Being a doctoral student is a lonely experience. For most of the students I mentor they have taken on the large task of completing their doctoral work while they are also full-time employees and parents. Trying to embed doctoral studies in the midst of the chaos involved with family who may get sick, deadlines at work, necessary travel, etc. is a tiring proposition, one that is made harder due to the fact that no one in your “real” life understands or can empathize with the work you are doing for your doctoral life. It is for this reason that many experts on offering dissertation help suggest that doctoral students work in teams. The group advantage is more than just a work-study group, it is also offers collegiality and fellowship. Some universities set up their students in doctoral cohorts, but these may break down as some people leave or drop back a semester thereby changing the group that you are in. It is also true that those you are placed with due to the timing of your enrollment may not be also those you would choose to work with because of similarities in taste and work ethic. Whatever the reason you may come together, this series of articles on work/study groups gets a number of tasks that you can take on and through which successfully navigate the waters of writing a doctoral dissertation.
Action research offers a solid and useful format for the ongoing development of almost anything therefore, it is very useful as the basic underlying way of working for a group of people developing together a three chapter proposal, and then five chapter dissertation. This article gives a basic overview structure of employing action research for such a purpose. Future articles will work the specifics needed for each of the first three chapters of the dissertation proposal. There are three basic steps to action research which will be discussed here: discovery, measurable action, and reflection.
As your group comes together, the first thing to do is to discover what writing a dissertation is all about. I suggest several steps, each of which can be undertaken by everyone, or divided amongst the group or team. You will need:
- A couple of good books on writing a dissertation
- A few model dissertations that have been recently published, perhaps from your University, and perhaps on topics similar to yours
- A standard set of topic headings which you can use as the basic outline of all the parts you need to put together.
No matter which way you team decides to work, as you approach each chapter, you will always do a discovery section similar to this. I like to say that writing a dissertation is like driving Dissertation online down the highway — lots of people have gone before you and there is no reason for you to be taking a bumpy side road. Use the advantage that all these other dissertation give you. Read what others have put in each section prior to writing your own.
After you have gone out and discovered what others have done that at this time to try it yourself. For the dissertation proposal you need to write three chapters and probably does not matter much in which order you start them. I generally recommend a rough draft of Chapter 1, just so you can see where you’re going and the depth of information needed. On the other hand don’t stay on this chapter too long because you will have to rewrite it later when you know more about what you have put in chapters two and three. I suggest you then move on to the methodology chapter second, because it makes many doctoral students afraid and because it outlines what you need to have in Chapter Two. The review of literature takes a long time, because of its requirement that you read in catalog over 75 peer-reviewed articles and books. Therefore, having a regular reading and cataloging habit is useful while you work out the writing of Chapters One and Two. However you approach it your were measurable actions for your writing/study group are to me regularly and always have some new writing to show and discuss during the meeting. When people in the group find that what they are doing does not seem to be up to the standard of the published dissertations they are reading, then they go back into a discovery cycle finding dissertation help on the web and in the books they have purchased.