Designing Your Dissertation Downtime (Part 1 of 3)

Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:10 AM | Amina Abdullah, PhD (Administrator)

Designing Your Dissertation Downtime (Part 1 of 3)


~by Amina Abdullah-Winstead, PhD

   Author/Founder (IPSA)

This three part series explores activities in which a learner can engage while waiting for feedback or approvals at various stages of his or her PhD program. Part 1 will cover items associated with the comprehensive exam. Part 2 deals with downtime during the SMR/Proposal/IRB milestones. Part 3 explores actions that learners can take in-between the final chapters of the dissertation. Understanding that the dissertation process differs among universities, learners should find these suggestions useful for any program.  

Part 1
You have completed your coursework and now you are about to embark on the next phase of your dissertation journey. After you submit your responses for the Comprehensive Exam, make productive use of your time as opposed to sitting and wondering when you will hear back about your performance. Instead of obsessing over potential rewrites, try completing a few of the steps below to keep the process moving along. Regardless of whether you pass, fail, or have to do rewrites, you will feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you have made progress toward your goal of preparing for the dissertation.

  1. Select a Mentor: Start thinking about the type of person that you would like to serve as your dissertation mentor. A good place to start is with professors that you have had throughout your program particularly ones from your research courses who are well versed in the type of research that you plan to conduct (qualitative or quantitative). If your school participates in residencies or colloquiums this is a goldmine for networking with potential mentors. You may meet other candidates who may recommend faculty or provide advice about the mentor selection process. You may not realize but Proquest database is another great place to look. You can search for recent dissertations for your school that have a similar topic and/or research method to find out who mentored the dissertation.

  2. Stay on Track: Create a timeline and a to-do-list to lay out the dissertation process. The timeline should include important milestone/due dates for the various phases of the program. Use whatever you are comfortable with, however a few useful tools include creating Excel spreadsheets, starting a Google calendar, placing reminders in your cell phone, or using software apps with calendars or listing features. A great web based tool is Todoist, which allows you to create detailed lists and provides reminders via email.

  3. Get Familiar With the Guidelines: Download and familiarize yourself with the appropriate manuals, guides, and templates provided by your school related to the dissertation process (Hint: if your school does not provide a dissertation template for formatting, use a recently published dissertation from your school as a guideline).

  4. Join a Support Group: Once you pass comprehensive exams, search for a support group to participate in as you complete your dissertation. If you are a women-seeking support during your journey, join the PhD Sisters Group on Facebook. Within this group, you will find amazing women who are at various stages of the dissertation process as well as women who have completed their program and are now doctors. These women engage in constructive (positive) discussions about the Ph.D. process, strategies for completing the program, and balancing life in terms of home, work, family, and school. 

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