Things we wish Someone Had Told Us When We Were ABD

by Anna Blanch on February 25, 2010

In the series on Things we wish Someone Had Told Us When We Started Graduate School, we have a few special lessons to share for those who are ABD (All but dissertation) or in their final stages.

Advice For When the End is nigh; or there is light at the end of the tunnel

  1. There are two types of dissertations: DONE and NOT DONE. If you want a salary, real health insurance, a dream job, your goal is a DONE dissertation. Leave the other kind for the people who want to be grad students forever. Even if you plan to turn the diss into a book, that is a project for AFTER you have produced a DONE dissertation. A book project is another task altogether.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others. But, at the same time, it’s very useful to compare your WORK to that of others–if you are a perfectionist, this helps put things back in perspective. We’re all under time constraints, and NO ONE is consistently writing genius, nobel-prize worthy prose.
  3. There is a time when comparing yourself to others might help. when it comes time to COMPLETE the degree/thesis/dissertation, keep in mind the most obtuse person you know with a Ph.D. (If it helps, add a “bless his/her little heart!”). Remind yourself, “this very-very-bad-scholar/not-smart-person has a degree that is technically worth just as much as mine will be.” And then JUST FINISH IT, knowing that it is not innate genius, sadly enough, that gets us to the finish line: it is perseverance. “If ___ can do it, so can I!” “If ___’s dissertation can pass, so can mine!” 🙂 The other option is to have a not-done dissertation and a lot of bitterness about the various inequities of the whole enterprise.
  4. Know How to Talk about Yourself. Practice your spiel about how you came to this project and a little of your bio. It’s the usual settler question in a viva/defence. Of course you know your own story, but you may be more nervous than you expect to be.
  5. Plan to Celebrate. Celebrate handing in to your committee and following your viva. It may all feel way too anti-climactic if you don’t have something planned!

So There’s that. Any advice to add?

You can read the 10 Things We Wish Someone had Told Us When We Started Graduate School here.

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