spending time with the people you love nurtures you.  And it may actually help you think more clearly and creatively when you go back to your dissertation. 

If you have friends that you haven’t contacted in umpteen years/months, this might be the time.

If religion or church-going has ever been a part of your life, then maybe this is the time to stop in again.  If you were ever going to pray, this is the time for that, don’t you think? 

So when might you plan some time to spend with others?  How do you usually spend your week-ends?  If you’re like many dissertators, you plan to work on the week-end, but the time gets away from you.  And by Sunday night, most likely you realize that you didn’t spend the week-end doing anything you particularly enjoyed either.

What if you planned your next week-end to accommodate both dissertation writing and doing something you enjoy?

Recently, a client decided that she would work Saturday afternoon and then take a long bike ride on Sunday with her friends.  I pressed her, asking her what would lock in this idea, what would make it absolutely happen. By our talking about how it could be and how she would feel once Sunday night arrived, the plan came to life for her. 

Here are a few things that I hope you will remember.

1.  It is important to talk about how something is going to change.
2.  Put very detailed plans into writing and then review that plan throughout the week. 
3.  Make sure that your detailed plans include specifically what you want to accomplish in your work session.
4.   Do not let the work session bleed into the time for the rest of your life.  Follow my client’s lead:  work on Saturday; hold part of Sunday for what you want to do. 
5.  And do whatever it takes to include others. 

Starving yourself when you’re on a diet makes you mean, and probably shortens the life of the diet.

Depriving yourself while you write your dissertation can stunt your emotional and spiritual growth, creating a mean and maybe lonely person. 

And deprivation could make it easier for you to abandon the diss before it’s finished.

If you have a second, please drop by my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my free e-newsletter.

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