Skip to main content

Do You Deserve a Ph.D.? The Answer is "Yes!"

The response to my newsletter has been great -- I can't believe how many people have filled out my self assessment: "Do You Deserve a Ph.D.?" So many people feel insecure when they are working on their dissertation, despite a long history of scholastic success....

I meaan, think about it. If you're writing your dissertation, you must have done well, most likely quite well, in high school and college. Furthermore, you have the kind of motivation, interest in your subject, and intelligence that would cause you to apply for, and be accepted to graduate school.

Compared to most of the population you're way above average. But you're working and studying in a place like the mythical Lake Wobegon -- all the people are above average. So you begin to lose sight of your own greatness.

It's not a normal human condition to work, produce and create without feedback. Of course, authors and artists do it for a long stretch of time -- but they're crazy half the time. I'm just kidding -- don't write to me about your mother the author. Mine is an artist. Oh... never mind. Anyway,it is not a normal way to live.

Have you read Sartre's Huis Clos (No Exit) Three people are brought to an elegant room to await going to Hell. Soon they realize that being locked up for eternity in a room with each other IS Hell. They are dependent on each other for feedback or the lack thereof. If you simplify this further, you end up with the dissertation process, particularly in the humanities, where you float out there, with little feedback.

The answer, of course, is to seek out feedback. It helps you know you're alive, you exist. Although Sartre decided "l'enfers c'est les autres" (Hell is other people) -- if you seek out feedback from helpful advisors, or in their absence, sympathetic shadow advisors, peer grous, buddies, or editors and coaches, you can take out some of the crazy-making process. "Hell is other people" only applies when you are grouped with the wrong people.

Whatever you do, don't stay holed up in your room thinking that you're the only insecure, dumb one. Everyone feels the way you do. Just seek them out.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"ABD" -- what does it really mean?

I thought I knew what the definition of ABD was. It was exactly the same as defined here in Carnegie Mellon's University Doctoral Candidate Policies for All But Dissertation (ABD):
After the completion of all formal degree requirements other than the completion of and approval of the doctoral dissertation and the public final examination, doctoral candidates shall be regarded as All But Dissertation(ABD).I have, though, occasionally run into the term ABD being used as a somewhat disparaging designation for one who fulfills the formal degree requirements of the Ph.D. but never finishes the dissertation, and then quits the program. Most recently, I saw it in What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, by Paul Gray and David E. Drew.

Number 9 of their helpful hints is one that I strongly agree with: "Remember that a Ph.D. is primarily an indication of survivorship." They go on to say, "You stuck with it …

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over.
If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome. 
Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic. 
This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energyMake you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduateMake you feel like you have nothing more to give. Cr…

The Second Holiday Writing Challenge for Academics

Here's a little boost for those who need a little kickstart to write over the holidays.  I first offered a Holiday Writing Challenge back in 2005, so I'd say it's about time to do it again.

Here's what you do: Post in the comment section:
what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily. Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadline pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done!

Whether you're a professor or a grad student, make sure you get a copy of the Dissertation Toolkit.  These tools will give you more information and tips for productive and creative writing.

 For those of you who have had trouble making yourself write, you may want to start with VERY short writing goals. Even 5 or 10 minutes will be enough to get you jumpstarted.  Don't go more than 25 or 30 minutes without a break.

Using …