From Proposal to Dissertation

By Jennifer Tucker  

As a recent PhD, I created this page as a resource for graduate students at the early stage of their thesis or dissertation research. It was motivated specifically to support a presentation at Virginia Tech in February 2010, but I decided to post as a reference for others as well.

I successfully completed my doctorate from Virginia Tech in 2009 after a six year journey of classes, a preliminary exam, and my dissertation research. Visit my Data Sharing Research webpage (left menu) to see the results of this work.

About halfway along the way through my degree program, I got stuck. Very stuck! In fact, 18 months passed between my preliminary exam, and getting my dissertation proposal accepted. This really should have taken less than 6 months.

What happened?

In the following slide show, I outline why I got stuck, and my personal process for getting unstuck. The most important lesson for me? Getting your PhD is as much about psychology as intellect. You will learn a lot about your subject matter. You will also learn a lot about yourself. Find a way to enjoy the journey! Proposal-to-Dissertation-Tucker

An Inside Look: Dissertation Research Proposal. For those at the proposal stage of the thesis or dissertation, click on the link to see mine. It includes my one page proposed timeline for the dissertation project, which I stayed pretty close to. If you compare the proposal to my final product, here’s what changed.

  • Once I started writing my dissertation, it was clear that my original proposed Table of Contents was not going to work.  Finding a revised structure that worked was a key part of my writing process.
  • Having a set of theoretical foundations and models for my work in my proposal was important.  Only about half of these, though, proved to be central in my final work.  I was glad to have a really rich toolkit of theories from my coursework – it allowed me to play with a lot of different ideas to more fully understand my research subject.
  • I was able to stay pretty close to my original project timeline. In fact, I defended my dissertation only 24 days after the date I had projected in my proposal. While I lost a lot of time in the proposal phase, in the end, it meant that when I was both psychologically and practically ready to go, the path became far easier and a lot more fun!

Do you have tips that worked – or are working – for you? Share them in the comments below!

Updates:

Presentation for April 23, 2014: Tucker-04232014

Interview Guide for April 23, 2014: Tucker-04232014


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