Thursday, April 28, 2011


So, I’ve been busily working away on my dissertation and let me tell you it’s a process.  I mean there are times where I may kick into overdrive and start writing like it is nobody’s business and there are times where I will get stuck.  And when I truly get stuck, writing a sentence can feel incredibly difficult and painful.

When I first embarked on this dissertation journey, I was convinced I’d be able to plow through it.  I had heard the horror stories of writing.  In fact, I remember reading somewhere that only 46% of people who pursue a PhD actually graduate.  That’s some scary statistics.  I even read the many articles on “How to Write Your Dissertation,” and felt I’d be OKAY!  Well, who knew the grandness of my naivety?
A dissertation may mean becoming an expert on a research question that has not been explored before.  Ironically, the more I learn the more I realize how little I know.  Quite a contrast from when I graduated with my undergraduate degrees.
I’ve mentioned a few times how excited I am about my dissertation topic.  Yet, at the same time, I often find myself overly cautious.  Whether it is in my methodology or literature review, I want to make sure I’ve considered everything has close to perfection as I can.  Yet, I may doubt my efforts because I am not an experienced researcher like the amazing professors on my committee. 
Additionally, my dissertation involves qualitative analysis.  I’ve come from a background of hard science, whereby research is dominated by quantitative analysis.  Qualitative analysis is non-numerical in nature and is based more on attributes.  For example a focus group or an interview would be considered qualitative.  The responses of participants may be recorded, transcribed and coded into themes.  The process is iterative and progressive, as well as laborious.  Suddenly, multivariate equations in quantitative analysis seem like a joy. 
I guess the truth of the matter, is while one might write their dissertation on their own, we are not on our own.  Most PhD students writing their dissertation will share similar stories of challenges and joy involved.  And if you’re lucky you may have an amazing committee to help guide you in the process to ensure you produce scholarly research.
Like the road to the Olympic Games, it is a journey like no other!


Jeanette Bagwell said...

I agree with you that writing dissertations can really be a great journey. It would be good if you know what you’re doing, rather than puzzling yourself on how to write a thesis abstract. That way, you can enjoy the journey rather than thinking that it is a burden in your life.

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David Haydon said...

Such a good article! In my opinion, the most common mistake is a bad time-management. Most of students do everything in the last moment and as a result they have bad marks, bad relationships with teachers etc. So take it seriously. Be responsible for your projects. You can even buy an essay online and rewrite it, see an example and make it yours. Of course, you should make efforts for doing this, but it is one the best way to learn how to do it.

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