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Problem: "There is so much I do not know!"
User: Admin
Date: 1/4/2013 3:47 pm
Views: 3765
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So many students have talked about being overwhelmed by all of the small things that they did not know about the day to day doctoral tasks. Little of this information was covered with the advisors or committee. Social networking helped but it looked rather weak to be asking so many questions and who knows where the electronic copies of the communications will end up? Verbal venting takes place for many students and even worse are written venting comments made that are sent to a professor or a committee. So another approach is needed.

Problem “There is so much I do not know?”
So many students have talked about being overwhelmed by all of the small things that they did not know about the day to day doctoral tasks. Little of this information was covered with the advisors or committee. Social networking helped but it looked rather weak to be asking so many questions and who knows where the electronic copies of the communications will end up? Verbal venting takes place for many students and even worse are written venting comments made that are sent to a professor or a committee. So another approach is needed.
How does one increase knowledge and have a relatively safe place to vent? The answer is to form a group and the best time to form the group is in the preparation phase for your comprehensive exams. This helps to motivate others, builds camaraderie and binds folks together who might not want to be together.  It may work wonders for the online student if you can locate anyone in your area.
OK the typical doctoral student is working a full time job and attending classes and/or working on the dissertation. Trying to get them to work together is sort of like herding cats. Comments about being too busy or being able to do it yourself are plentiful. But as the dissertation work grinds on and on, you will find the understanding of those not working on a doctorate around you waning.  Friends and family are pretty sick of your doctoral tasks and discussions.  Sharing ideas and getting support at this time can be so helpful plus you can shoot off your mouth a little bit every now and then and let some of the pressure out. You can ask questions, learn from those farther along and find short cuts.
I was going the route of buying software to assemble my final edition. Then I found out from my group about hiring a typist approved by the university to put the final paper together following the current APA format. Much to my surprise even with my committee guidance the “official” format had changed considerably and all sorts of changes were needed for the last edition. I paid a person $300 and my dissertation was completely updated and correctly formatted. When the college had a problem with part of it, the typist had a meeting with the school and corrected it. Yes, even more last minute changes had come from the APA experts. Really at the very end after your dissertation has been defended you are still going to be fighting the red tape. You are tired and want so bad for this thing to be done.
I could have been screwing around with some expensive do it yourself software and it might have still been incorrect. So there I was exhausted and so ready to be done and the roadblocks were removed because my group mentioned this option that I had no idea existed. The group members will have connections with previous doctoral students and with different advisors so there is a rich vein of information to mine. Some suggestions will be wrong and everything should be checked out before you depend on it but it is better than just existing on what you know. 
A group will give you a sounding board and a feeling that you are not alone.  That may sound lame reading it now but not when you are in the middle of a multi-year long process. When the library changes the researching methods every two years and the rules change for everything, you will need   support. Some schools had contact rules for advisors that changed often. Other’s demanded that special weeklong “Finish Your Dissertation” seminars be attended. My college demanded that we take at least one credit hour every term or we were dropped by the college. When I mentioned that just as I graduated, no one knew what I was talking about. Apparently the idea had come and gone and I kept signing up for at least one graduate hour each term.  Things change and your group can keep you up to speed. I wish I had asked someone about the pay every term rule and I could have saved some money over spring and summer terms since I already had enough credits.
Your situation will be different and you must find a way to involve some other people even if it is only on line. Other doctoral students may be aloof at first since they are probably as busy as you are and they have the mistaken belief that they must appear smarter than everyone else.  Our group was started by one wonderful student who kept saying “I will be in a study room at the education library from 6pm to 8pm on Sunday if anyone wants to prepare for their comprehensive exams.”  It grew to about 20 students with 15 showing up each Sunday. We invited and paid some recently graduated doctoral students to come in and spend a couple of hours going over the advanced statistics that had been on the 6 hour comprehensives. 
We moved to one of the larger study rooms and covered the white boards with equations, definitions and memorization keys for hundreds of research studies. We pounded on each other forcing information into the deeper recesses of our minds. We were prepared for both of the 6 hour exams. Students still dropped out of the dissertation process but everyone passed the comprehensive exams. 
One Sunday night near the time of the first exam one of the department professors stuck his head into the room. He looked at the boards crammed with equations and groupings of research studies. He was quiet for a moment and said only “There is a lot of pain in this room”.  Yes there was pain but also a lot of support and even some pride because we worked as a team. We were not part of the fifty percent who fail the comprehensives the first time.  I would recommend this approach to other doctoral students. On line students would have to modify it but the technology is there. Bond with others and if your connection is on line then use common sense since anything that you write can be sent out to many people. Never say anything bad about your professors on line even if you wash out.  Second, changes abound and the job market is a tough place so never close off any doors behind you.
Use the group to learn more and to obtain support. Limit your complaints and personal attacks even though you are in a stressful environment. We will work on methods to distress later. Find strength in a group if at all possible. Fight isolating yourself even though that way may seem easier at first. I have talked to so many doctoral students and former doctoral students who talk about the loneliness. Sometimes others can pull you back from quitting. Don’t go it alone.
Dr. Parker  So many students have talked about being overwhelmed by all of the small things that they did not know about the day to day doctoral tasks. Little of this information was covered with the advisors or committee. Social networking helped but it looked rather weak to be asking so many questions and who knows where the electronic copies of the communications will end up? Verbal venting takes place for many students and even worse are written venting comments made that are sent to a professor or a committee. So another approach is needed.

How does one increase knowledge and have a relatively safe place to vent? The answer is to form a group and the best time to form the group is in the preparation phase for your comprehensive exams. This helps to motivate others, builds camaraderie and binds folks together who might not want to be together.  It may work wonders for the online student if you can locate anyone in your area.

OK the typical doctoral student is working a full time job and attending classes and/or working on the dissertation. Trying to get them to work together is sort of like herding cats. Comments about being too busy or being able to do it yourself are plentiful. But as the dissertation work grinds on and on, you will find the understanding of those not working on a doctorate around you waning.  Friends and family are pretty sick of your doctoral tasks and discussions.  Sharing ideas and getting support at this time can be so helpful plus you can shoot off your mouth a little bit every now and then and let some of the pressure out. You can ask questions, learn from those farther along and find short cuts.

I was going the route of buying software to assemble my final edition. Then I found out from my group about hiring a typist approved by the university to put the final paper together following the current APA format. Much to my surprise even with my committee guidance the “official” format had changed considerably and all sorts of changes were needed for the last edition. I paid a person $300 and my dissertation was completely updated and correctly formatted. When the college had a problem with part of it, the typist had a meeting with the school and corrected it. Yes, even more last minute changes had come from the APA experts. Really at the very end after your dissertation has been defended you are still going to be fighting the red tape. You are tired and want so bad for this thing to be done.

I could have been screwing around with some expensive do it yourself software and it might have still been incorrect. So there I was exhausted and so ready to be done and the roadblocks were removed because my group mentioned this option that I had no idea existed. The group members will have connections with previous doctoral students and with different advisors so there is a rich vein of information to mine. Some suggestions will be wrong and everything should be checked out before you depend on it but it is better than just existing on what you know. 

A group will give you a sounding board and a feeling that you are not alone.  That may sound lame reading it now but not when you are in the middle of a multi-year long process. When the library changes the researching methods every two years and the rules change for everything, you will need   support. Some schools had contact rules for advisors that changed often. Other’s demanded that special weeklong “Finish Your Dissertation” seminars be attended. My college demanded that we take at least one credit hour every term or we were dropped by the college. When I mentioned that just as I graduated, no one knew what I was talking about. Apparently the idea had come and gone and I kept signing up for at least one graduate hour each term.  Things change and your group can keep you up to speed. I wish I had asked someone about the pay every term rule and I could have saved some money over spring and summer terms since I already had enough credits.

Your situation will be different and you must find a way to involve some other people even if it is only on line. Other doctoral students may be aloof at first since they are probably as busy as you are and they have the mistaken belief that they must appear smarter than everyone else.  Our group was started by one wonderful student who kept saying “I will be in a study room at the education library from 6pm to 8pm on Sunday if anyone wants to prepare for their comprehensive exams.”  It grew to about 20 students with 15 showing up each Sunday. We invited and paid some recently graduated doctoral students to come in and spend a couple of hours going over the advanced statistics that had been on the 6 hour comprehensives. 

We moved to one of the larger study rooms and covered the white boards with equations, definitions and memorization keys for hundreds of research studies. We pounded on each other forcing information into the deeper recesses of our minds. We were prepared for both of the 6 hour exams. Students still dropped out of the dissertation process but everyone passed the comprehensive exams.

One Sunday night near the time of the first exam one of the department professors stuck his head into the room. He looked at the boards crammed with equations and groupings of research studies. He was quiet for a moment and said only “There is a lot of pain in this room”.  Yes there was pain but also a lot of support and even some pride because we worked as a team. We were not part of the fifty percent who fail the comprehensives the first time.  I would recommend this approach to other doctoral students. On line students would have to modify it but the technology is there. Bond with others and if your connection is on line then use common sense since anything that you write can be sent out to many people. Never say anything bad about your professors on line even if you wash out.  Second, changes abound and the job market is a tough place so never close off any doors behind you.

Use the group to learn more and to obtain support. Limit your complaints and personal attacks even though you are in a stressful environment. We will work on methods to distress later. Find strength in a group if at all possible. Fight isolating yourself even though that way may seem easier at first. I have talked to so many doctoral students and former doctoral students who talk about the loneliness. Sometimes others can pull you back from quitting. Don’t go it alone.

 

Dr. Parker  

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