Dissertation Strategies Newsletter

Volume 32, Number 1

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 The $3.4 Million Mistake!

    Yes-----if you have not yet completed your dissertation you may be making a mistake that can cost you almost three and a half million dollars!!
     The United States Department of Commerce, in a July, 2002 publication on lifetime earnings and educational achievement, reported that the average lifetime earnings of those holding the doctorate degree was $3.4 million - that is, almost a million dollars more than someone with just a master's degree, and $1.3 million more than someone with a bachelor's degree.

The Impact of a Dissertation

    What does this mean for doctoral candidates who have only a dissertation standing between them and the awarding of the PhD?

1.  An immediate payoff of an increase in annual earnings of as much as $27,000, or more.
The U.S. Census bureau reported average annual earnings with a doctoral degree at $89,400 versus a master's degree at $62,300.

2.  An increased potential for job security and promotion in a difficult academic employment market.

3.  The increased professional credibility and prestige conferred by the doctorate.

Source: US Census Bureau, US Department of Commerce, July 2002.

Actions To Take Now:

1.  Choose your advisor carefully! If you are to successfully complete your dissertation, your advisor must be accessible, responsive, and willing to advocate for you. He/she must give you specific, detailed written direction when you need it. Replace any advisor who is does not cooperate with you in the above ways.

2.  Be careful with topic choice. Only consider topics which are "do-able", given the population you have available for empirical study.

3.  Do the research first. No matter what your advisor says, you cannot prepare a Proposal without first having completed your Review of Literature. Identify, retrieve, copy your sources. Write Chapter II first!

4.  Be assertive in dealing with your advisor and committee. Do not accept long waits for an appointment or for him/her to review work you submit.

5.  Protect yourself. Every interaction you have with advisor, committee and institution should be documented in writing. Meet with your advisor regularly. Tape record all meetings and send your advisor a summary of each meeting via certified mail.

6.  Talk with your family and friends and enlist their support. Let them know that you need their help during this stressful time. Present the dissertation process as a life/career goal with a finite end. Let them know when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.

7.  Take control. Understand that this dissertation is your project, taken on by you for a purpose. Determine that purpose. Is your priorities still clear? Why are you stuck? If your advisor is holding you back, get a new one. If your own procrastination is the problem, figure out the cause. Accept that only you have the power to put the dissertation process back on track.

8.  Get help. Are you stuck because you don't know how to start? Do you need assistance with research or writing or editing? Do you lack a solid support system? Consider reaching out to sympathetic professors, colleagues, friends. Enlist the help of organizations like dissertations.com.

9.  9. Don't believe the myths. "My dissertation topic must be totally original." "My dissertation must be perfect." "Everyone knows that advisors and committees put you through hell....it's part of the deal." Clients come to me every day with these misconceptions. Here are the truths: No dissertation topic can possibly be entirely original. If it was, there would be no research base. Successful dissertations deal with relatively common topics. The original work comes from your specific empirical study. There is no such thing as a perfect dissertation! The successful dissertation writer works until the document is as good as it can be, and submits the work for review even though it isn't perfect, and expects helpful feedback from her advisor. When the dissertation is finished it will be good....perhaps great.....but it will never be perfect. As to the last, and perhaps most damaging myth- it is based on an outmoded concept. Traditionally, the dissertation "process" involved more than the research and writing of a document. It was seen as a rite of passage involving constant demands for rewrites and revisions and even total changes in topic. Enlightened academic institutions no longer permit advisors to force doctoral candidates through an unnecessary series of hoops simply to prove their worthiness. You should demand honest, professional, timely, rational and relevant feedback and direction from your advisor. If you don't get it, get a new advisor and make sure that your institution knows why you are insisting on the change. Remember that you are a consumer of the university's services and that you have the right to effective advisement.

by Diane Kennedy

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Diane Kennedy, of dissertations has been advising doctoral candidates for over 41 years.
Her proven method of dissertation management leads hundreds of clients to successful completion each year.

If you are having difficulty finding source materials or writing your Literature Review, Academic Research Group, Inc. will be happy to assist you with this aspect of dissertation preparation. Call us to discuss your specific project!

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