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Do Not Leave Graduate School Before You Get Your Degree | FinishLine, Tips Tools Techniques for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation from Dr Wendy Carter

April, 2007 spacerVolume 3, Issue 4

In This Issue:

I hope you enjoyed your holiday. I would like to say hello to the graduate students who attended my workshop at the National Black Graduate Student Conference and the University of Central Florida. I look forward to meeting the students at the University of Oregon and Bowling Green State University later on this week.

10 Mistakes Graduate Students Should Avoid:
Mistake #2: Leaving Before You Finish Your Degree

Let’s face it: mistakes are a part of life. We all make them. The good news is that we can learn from our mistakes. The better news is that we can learn just as much – if not more! – from the mistakes of others.

Many graduate students begin applying for jobs at the latter-stage of becoming Ph.D. candidates; most students secure a continuing tenure-track job in the first or second year of the application process. While securing a job while you are ABD, (All done But Dissertation) is essential, your start date might determine whether or not you eventually finish your degree.

When students achieve the benchmark of ABD many are tempted to leave the university’s fold and finish their document while pursuing a job or other interests in “the outside world.” Accepting an invitation to teach a large, upper-division course at a nearby research university might sound impressive if not exciting. The lure for more teaching experience and the generous pay scale may motivate you to leave your academic department too early. Those who do run the risk of not finishing the Ph.D. at all. Leaving the comfort and support of an academic department inevitably diminishes your enthusiasm to work on the thesis/dissertation. In addition, the outside world brings with it many competing events that too often take priority over writing.

While you are still on campus take advantage of the variety of ways to identify or create teaching opportunities to gain practical hands-on experience prior to graduation. You can volunteer to give guest lectures based on your particular interest or specialty. Look for opportunities to fill in during the scheduled or unscheduled absence of a professor in your department. Don’t overlook opportunities to team teach a course with a faculty member, a postdoc or another graduate student. Teaching out-side the regular academic schedule might be more advantageous; consider teaching a course during the summer months, interim semesters or an accelerated semester to broaden your teaching portfolio before you graduate.

When I received my first job offer as an assistant professor, my new employer was adamant that I finish my dissertation before starting my new job. I was told, “Take another semester if you have to, but finish your dissertation.” My employer had learned from experience that it is very difficult to find time to work on your thesis/dissertation once you begin a new job.

Even if you have been a teaching assistant while pursuing a Ph.D., understand that there is a whole world of difference between being a teacher in a classroom to becoming an active, contributing member of the academic community. Serving as a new professor can be both overwhelming and extraordinarily stressful. As an assistant professor, your time will be stretched thin learning how to do your new job. Along with teaching you will be meeting with potential students and new faculty, leading discussions with first-year students, giving guest lectures, reviewing journal articles in your academic field, reviewing curriculum changes, organizing conference papers, writing articles for publication, sitting on thesis committees outside your department, mentoring student groups, and serving on several short-term campus or departmental committees. Heap on top of that the stress of a new location, new responsibilities, new co-workers and the need to make new friends, and your capacity to take on any more is most likely tapped out. Think you can try to squeeze into this mix enough time (and energy!) to work on your thesis/dissertation? Think again.

Closely guarding your priorities is an essential strategy for successfully completing your degree with in a specified time period. Remember that if you have one academic year to complete your dissertation, you are actually only looking at 9 months. And that is if you are writing full-time. If you take into account your professional responsibilities along with setbacks due to illness, holidays, family/personal problems, and problems with computing equipment, think before you leave your university without your degree in hand!

Delaying your graduation date may not be the end of the world but taking a job before you finish your degree might be. If your goal is to get the degree and move on to a career in the academy consider taking another year or semester to finish writing your thesis or dissertation.

With effective time-management tools like TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished you can leave with both the degree and the job in hand.

Email Question of the Month:


Dear Dr Carter,
I have another quick question: I am doing a thesis on prenatal care and am on literature review. I have more than 50 articles to read and as I pick articles they all seem to irrelevant to my hypothesis and I get depressed and give up. I read your suggestions to make table. Do I do it as I am reading the articles. I think I have writers block. I get so bored. Please suggest. Waiting to hear from you, Suchitra


Your question is a common one. The answer is how to manage your time around the responsibilities you already have. The solution is to say to yourself that you can do it and not feel like it is impossible. You are not a victim. You don't have to wait to become motivated, excited, or even interested. There are still things you can do until those emotions happen. The task as I said before is to do something no matter how small every day. See my newsletter on what you can do to get it done. If you have time to write me you have time to work on your thesis/dissertation.
Dr. Carter

TA-DA!™ Graduates —
Congratulations on Your Success

I completed my proposal defense and now I am in the process of organizing my chapters and writing schedule and the analysis. I am using restricted data for my analysis so when I can't run my analyses at home, I try to write every day a page at least and thus far it worked for me. Will see how it goes. My goal is to finish this fall in October. -Gabriele P.

I finished writing my thesis last week and I am waiting for my advisor to send me the corrections. . . I am also looking for a job related to Environmental Science.
- Kam

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Have you had a chance to check out the new book, 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life: Volume 3:? It is a compilation of 101 articles with practical, solid advice on how you can take action and improve your life. I am extremely excited to be a part of this, and am equally excited to be a contributing author along with Ken Blanchard, Les Brown, Mark

This book is the third volume in the “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life” Series. Volumes 1& 2 include secrets from Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, Jack Canfield, Dr. Richard Carlson and many other people living a successful life. If you haven't seen Volumes 1 & 2, check them out. Right now the publisher is offering, a special discount plus great bonus gifts If you purchase the three volume set together.

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What TA-DA!™ Users Have to Say...

If you're still wondering whether or not TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished™ can help you — don’t take our word for it. Take a few moments to read what some of our customers have told us. See how TA-DA!™ helped them...

Ph.D. Doctoral Students…

•  I am just beginning my doctoral coursework but I wanted to get a jump on this thesis stuff so I purchased your product just about the same time I enrolled in my classes! Darlene G

•  Hello Dr. Carter, I met with you a few months ago. I had an impossible deadline to meet: to complete my dissertation proposal in 6 weeks time. I just wanted you to know that I successfully defended the proposal on October 3rd!! Thanks for your help and encouragement! All the best, Harriette W.

•  TA-DA provided me with some useful ideas for how to use short amounts of time that would normally be unproductive completing small tasks that move the dissertation forward. Donnell B.

•  How it (TADA) Helped: In many ways but I will mainly highlight two areas for now. 1. The TADA Calender. The main problem I faced before was how to get down and do my work. But with the TADA Calender, I have made a committment and I everyday I have the motivation to fulfill this commitment. 2. The 12 Minutes Tasks. I was never even aware of some of those requirements. Now I feel more confident since each day I know exactly what is expected of me and I can make an exact plan of how to accomplish them. Dear colleagues in Thesis/Dissertation writing. Anybody wanting to have a peace of mind and confidence in whatever she/he does during the whole Thesis/Dissertation writing, you have no choice but to buy the TADA CD. I won't explain what wonders it will do to you, but buy it and experience it."   Connie, U.K.

•  The commitment to a deadline and to working 12 minutes a day actually reduces stress. I can always do 12 minutes--even if I'm tired, sick, uninspired or grumpy. Facing a deadline makes it feel like I will actually get done! "I have to do my 12 minutes" we say in our house these days. I've been progressing steadily on my dissertation by committing to 12 minutes, and my husband has covered huge amounts of material for an upcoming professional exam. My friend has committed to completing the annulment papers she has procrastinated on for 10 years, and my father-in-law has started studying Spanish 12 minutes a day. Thanks!
Christine, Seattle, WA

•  It helped me to set goals for my chapters and give me some practical strategies for finishing. Also I believe it's good to list your finish date. It gives you something to strive for rather than letting the thesis become nebulous. Martha; Albany, CA

•  TA-DA explains the dissertation process and lifts the curtain to a process that seems impossible to accomplish. It provides strategy for selecting the committee and provides timelines that enable accomplishment of the dissertation within a specific time frame.
Randall; USMC Jacksonville, NC

•  The program helped me to understand the dissertation concept much better. I am a visual individual; the tutorial was a great help.
Deborah; U.S. Army

Master’s Thesis Students …

•  It has helped with the fact that my graduate school does not have a formal format for the proposal. The Journal has helped a lot.
Talia; Naranjito, Puerto Rico

 •  This is a great tool for those who will be starting either their Master's Degree or Dissertation. I highly recommend it.
Teresa; Naguabo, Puerto Rico

•  Requesting that I set a goal date for finishing, kept me focused and it was the first step in accomplishing the task. Also, I kept remembering the words; a good thesis is a done thesis.
Gladys; NY, NY

•  It guided me to a fair start. Gracias!
Jess; San Francisco, CA



Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.

About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters' degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. To learn more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at Privacy is our policy. TADA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers' names or e-mail addresses.

Published monthly.
To subscribe to FinishLine, see below.

Inside This Issue:

10 Mistakes Graduate Students Should Avoid: Mistake #2: Leaving Before You Finish Your Degree

Email Q & A of the Month

Congratulations Graduates

What TA-DA!™
Users Say

Dr. Carter Is Co-author of a New Book

Next FinishLine Features:

10 Mistakes Graduate Students Should Avoid: Mistake #3: Waiting Until You Have Finished Your Degree to Begin Your Job Search



Dr. Carter's

Getting What You Came For...
The book explains the entire process of completing graduate school, from selecting and applying to a graduate program to obtaining a teaching position. Selected chapters provide overall practical advice on selecting an advisor, managing the committee, selecting a topic, writing a proposal, writing the dissertation, and preparing for the defense.

Getting What You Came For...

The Dissertation Cook Book
The authors uses a cookbook metaphor define the ingredients of a dissertation. This book provides useful information on each section of the five-chapter dissertation common in the social and behavioral sciences. It also contains practical tips, hands-on exercises, and checklists dealing with getting started, choosing a topic, types of research instruments, statistics, sampling, and analyzing data. Most of the information is relevant for writers at the proposal stage.

The Dissertation Cook Book

The Artist's Way
This book by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan leads you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

The Artist's Way

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