Carleen Carey is PhD candidate in Teacher Education at Michigan State University whose research explores how African American adolescents make meaning and construct identities through reading engagement in informal education spaces. You can follow her on twitter at @Carleen_C. 
“Dissertating” is a term often used to describe the time between defending your dissertation proposal and the actual public presentation of your final dissertation. In the past, I've taken this to mean long hours thoughtfully sipping tea and typing away at my laptop, but since I’ve been All But Dissertation (ABD), I’ve come to realize that it means much more. In this post, I present my top three strategies for dissertating in the summer, given that it is quite a seductive time to make progress.
1) Planning: Planning is the first step I take after brainstorming. I have painted one wall of my study with chalkboard paint to literally sketch out my ideas. From there, I can create smaller task lists that lead up to my goals. In the far right corner, a three-month calendar helps me connect my tasks and goals to a concrete date. I have to confess that most things take me about twice or thrice as long as I think they will, meaning that I might miss some self-imposed deadlines, but there is something about the security of a plan on the wall that helps me to keep chugging along when the writing doesn’t quite go as I’d hoped.
2) Mapping Mapping is the second, and possibly most important, step to my productivity. Knowing that I’m motivated by new places and people, I also like to build a weekly roster of local coffee houses, libraries and restaurants where I can get things done. This allows me to tell myself that I’m going to café A to do task A, then moving on to cafe B to do task B, and I am not surprised when I get antsy near the end of a task. Your motivation, work habits, attention span, and other productivity variables are specific to you as an individual. For me, changing venues jogs something, but for many grads, productivity looks different. The most important thing is to recognize what your own looks like (without comparing it to the grads in the next lab, your advisor’s, or anyone else’s motivation) and to create the setting for it to happen.
3) Buddy-up Buddying-up for writing accountability is the third step. If I know that I have someone who is waiting to see what I’ve written at the end of a period, I am better about getting it done. Perhaps this suggests something about my competitive nature, but it also says that I need help getting everything done for my dissertation. I don’t think I’m alone in this, as there are campus writing groups, as well as online discussion boards, that help other people check-in about their dissertation progress.
I’m excited to hear what other grads have to say about their summers spent dissertating; what have been some effective strategies for you? Have you located any helpful resources that you’d like to share about summer productivity or the dissertation-writing process? Share your ideas in the comments below.
[Image via Flickr user Aaron Harmon and used under a creative commons license]