They regularly talk with students about just this issue. does not mean that you have “quit” or that others who remain in the program are smarter, more driven, or more virtuous than you are.
Many, many people lead happy, fulfilling lives, build lucrative and rewarding careers, make important contributions to knowledge, share interesting ideas with others, and generally get along just fine without three letters after their names. It also does not mean that you have wasted the time and money that you invested in the degree up to the ABD stage.
It may simply mean that after considering your own personal motivations and goals, you decided this career choice wasn’t for you—and that you plan to use the skills you honed as a graduate student in other ways that are more suited to you. Unlike the elaborate study strategies you developed in order to pass your comprehensive exams, writing the dissertation will enable you to start developing a set of valuable research and writing skills.
Thinking analytically, synthesizing complicated information, writing well, and organizing your time will all serve you well regardless of the career you begin.
If you choose a career in academia, the systems of support, research strategies, work schedules, and writing techniques that help you do the dissertation will help you write books, articles and lectures for many years to come.
You might make a list of all the reasons you want to get the Ph. You might plan out your life’s possible courses for the next 2, 5, 10, or 20 years if you do and if you don’t proceed with the degree.
Through all this, ask yourself “What will make me happy? ”If you are too close to your own graduate school anxieties to think critically about them, visit campus resources that can help you sort out your thinking on this difficult and important issue.
Your advisor or colleagues in your department may be able to help you if you have a good relationship with them.
Other graduate students, especially those who are about to finish or have finished, may be particularly helpful.
University counseling services may prove helpful as well.
If you take some care in developing your dissertation, the document can be transformed, after graduation, into a book or series of articles that can help launch your academic career.
Unlike earlier course papers that just received a grade and were then shuttled off to a filing cabinet or trash bin, your dissertation can be used and revised for years to come.
On the other hand, it can be an end as well as a beginning—you don’t have to develop the dissertation beyond the completion of the degree if you don’t want to.
If you’re sick of the topic, you can focus on just finishing it for the degree, and then move on to other projects.
Sometimes, even if you appreciate the differences between the dissertation and previous work and know that you really want to complete the degree, you may still have trouble. Both external and internal stresses can cause the dissertation process to be more difficult than it has to be.
Graduate school pundits often cite 50% or more as the attrition rate for ABD students (those who have completed All the requirements of their programs But the Dissertation). This handout will not only answer this question, but also give you good, practical advice on starting, drafting, and completing your dissertation.
The Writing Center can’t advise you about technical questions (for example, how to force Microsoft Word to set up tables correctly or format page numbers the way you want), but we know people who may be able to! Why don’t doctoral candidates manage to get rolling on the dissertation any sooner, or KEEP rolling once they get started?
Partly because the dissertation is a completely new experience that is much larger and more independent than your previous academic work.
To this point, being a graduate student has been, more or less, an extension of your earlier life as a student.
Many people, in fact, go to graduate school because they have always been “good at school,” and want to continue with something that brings them success and self-confidence.
The reading assignments, labs, papers, and tests you have been assigned as a graduate student may not have been so different from your undergraduate course work.
The dissertation, on the other hand, is a new kind of academic project, unlike anything else you’ve done.
It is the academic project that marks your transition from student to scholar.
Writing a dissertation is a lot like writing a book. There are usually no weekly deadlines from professors, no regular discussions with classmates, no reading assignments, no one telling you what to do—you are on your own, writing something longer than you’ve ever written, and doing it without a net.
This independence can make the process seem very intimidating When you embark on this large, independent project, you may begin to ask yourself questions about your future in academia.
By the time you’ve reached this stage, you have probably already defended a dissertation proposal, chosen an advisor, and begun working with a committee.
Sometimes, however, those three elements can prove to be major external sources of frustration.
So how can you manage them to help yourself be as productive as possible?
You may assemble your committee for the proposal defense, and then never see them until the final dissertation defense.
That may work fine for you, or you may decide that you would prefer more frequent contact.
After all, the dissertation is the beginning of the end of a graduate career.