Doctoral Dissertation Help

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I’m guessing that you have dealt with those factors in your own writing, and it would be a generous gift to your students to acknowledge your experience and share some strategies that you’ve used to manage them.

Graduate students appreciate knowing that even academics who are well published continue to experience perfectionism and procrastination.

For a wide range of reasons, the hardest thing for doctoral students to do is the one thing that will actually lead to a completed dissertation: sit their butt down and write!

Instead, procrastination, perfectionism and isolation drive students to spend their time doing everything writing.

Many graduate students I’ve worked with have made a common error.

They have prioritized all of the work that had built-in accountability -- teaching, service, research tasks for their adviser and job applications -- to the exclusion of the one activity that will lead to their completion of the dissertation: writing.(My favorite is Sonja Foss and William Waters’s .) And I recommend that you have references to a few well-written dissertations in your recent departmental history that they can read as examples of a finished product. (And by “writing” I mean anything that moves a manuscript out the door.) However, that’s the opposite of how most graduate students write, or imagine they write, their dissertations.This emerges from a combination of past binge-and-bust writing habits, the flawed assumption that nothing can get done in 30 minutes a day, and the idea that they must have everything figured out 30 minutes per day on their dissertation, that’s great!There’s one more reason why it’s important to ask what support graduate students need: they often are not aware of, or taking advantage of, existing support services on the campus.Colleges and universities are increasingly offering writing space for dissertation writers, writing retreats, dissertation coaching and writing workshops.And unlike seminar papers, a dissertation cannot be binge written in a few days. That may seem like a simple question, but I can assure you that the perfectionist-fueled expectations of many graduate students often differ significantly from the actual expectations of their committee members.That is important to understand and take seriously, because the conversations you are likely having with your students (about the content of the work) are not getting to the core problem: the fact Then I suggest using the following questions to get real with them about breaking their cycle of dissertation avoidance. When I ask graduate students what a dissertation is and if they have ever read one (particularly one that has recently passed in their department), the response is often complete confusion.And even if your campus does not offer such services, plenty of online dissertation-writing communities can provide supportive accountability for your students to write every day.Ultimately, I want you, as an adviser, to be able to get your students producing work so that you can have the conversations about their dissertation research that you would like to have, and are distinctly positioned to have, with them.They have done this because all those other activities had external deadlines that day, while their dissertation could be pushed off until tomorrow, Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, summer, next year ….This is a great time to ask what type of accountability structure would help your students to prioritize at least 30 minutes of daily dissertation writing above all the other things clamoring for their attention.

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