Have you ever had a brain freeze when you start writing your dissertation and just stared at your computer screen? Your brain freezes because you don’t know what to write. This is a common pattern for most students in general. It’s clearly a weak starting point – writing is the foundation of your dissertation. Writing is how you get to the finish line.
Long before I designed my research, I had to find a topic. It had to be something I could be passionate about to sustain me for the duration. This may have been the most important thing in getting to the finish line.
A good topic could keep me motivated, focused on my goal and got me through the ups and downs.
How did I reach the finish line? It really starts by creating a puzzle, cutting out the pieces, and making them fit together. I had to figure out a few things:
- What are my research questions?
- What do I want to know about my topic?
- What will my research puzzle “look” would like?
- How does my topic contribute to the current knowledge base?
- What data supports or conflicts with my research findings?
In addition, you adapt to the roller coaster feel of the dissertation process. Just when you think it’s safe to get back in the water, you lose a committee member, get stuck in revision mode for a month, or you need to rebuild your literature review.
Delays are inevitable – strap yourself in and prepare to ride the dissertation roller coaster!!
And it’s just as important to find a study buddy. This person should be another student who’s also going through the dissertation process.
You don’t want to travel the road alone. Tap into your network, ask students from your classes, find an ally. Remember that your support network is priceless – use it.
For example, Dr. Patti and I were in different doctoral programs. She joined my support group of six people. We shared our good and bad days and helped each other hang on when things went wrong.
We were the sounding board for ideas. Our common fear was wondering if we’d ever get to that finish line.
But when Dr. Patti and I finally met at summer commencement, we knew it was all worth it. Together we reached the finish line and celebrated every milestone together!!
Do your best, keep taking those baby steps, and the finish line will be on your horizon!
To get to the finish line, you’ll have to try lots of different paths.
~~~ Amby Burfoot ~~~