When the PhD Dissertation Goes on Forever

Dissertation writing is often the most challenging part of the Ph.D. program for many reasons. Granted, it’s supposed to be hard, because you are exploring new areas of research, and this is demanding on many levels.

Dissertations are often several-year projects that have no set deadlines – a reality that makes it harder to write consistently. There is typically an enormous amount of literature to review, and a then mountain of information that needs to be organized. As a graduate student you may or may not have adequate or any assistance with these aspects of the thesis. You have to do it yourself.

A graduate student is also greatly dependent on the PhD advisor, and this critical relationship can be either good or bad. When it goes off the rails,the student is vulnerable and may feel powerless and anxious. Some advisors are encouraging and know how to help students make progress and do a good job. Others are insensitive, overly critical and sometimes negligent in terms of paying attention to their students.When the advisor relationship is not working, the writing can be much harder to do, and the process can be painfully slow and drawn out.

In addition, dissertation writers are often done with classes and in the position where their work or family obligations emerge and drain time and energy from their intellectual pursuits. The dissertation becomes a lower priority, and the weeks can speed by with little or no progress. About half of all doctoral students nationally do not complete their programs. That is a shocking statistic.

Students struggling with writing blocks have trouble finding effective help. Our educational institutions need to look at this problem more directly and improve their support infrastructure so more of these talented scholars can achieve their goals. Until then, you have to figure out a way on your own. Dissertation writing support groups help, and if your advisor isn’t helpful, you might have to look for other mentors.

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About David Arnot Rasch

Author, psychologist, speaker, workshop leader
This entry was posted in Tips for overcoming writer's block and procrastination and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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