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« Attention: Dissertation Distraction (A.D.D) | Main | Academic Mentoring »



Thanks for the link!

David Whitney, Ph.D.

The first stats professor I had in my doctoral program was a retired full-professor who was still working part-time at the university because he enjoyed teaching. One day during a discussion he presented the following question to our class: "What's the purpose of a dissertation?" As expected, students in the class responded with things such as, "to learn how to conduct research", "to add to the knowledge-base in our field", "to demonstrate that we can do scholarly writing", blah blah blah... The professor simply smiled and said, "To get it done."

Obviously, his response caught everybody off guard. Here we were complete novices in the world of academia, and we had this full-professor from a Research I university telling us simply, "to get it done." Those 4 words were probably as important as any I ever heard in grad school. His point was that a dissertation was merely the last step before graduateing, and that we were going to learn everything we would need to know in order to write it in our courses and committee meetings, etc. over the next few years. He pointed out that the world is filled with A.B.D.'s and adjuncts who cannot find the tenure-track positions that many desire, because they cannot simply get themselves through this one hoop.

I learned that day to simply RELAX. The quantitative and qualitative research coursework didn't have to be so daunting. The dissertation itself didn't need to be some epic piece that would cause Einstein's jaw to drop in awe. It simply only needed to get finished!

Although, that statement on the surface sounds much too simplistic, the fact that I had 5 excellent professors serving on my committee would help me make sure that it was a quality product worthy of the "Ph.D." label. I merely had to stay focused, write a couple hours each day, stay in contact with my committee chair on a regular basis, and ask colleagues to peer-review various sections. That was it. The fact that I had done well in all my coursework and had passed my written and oral exams meant that the profs on my committee already had confidence in me, so I had nothing to worry about--except my own tenacity.

So, that was the ridulously simplistic formula that worked for me (and may work for others as well):

1. Stay focused
2. Write/research 1-2 hours EVERY day
3. Stay in constant contact with your chair
4. Seek others to peer-review parts of it regularly

That's it! (Oh yeah--I almost forgot--Slamming a lot of coffee and/or Moutain Dew throughout helps.)

You know, it's funny--to this day (5 years later) when I tell this story to professors who have been at it for a long time, they inevitably laugh and say, "Yep, that's true." However, when I share that story to grad students and newbie professors, they tend to give a skeptical look, and say something along the lines of, "Oh, I don't know...I think that's an over-simplification. It's a lot of hard work, and it's extremely important." I guess it's all relative. Just remember those 4 simple steps--it doesn't have to be difficult...Just "get it done!"


If any of your readers are looking for the specific posts, the first part is right here. There are links there to the other two parts.

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