Lately, I been speaking with graduate students who are struggling with writing their doctoral dissertation. They seem to have a whole host of explanations as to why they are not finished with the document. While some explanations can be categorized as legitimate excuses others are fall into the opposite category. I get the sense that students are trying to avoid the pain that comes with completing a dissertation. Even if you extend your dissertation by months or even a semester it does not mean that you will avoid the late night editing, the frustration of organizing committee members schedules, the specifications of the strict format of the Graduate School, the apprehension of the defense presentation, the deadlines of the revisions, and or the overall stress of PhD completion. The truth of the matter is you are just putting off the pain and also putting off the glory of completing your PhD.
Between the tears, one student recently said “I want to have a social life, I want to go out with my friends.” I can understand the desire to socialize. Nonetheless, writing a dissertation and hanging out with friends seem almost impossible. I recommended to this student that if you want to hang out with your friends you should work on your dissertation first and use “hanging out” as a reward for getting something done. I find that the friends that are so important during this stage also seem invisible when you need help with the dissertation itself. When you are looking for an editor do you have any friends that are willing to read and give you feedback? Can your friends, help you with your bibliography, list of tables, list of figures, etc. Can they walk the dog, take the dog to the vet, pick up your dry cleaning, cook a meal, bring you a cup of coffee, mail your bills, respect your time, take the kids to the movies, babysit, etc so that you can get another paragraph written? Can they do anything else other than hang out?
Just because this person was your best friend in college or elementary school doesn’t mean that he or she wants the same things you want. Not everyone is going to be supportive of you finishing your degree. For everything and everyone there is a season. If you need to assess some relationships to get your dissertation done, do it, morn your losses, and move on. When working on your dissertation you have to police your own behavior. While there are rewards you also have to be responsible for the penalties as well. If you did not get any writing done on your dissertation you should not reward bad behavior.
Even if you missed your deadline that should not be an excuse to stop writing, just set another one. Today is another opportunity to get something done . Stopping waiting for the feeling or some enthusiasm to hit you before you do something on your dissertation. If I waited to feel like exercising to exercise I would never get out of bed. The reality is I am never going to feel like it…. the alternative is to do it anyway because the end of the work out is the best part of the work out for me. I work out using videos and the best part is when they come to the cooldown part. The even better workout is the “rest day.”
When you are working on your dissertation, what is the sign that you have come to the best part? When you advisor sets the defense date, after the defense, after the revisions are done, or after you have gotten the all clear from the Graduate School and now you can submit it to Proquest?
You need to create some markers so that you know you are getting towards the end. I always recommend printout a hard copy of what you have so that you can see how much more you have to get done. Start with your proposal. Get a three ring binder, and separate each chapter with a different color paper. Read your proposal and start changing the tense from future to present tense.
Here are 15 signs you are ready to graduate
- You have submitted a full draft to your committee members
- You arranging a defense date, looking for a room for your defense, filling out the paper work for your defense
- You have ordered your cap and gown
- You have submitted your dissertation your PROQUEST
- You are applying for Postdocs or Jobs
- You are ordering copies of your dissertation
- You are ordering a Certificate of Completion
- You are writing your Dedication or Acknowledgement Page
- You are practicing your Jobtalk, & Defense presentation
- You are planning your graduation party
- You have completed the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED)
- You are creating your Table of Contents (TOC) for your dissertation
- You are creating the Signature Page for your committee members
- You have paid all outstanding university bills
- You can sleep in late and now to worry about writing your dissertation