Dragging your dissertation feet?

ProcrastinationIs your dissertation dragging you down? Are you dragging your feet, your manuscript in sorry tow behind you like an annoying younger brother? Are you doing the impossible already—on campus or online, like many other graduate students juggling family, work, and school? Your academic struggles are intensified by the stresses of such multiple responsibilities and, possibly, loss of your long-range picture.

From what I’ve learned and observed as a longtime coach of graduate students and writer of creative projects, here I address some issues that can trip you up. And I share some steadying remedies so you handle your dissertation and other creative projects with less dragging and more speed and even enthusiasm. [Read more…]

5 Tips for strengthening your qualitative research and writing

Qualitative research methods allow investigators to go beyond merely counting how often something occurs or with how many individuals. Rather, they provide insights in to how or why certain actions are taken or the ways in which people interact with or interpret their lived experiences. This added richness can be critical to forming effective interventions to create behavior change, which is common in not just health and medicine but educational practice as well. Yet, many researchers are hesitant to journey into qualitative research beyond a few open-ended survey questions, due to concerns about qualitative research lacking the rigor and validity of quantitative studies. Although there are many approaches to qualitative research and the accepted norms for conducting and writing up this type of research can vary according to your academic discipline, the following five tips can help provide a solid foundation for starting your qualitative journey. [Read more…]

3 Important steps to reconceiving your dissertation as a book

book with lightbulbEarly career academics and newly minted PhDs in the humanities and social sciences often want to turn their dissertation into a book. While this is a laudable goal, it is important to keep in mind that university presses seldom publish unrevised or lightly revised dissertations. Instead, they seek books that grow out of dissertation projects and are substantially more developed. Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz’s TAA webinar offered terrific advice about the big picture of moving from dissertation to book. TAA members can review her webinar for an overview of the whole process.

Where most writers get stuck, I’ve found in my work coaching academics for the past decade, is in the early stage of reconceiving their project. Taking the following three steps can help you shake off the familiar old conception of your work that you’ve lived with for years and chart a new map for a truly book-worthy project. [Read more…]

When your professor muscles in: Your topic and coauthorship

frustrated academicAs an advanced graduate student, you face many hard situations: finally writing the dissertation, trying to explain to your family why you can’t spend any time with them, and breaking up the fistfights between your chair and committee members. In my work as academic coach and editor, and especially with clients who are at any of the torturous stages of their dissertations, I’ve noticed two other scenarios that can cause students great anxiety. The first is the professor’s suggestion of a dissertation topic. The second, later, is a professor’s offer to collaborate on a research article. [Read more…]

Choose your best dissertation chair

matchedIt is impossible to overestimate the significance of the student-advisor relationship. . . . This is both a personal and professional relationship that rivals marriage and parenthood in its complexity, variety and ramifications for the rest of one’s life. (Zhao, Golde, & McCormick, 2007, p. 263)

These wise observations were made by a new “doctor” in the study by Zhao et al. (2007) of how the doctoral students’ choice of chairs and their behavior affect the students’ satisfaction. The candidate quoted above echoes what many doctoral students learn, with ease or agony, during their dissertations. Your relationship with your chair (sometimes called advisor or supervisor) is absolutely the most important in your entire doctoral haul. [Read more…]

11/7 TAA Webinar, ” Writing Your First Book: Developing Your Dissertation Into a Manuscript”

Margaret PuskarPublishing your first book is imperative for many early-career scholars, but turning your dissertation into a book can be a confusing and difficult process. Join us Thursday, November 7, from 10-11 am ET for the TAA Webinar, “Writing Your First Book: Developing Your Dissertation Into a Manuscript”, where presenter Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz of MargaretEdits will discuss practical strategies and tips for bridging the gap between completing your dissertation and writing a compelling book manuscript. She will also share some of the most common mistakes that she’s encountered in her years as an academic editor and writing coach, the importance of staking a claim that you can defend consistently throughout your book as well as developing your scholarly voice.  [Read more…]

Musical chairs…and committees

In your dissertation trek, you may have a chair and committee who are steady, consistent, and infinitely supportive. If not, my condolences.

Students frequently describe their committees as just wanting to push those dissertations through, get their pittance, devote their time to revising and publishing their own (hard-won) dissertation, and jockeying for tenure. Graduate students also make the frequent mistake of thinking that their committees are reasonable, logical, well- organized, prompt about returning phone calls and manuscripts, and enjoying a balanced life, happy in their work. Rarely. [Read more…]

Are you whirling in the infinite loop of dissertation revisions?

If you’re writing your dissertation and have submitted your drafts to your chair and committee, you may have experienced a version of the infinite loop of revisions. The revisions may drive you crazy, but it’s actually possible to approach and handle them so they don’t erode your confidence (even more), deepen your depression, and thoroughly destroy your sanity.

A chair or committee’s cry for obsessive revisions can stem from one of two main motivations. Some professors can be perfectionist, vindictive, petty, and competitive, and their insistent revisions reflect less-than-healthy motivations. Other professors push you for revisions because they genuinely want a quality work, for you and for them (by reflection). Their comments are not personal, and they’re not out to get you. In fact, they likely see a publishable spinoff in your postdoc future. [Read more…]

Can spirituality help you with school?

MeditationAt first flash, spirituality and graduate school may seem to conflict. School requires your intellect; spirituality requires your surrender of intellect. School subsists on logic and realism; spirituality survives on faith.

I used to hold fiercely to these assumptions. Spirituality and school were completely contradictory, I thought, or at least separate.

Privately, though, I’ve often applied spirituality in my longtime academic practice of coaching and advising doctoral candidates wrestling with their dissertations. Spiritual practices have helped me forgive an ornery client, receive internal guidance for the next step on a daunting project, access the right assuaging words before a difficult meeting, and many other quandaries. [Read more…]

For lagging doctoral candidates: How to finish your dissertation and keep your family

work from homeIf you are in the throes of your dissertation, you probably realize that, other than yourself, your family is most affected by your dissertation, and they most affect your progress. It can be hard for family members to understand what you’re going through and must continue to endure for several years.

A poignant example from one of my dissertation coaching clients: Ava wailed to me, “I get calls daily from my mother, my three sisters, and my two cousins! They all say they’re tired of me not coming to the family events. I had to go to the reunion!”

Like Ava’s relatives, family can start squeezing you. [Read more…]