if life as an ABD does not appeal to you, here are five suggestions from someone who struggled, but finally managed to find the motivation to earn the Ph.D. title.
Completing one’s dissertation is a life event that should be ranked up there with marriage, childbirth and death. It is a rite of passage, a moment to be cherished, and a once-in-a-lifetime cause for celebration.
With such cause for elation, you’d think more people would be walking around with the Ph.D. title. However, multitudes of studies reveal the relatively high rate of ABD’s (All But Dissertation) who fail to complete the dissertation. There’s just something about the dissertation stage – when one is set free of coursework and is left to flounder in what one author called “Lake Dissertation.” And there’s plenty of reaffirming psycho-literature to help you through existing as an ABD for most of your life.
After all, quitting is an option and it does not always equate to failure. But if life as an ABD does not appeal to you, here are five suggestions from someone who struggled, but finally managed to find the motivation to earn the Ph.D. title:
1. “Just write the damn thing!”
This was an early piece of advice I received from a professor as I struggled to finalize that perfect dissertation topic. I wavered back and forth for months on finding the precise angle and vantage from which I wanted to write. I struggled over word choice and syntax. I ached from writing and rewriting.
Finally, this learned professor bluntly said, “Just write the damn thing” and it was like I had a sudden release to do just that – write the damn thing and then worry about fixing it later.
For many of us, it’s getting those first words on the paper where we struggle. Revising and editing are second nature but getting that initial phrase perfectly worded paralyzes us. So get over yourself, sit down, and write.
2. Get a job.
Nothing is more motivating than being hired as an ABD with the job offer dependent on you finishing your dissertation.
While many of us wait to start sending resumes until we are ready to graduate, start applying for your first post-Ph.D. job now – and make all sorts of promises that rely on you having your dissertation in hand to start the job.
Having that job waiting for you is not only motivating, but it also instills a real deadline where others are depending on you to finish. Failure is not an option and you will find that perhaps the fear of failure will motivate you to get the dissertation finalized.
3. Hire your help.
Dissertation writing is not easy, especially if you take this advice and don’t focus on making sure every APA (American Psychological Association) citation is perfectly crafted or every heading is bold and centered the appropriate way.
Rest assured, there are typically several people within your institution and maybe even your department who specialize in cleaning up dissertations. These hourly editors are specialists in cross-referencing your paper to make sure every in-text cite is on your reference list and every page number is appropriately placed.
Save your coffee money and pay for this service.
It is worth every penny to have another set of eyes study your paper for formatting and editing errors. If nothing else, hiring someone for this will reaffirm you are a content expert who simply does not have the time or expertise to worry about the smaller details like parentheses and page margins. And after years as a Ramen-noodle eating graduate student, it feels good to hire someone to someone else for once.
4. Get kicked out of your institution (almost).
Most institutions have a set number of years you have to complete your dissertation after finishing your coursework. At my school, it was eight years.
There is nothing more motivating than receiving a letter on university letterhead indicating that every dime you spent on your coursework will be wasted if your dissertation is not done by a specific date. This letter is daunting and usually signed by someone seated in a fancy university office (one unlike your shared graduate assistant cubicle).
The letter is the university’s last attempt to warn you that your studies are in jeopardy. Copy this letter and post it as your desktop wallpaper. Frame a copy to hang by your front door. Tape a copy to your steering wheel.
This deadline, more than any other in graduate school, is the costliest. Do not let your work go to waste – use this warning as your motivation to complete what you started years ago.
5. Hide the fact that you’re writing a dissertation.
This may seem counterintuitive, because as you share this news with most people you will usually receive a complement like “Wow! What a great thing!” or “You must be really smart!”
You’ll also get affirmation that what you are doing is one of the hardest tasks you’ll ever complete in life like “Isn’t it really, really hard to write a dissertation?” or “I could never do something like get a Ph.D.”
Quite frankly, you have completed your coursework and you know that earning a Ph.D. is a difficult and rewarding place to be, all at one time. But you do not need anyone to reassure you that what you are doing is hard nor do you need anyone’s advice.
When you sit in front of your doctoral committee you, and only you, will have to answer for your dissertation findings. The last thing you need at this stage is everyone else’s input.
Therefore, do not tell anyone that you are working on your dissertation. Disguise your oversized bag of library books. Shred your first chapter drafts. This task if yours and only yours to complete. You will get your attention when you are addressed as “Dr. So and So” for the rest of your life.
It’s already November. You should be deep in writing right no,w ready to turn in a working final draft at the beginning of next semester. Consider this advice and go for it. And let me know when you join the ranks as a fellow Ph.D.’er.
Powered by Facebook Comments