For academics: Are your kids growing up without you?

Work Life BalanceYou were probably thrilled beyond words (mono- and polysyllabic) when your kids were born and you witnessed the true miracle of those so-young lives. The kids grew older, and you hunkered down into your academic career. Maybe your feelings changed—you don’t love them any less, but you may see the children as distracters and interrupters of your work. After all, we have important completions of all the conference abstracts, articles, books, chapters, dissertations, even the course syllabi. And we need to finish all these projects for advancement.

Granted, children can be annoyances and disrupters. Most of the time, though, barring a fall from the tree house, they are bothering you because they want—no, crave—your attention. [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…]

6 Techniques to jumpstart writing efficiency and productivity

Vintage typewriterIn our writing projects—dissertation, article, book, presentation—after the first brilliant idea or paragraphs of exhilarated creation, our enthusiasm may turn to mud. From my own experiences with tortured writing and those of my academic coaching and editing clients, I recommend the following six techniques, with credible rationales, to help you work more efficiently and write more productively.

1) Make Separate Files

As simplistic as it seems, start by making separate files for each part of the work—prefatory pages, introduction, chapters, sections, reference list, appendices. Refer to your university handbook, journal specs, or publisher’s requirements to construct your file in the correct format. If a template is provided, use it. Later, you’ll combine all files for the finished work. [Read more…]

Two more types of university friends you may have never thought of (part 2)

Don't be reticent in contacting fellow students and former professors.If you’re a graduate student struggling with your dissertation, you probably crave at least a few people who really understand and can help you get through the long and torturous journey. Many dissertation writers have confided to me as their editor and coach that their chairs and committee members, unfortunately, may not be the most supportive or nurturing. In Part 1 of this series, I recommended two types of individuals you may not have thought of who can be immense help: librarians and secretaries. Here I’ll suggest two more. [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…]

5 Web tools to help you manage and organize citations

citationsWhen it comes to academic writing, it is important to be diligent about collecting and organizing sources that will support your statements. The success of the overall project is often determined by the organizational skills you show during the research stage, and if you lose track of the sources of your ideas, you may also end up inadvertently committing plagiarism.

The following five tools can help you manage your sources and organize citations in accordance with whichever citation format you follow. [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…]

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…]