As a doctoral student coach, I see a lot of students stew in overwhelm and self-doubt when they reach the dissertation phase of earning a doctorate.
One of the biggest mindset hurdles they face is expecting their dissertation chair to guide them through the dissertation process.
The problem with not leading your dissertation process
This is a problem for a few reasons. The first reason this is a problem is that that is not the chair’s role. The responsibility for navigating the dissertation process rests squarely on your shoulders. The chair is not there to guide you through the process. The chair’s role is to serve as a referee to ensure you meet university standards and adhere to ethical research practices.
The second problem with expecting the chair to lead the dissertation process is that it diminishes your learning experience. The point of conducting an independent research project is to gain experience in making decisions about every aspect of the research that results in creating knowledge in your discipline. When you seek for your chair to steer you in the “right” direction for your research, you are shortchanging your learning. Instead, steer yourself first and then accept course corrections from the chair, if they come.
The third problem with expecting the chair to lead the dissertation process is that the approach is disempowering because it prevents you from taking full responsibility for the learning and the outcome. Leading your dissertation is empowering when you take ownership of everything.
Yes, leading your dissertation will feel uncomfortable at times. Maybe even a lot of the time. But it shouldn’t be painful.
Your program should have provided you with the foundational knowledge to conduct research. If it didn’t, there are thousands of reference materials on the subject available to you.
All you need to do is to step into the experience with confidence that you will figure it out as you go through the process and that you will end up with a dissertation that makes a suitable contribution to your field.
How to lead your dissertation process
As I see it, there are two primary aspects of dissertation leadership: attitude and action. The elements of attitude are self-regulation, planning, motivation, and reflection. Action comprises skill-building, writing, communicating, and advocating. Writing about each of these elements in depth is beyond the scope of this article. But here is the core of each element.
- Self-regulation: Manage your mind to keep taking massive action to get your dissertation written, approved, and defended.
- Planning: Break the work down into manageable pieces, schedule the tasks on the calendar every week and manage your resistance, to get the work done.
- Motivation: Manufacture your motivation by doing an intentional model to find the thought/feeling pair that gets you doing the work.
- Reflection: Give yourself some credit every now by acknowledging how far you’ve come and keep tweaking your approach as your journey evolves.
- Skill-building: Don’t waste your time worrying and avoiding what you’re not good at. Dive in and keep practicing until you have enough skill to complete the task and move on.
- Write: Avoid writer’s block by just writing everything in your own words first, then polishing it later.
- Communicate: Instead of asking your faculty to solve your problems, propose solutions.
- Advocate: Stand up for what you want by giving your best argument and compromise where needed.
When you lead your dissertation process in this way, you will reduce stress, overwhelm, confusion, and self-doubt and make yourself burnout-proof.
If you are struggling to confidently manage your dissertation process, I can help you.
In the Do Your Doctorate Without the Drama program, I coach doctoral students to reach peak performance which includes leading their dissertation process and so much more. You will also learn how quiet your inner critic to reduce self-sabotaging behavior, access your inner wisdom to increase confidence, manage your time to increase efficiency and productivity, and make your journey sustainable through graduation and beyond. All it takes is 6-weeks to improve your doctoral journey.
You can apply for the program by emailing me or sending me a message on Facebook. Before you enroll, we’ll have a chat to make sure it’s a good fit and answer your questions.