Dissertation Group

It is official. I am doctoral candidate or most commonly known as “all but dissertation.” However, the harder part is only about to begin: DISSERTATION TIME. Because my research efforts haven’t been too extensive for the past few years I see a big challenge ahead of me. This is not only a concern of mine, but also from some of my peers that have started the program at the same time I did. One of the girls from this bunch did some research of her own and decided to contact myself and other 3 girls to form a dissertation group. Her initial email stated:

I think all of us are about to start working on dissertation proposals and dissertations. I was wondering if you guys would like to start a dissertation group – a small group of grad students who meet regularly to discuss our research and writing process and help each other with feedback and support. It would give us the opportunity to talk to each other about the dissertation process and get a little more informal feedback than from professors and have an incentive to keep working on it. I attached a helpful document that describes and gives tips for dissertation support groups (sounds like we have serious mental problem called ‘dissertation’, then again, maybe we do ;-). If you know of other people in our department or maybe even another department who are starting to work on their dissertation and would like to join, please let them know. And if you are far from starting to work on your dissertation, ignore this message. It seems that around 4-6 people would be a good number. I was thinking of starting our meetings at the beginning of the spring semester. We would probably use the first (few) meeting(s) to discuss how we are going to organize our meetings etc. Let me know how you feel about this.

We decided to meet on a Thursday afternoon to discuss the details of what this dissertation groups would be about, as well as to discuss the document that she had attached to the email. The document titled “Making a Thesis or Dissertation Support Group Work for You” published by the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor was a 9 page long pdf document that explained the benefits of being in a dissertation support group, what you could expect from it, what you should NOT expect from it, and advice on how to get started and how to maintain that group. We all looked over that file and went around the group explaining where we were in our dissertation writing processes and what we expected from this experience. It was interesting that most of us in the group listed accountability as one of the main advantages of being in this group. The peer feedback was also a highly mentioned advantage, especially because some of our dissertation mentors are so busy with their daily teaching and research schedules that sometimes they may not be able to provide feedback as much as this group.

After discussing our expectations we decided to meet biweekly and for each meeting 2 of the group members would submit materials that they would like to have revised. These materials should not exceed 20 pages and the author should let the other group members know where the focus of the critique/feedback should be. For instance, English is my second language so for the first material submitted I would like them to review on the basis of grammar and not content.

Our next meeting is in a couple of weeks, and I intend to blog about my progress as well as the progress of the group meetings. This should be interesting.


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