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They used to say that only 50% of those who start a doctorate finish.  Updated statistics in the social sciences says that number (10-year completion) is more like 56%, but that still leaves 44% unfinished and (in most programs like mine that have a time limit) unfinishable.  It isn’t the course work;  16% opt out in that first ~3 year period, but the rest keep going.  That means it has to be something else.

Most likely it is the grey time I am now in.  There is no longer the structure of class work, there is a HUGE project to be done, and (particularly in the case of working students) there are lots of other demands on our time.  The dissertation drops to the bottom of the list.

This past semester was especially difficult in that respect for me, as I prepped and taught a new course for the first time (one that I hadn’t taken since 1984).  I have piles of notes on what I did wrong and only a few on what I did right for that class, but I also know it won’t take nearly as much time this upcoming semester.  (Heck, if I don’t get a few more students signed up it may get dropped from the schedule, which would not be the worst thing that could happen.)

While I am no longer convinced I started my PhD for the right reasons, or even that I want the exact job I’m being trained for, I don’t want to just be another statistic either.  The dissertation is a HUGE project, but it is, in fact, just one project.   I have completed more complex, demanding and long projects in my work life and I need to start treating it as such rather than as a demon to be fought.

To help myself do this, I am going to spend the next week reading Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final Text.  I will post a review when I’m done and begin working through the process.

Of course, that isn’t the only thing I need to do this winter break.  I need to:

  • Read Demystifying Dissertation Writing and write a review.  You are my accountabilibuddy for that.
  • Choose an SPSS 17 book for my statistics class this upcoming semester (I have samples of 4 and just need to pick one)
  • Revise the first few classes of the Psych 101 class using more active learning techniques
  • Clean my office (which is showing signs of a semester spent tossing things into random piles rather than putting them away)
  • Write up my course assessments for the past semester
  • Start working through the techniques in the book, particularly those related to note taking, using the system I started last semester involving OneNote

I can and will get through this grey time of graduate work and finish.  What I do then is open, but I will not become a statistic.