How to field those horrible questions about your academic project

Fielding questions about your academic projectWhether you’re writing your dissertation, or post-dissertation, sweating through the first article from it, or a book chapter, or an entire book, at least one person always turns up among your family or friends who shamelessly asks those questions that make you squirm. They’re right up there with the in-your-face “How come you’re still single?” or “When are you going to have kids?”

To help you field the equivalent questions about your academic project, maintain your self-respect, and even jab a little in return, here are several of the most common questions, and variations. I’ve collected these from my academic coaching clients who are agonizing through writing their dissertations, articles, and books. [Read more…]

Your life A.D. (after dissertation)

It always seems impossible until it's doneA motivational truism proclaims that the most dangerous time is when you’ve reached a goal. This is why many doctoral candidates experience Post-Parting Depression (PPD). Consciously and unconsciously you’ve been pushing hard for so very long. Preoccupied with the intensity and innumerable details of the work itself, you may have lost sight of the larger purpose of the dissertation and degree. After graduation, you no longer have to spend every moment you’re not eating or bathing on the dissertation.

In my dissertation coaching and editing practice, most clients I’ve helped graduate experience this void. For a year or usually more, they say, they’ve wished for nothing but to finish the durn thing. Now that they have . . . inexplicably they miss it—and get depressed. [Read more…]

How I’m using Milanote to write my PhD thesis

MilanoteA PhD thesis is a large piece of writing which compiles several years of research. As such, it needs a great amount of planning not only at the beginning but also during the writing process itself where thoughts might move to another section several times.

My PhD is in the field of nanophysic, exploring the possibility that single molecules could be used as the building blocks of new kinds of microprocessors. My work is based on numerical simulations that run on supercomputers where performance really matters, which could explain my obsession with finding the right tool for a given task. [Read more…]

How to get your boss’s support for your dissertation

writingIt’s not easy working full-time and writing a dissertation. A few fortunate doctoral students can quit work and devote themselves completely to the dissertation. But if you cannot quit, you can still make time for it—by meeting with your employer or supervisor.

Employers often encourage higher degrees, and some pay for them in whole or part. Your boss may be supportive of your academic pursuit and willing to give you released time and preferential schedules to meet the demands of graduate work. To gain what you need, you need a plan and rehearsal for the talk. [Read more…]

Two types of university friends you may have never thought of (part 1)

librarianGraduate students on the road to doctoral Oz often feel more isolated than a vegetarian at a barbecue. Especially if you have a laissez faire chair and committee, you may believe you’re abandoned and unloved. You’re not. In my work as editor and coach for struggling dissertation-writing students, I know well that many other people in the university community can comfort, calm, and care for you. Here I’ll remind you of two types who can help ease your dissertation traumas. (Next post: two more.)

Librarians Love You  

Even in this age of access to many online databases, librarians can help you greatly as you plow through the dissertation. Once you recognize the immense resources at their keypads, you can enlist their aid to save yourself time, effort, and digital runarounds. [Read more…]

What can you learn from learning centers?

writing centerWhen you’re writing your dissertation, in its grip you’re probably on the lookout for any resource that holds out the slightest smidgen of help and solace. One of these is learning centers, or writing centers, as they are often called. Learning centers constitute one of those university auxiliary supports that espouse noble goals. They aim to help the graduate student get through that dread writing and do it right. They sound good, with individual tutors who lovingly go over your work and spruce it up.

In my work as an academic coach and editor primarily assisting doctoral students, many have told me of the problems and splendors of learning centers. If you are wondering about the value of learning centers, perhaps my observations will help and save you the time you should be devoting to your Chapter 5. [Read more…]

Dissertation support groups (part 2): Success!

SupportPreface: This is the second of two posts on dissertation support groups. In the previous piece, “Dissertation support groups (part 1): Watch out!”, I described several benefits and cautioned readers about drawbacks of a group. In this piece, I report on a successful group in the words of its founders and members. The philosophies and methods may help graduate students seeking support groups and faculty desiring to start them.

“I couldn’t write. I’d be in the library, staring at the portrait of the bearded benefactor, and the time would just tick by. That’s when I decided to join the group.”

This member of a dissertation support group was not alone in her dilemma. [Read more…]

5 Reasons to aim for brevity

Getting the Best of Your DissertationA good writing practice is the foundation of good writing. A good practice is built on regular action, and depends on the ideas or perspectives that lead to effective action. When planning a writing project, one effective idea is to aim for brevity: keep your work short.

The following is a slightly edited excerpt from my book, Getting the Best of Your Dissertation: Practical Perspectives for Effective Research: [Read more…]

5 Key takeaways from the TAA webinar, ‘5 Ways to Use Your Dissertation for Publications’

Dissertation to publicationsJanet Salmons, PhD, mined every element of her dissertation to launch a publishing strategy that has resulted in five books and numerous chapters and cases, articles and blog posts. She created a typology of five options for drawing from, building on, or applying student writing, which she shared in the May 18 TAA Webinar, “5 Ways to Use Your Dissertation for Publications”. Here are 5 key takeaways from the presentation: [Read more…]

Dissertation support groups (part 1): Watch out!

 Pros and cons of writing support groupsThis is the first of two posts on dissertation support groups. In this post, I acknowledge some of the advantages and alert you to some of the dangers of a group. In the next post, I describe a successful group in the words of its members.

In the seemingly endless struggles with your dissertation, you may think about joining a dissertation support group. A group can be excellent for “solace, support and motivation” (Axelrod & Windell, 2012, p. 101) and sharing of information and writing techniques (Grant & Tomal, 2013; Joyner, Rouse, & Glatthorn, 2012; Rockinson-Szapkiw & Spaulding, 2014). The group can also be a great source of consolation and camaraderie, a welcome environment in which everyone speaks the dissertationese dialect, and a welcome spot for empathetic grousing. [Read more…]