As another quarter comes to an end, many of you may be moving closer to the end of your dissertation process—yea! While working with thousands of Ph.D. candidates, I still find it funny that instead of being relieved that the end of this journey is near, many are more nervous than ever! It too often seems that the thought of the dissertation defense process gives more anxiety than the relief of the nearing commencement!
Now, for those of you that are in the beginning or mid-phases of the dissertation process, this article is not meant to scare you. Rather, a better understanding of the dissertation process ahead will help you align your progress with the preparation of your end goal. Be motivated by those who are completing their dissertations and it may help you visualize your end date too.
You’ve finished your doctoral coursework, your proposal approved, data analysis plan completed, data collected, and your dissertation done! As you head for the dissertation defense, the fear and anxiety of this moment is rushing in….Take a big sigh! Don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Remember these key points:
Preparing For The Dissertation Defense
As you journey towards preparing for the dissertation defense, I recommend the following:
Always address committee issues. Try to address things thoroughly as early as possible. Committee issues are not like fine wine: they do not age well. To the extent that you can resolve things early on, all the better. Everyone is signing your dissertation, if you don’t have a strong support for your dissertation, it will only prolong the process.
Detach yourself emotionally from your dissertation. As you move through the dissertation process your research will change—it will becomes less and less yours. This shouldn’t be discouraging—every great work is a collaborate effort. Change is part of the process; it will only be painful if you enter the process with the expectation that you are going to change the world with your set ideas. As soon as you give up on the idea that the dissertation is yours the entire process will lighten-up. Your committee has power and opinions on what your research should be and they have ultimate say on whether your research is approved. Feel empowered by this instead of disheartened. Do not view them as the enemy, rather the support committee that is chosen to facilitate you towards your Ph.D. and end goal.
Keep informal notes on your intentions. This may be counter-intuitive compared to the last recommendation but I think this is important for different reasons. You will come to a point when you realize: The purpose statement is realized- now what? Even if your dissertation research becomes so different that it is unrecognizable, your original intentions will help shape your ultimate scholarly framework.
Seek professional help if you need it. We offer dissertation defense consulting that can range from coaching you through your statistics to performing a mock defense. Outside assistance allows you the chance to validate your results with someone who can act as a tough committee with good intentions. My goal is for you to pass the defense smoothly.
The Defense Date Is Set
As the day of the defense nears, how you prepare your self for that defense date will help shape how successful you will ultimately be. I recommend the following:
There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel!
Groucho Marx once famously said “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” While I respect Groucho, I have to disagree (at least in this case). The Ph.D. is a club you want to belong to—and you’ve worked hard to get there!
The dissertation commencement process is not the end; it’s the beginning. Set the stage for your “after-defense” life. This is a time for new energy and for exciting career opportunities. Not to mention the positive affect this will have on your personal relationships once the dissertation dragon has been slayed and you have more time to spend with loved ones. This should be celebrated!
This celebration should be a time to show gratitude for those who have helped you through the process. The dissertation process is not a solo journey. Thank your support team, academically, professionally and personally.
As the quarter comes to an end, some of you may be defending your dissertations or just moving closer to that point—I wish you all luck!
James Lani, Ph.D.
We work with graduate students every day and know what it takes to get your research approved.