Almost 3 years ago a graduate student who lived in the area called my office asking for help. She must have heard through the student grapevine that I worked with graduate students. She was not a graduate student at the University of Maryland but she lived in the Baltimore area. She was registered at a college in the northeast and stayed at home in Baltimore writing her dissertation.
She found the experience of writing the dissertation to be a lonely, isolating process. Her advisor was located in another state willing to review the chapters that she was “suppose to be writing”. Although her advisor was generally pleased with her writing when she did finally turn it over, this student was still not confident in her writing ability. Although she mentioned that her advisor’s personality was that of a straight and direct person, this student would constantly worry that her advisor was just placating her.
Over the past three years I would call or email this graduate student about once every three months just to check in and see how she was doing. I met with her face to face twice. Last week she called and sent me an email letting me know that she successfully defended her dissertation.
This student did exactly what you should do if you are writing your dissertation in isolation and possibly experiencing the Impostor Syndrome . One way to get over this feeling is to recognize that you are not alone and many high achieving people feel the same way. To complete your dissertation it is important that you seek help, even if it is just to connect to someone else who is in the same situation. The Thesis and Dissertation Challenge section on this blog provides you with the opportunity to connect to others who are writing their dissertation. If you are feeling like an intellectual phony it is important to remember getting a PhD does not mean that you are an expert at everything and your dissertation is your Magnus Opus.
Your best work is yet to come and your dissertation is just the beginning of your academic or research career not the end. The dissertation does not have to be perfect it just has to be finished. A good dissertation is a done dissertation.