dreams

“Students tend to think that once they are done with the coursework, they are pretty much done with the program. This is not the case with the doctoral education. In fact, the coursework is only a preparation (appetizer) for the dissertation research (the main dish). Once done with the [Research Design] class, typically students take their competency exam and, upon passing, the students become doctoral candidates (aka ABDs – “all but dissertation”). This is where the real challenge begins because unlike very structured coursework, the writing of the dissertation is an independent process where the researcher must be self-organized and self-driven to stay on task and to work on this long project for a long time.

How much time do you need? Well, the answer varies. From experience, we know that once you are matched with the dissertation committee, the very best case scenario is that the dissertation takes about a year – This is only possible if you 1) already know EXACTLY what you will be doing for your dissertation; 2) you are super organized and self-driven; 3) you have already done extensive reading and some writing about your topic; 3) you contribute at least 20 hours each week into working on dissertation until you finish. 

More typically, it takes students about 2 years from the passing of the comps to the finish line – Even this timeline requires you to work on your dissertation on a weekly (if not daily) basis. If you procrastinate, or take a few months off, or change your topic a few times, you will likely spend more than 2 years and you are at-risk of never finishing the program.” 

research design

I have officially entered the halfway point of my Research Design class. It's odd how, when I reflect back on weeks or months past, I no longer think of them in terms of milestone events. Instead, I look at markers to indicate my progress in the doctoral program.    

It is March and there are still oranges in the tree. The blood orange tree needs to be harvested as well, and my birthday passed me by last month. Putin invaded Ukraine on my birthday, and my parents officially became homeless (according to the text my dad sent). They are not physically homeless...although, they will be moving into their condominium this week. And, all I can think is that I have 8 more weeks of research design before I can officially begin my dissertation.  

2022

What an action-packed couple of weeks. The omicron variant has surged here in Northern California, as it has done everywhere. The parents closed the deal on the sale of their property. And, my research design class has begun.  

It has been nice, being out of class for October and November. For 2.5 years, my doctoral classes ran straight through summer, fall, and winter with very few breaks. This most recent break at the end of 2021 came about because of my transfer to another college. It was not planned. Yet, since enrolling in the doctoral program, I have learned a lot about myself. 

Sure, I have learned about other things. I have read numerous books and countless journal articles. I have lost track of the number of papers I have written and the total number of annotated bibliographies. And, I have changed my thoughts on my research topic several times along the way.  

This current 11-week class will allow me to shape my research and begin the dissertation phase. Of course, there is a 5-week session for the final exam after this course, so my dissertation will not begin until summer session. The dissertation phase will run through the fall session and end with the spring 2023 session. And, that's a little disheartening. 

While I am happy to know that the finish line is in sight, I am frustrated that I am faced with another year of research. It is agonizing to think that I will not officially graduate the doctoral program for another calendar year. To stay focused and to stay on the path, I began to think about what is going right. And, I find a little joy in the little things...like a nice sunrise, a quality pencil and trusty notebook, and an annotated book of Tennyson's poems that belonged to my great grandfather.