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Academic Coaching & Writing

II. Transition from Doctoral Student to Dissertator

Feb 17, 2016 by Carol Ray Philips

Because you're getting ready to begin your dissertation, it’s likely you've been going to school for a long time. In all those years, constants have been, well, constant. For instance, you were a member of a class and that membership provided important supports that you may have taken for granted. Your class was actively led by a teacher who guided you through a curriculum, clarified the rules of the course, and provided assignments and assessments throughout the semester. You had classmates, whether brick and mortar or virtual.

As you transform from student to dissertator you no longer have the course structure or the peer support from your classmates. An additional change is in the scope of your work in terms of time, research, and length. Regarding time, you may have been given two to three weeks to write a paper as a student, whereas your dissertation may take two to three years and often considerably more time than that. The papers you previously wrote may have been no more than than 30 pages. The research required for that paper may have included reading 5-12 articles. Dissertations, on the other hand, run in the 100-200 page range with a minimum of 50-100 references.

In summary, the differences between a paper and a dissertation are similar to the differences between running a sprint and a marathon. For the two races, you undertake different training to develop different muscles. You also need to shift from speed to endurance. The same can be said of the shift from your role as a student to that of a dissertator.

Keys to making changes are determination and perseverance. Because you've come this far on the academic journey, there's no question that you have those resources. The next blog will discuss how you—the persistent and resourceful you—can “train” for the dissertation race.

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