Make it Work for You: Another Perspective on Graduate School
Graduate school is typically viewed as a three-stage process, comprising:
2) Qualifying exams; and
3) Dissertation/thesis writing
Most grad students don’t have any difficulty with the coursework, as they’re well accustomed to taking classes and receiving a grade. After the coursework is done, however, many students falter in the unfamiliar territory of the next two stages, particularly when it comes to writing their dissertation or thesis. Students can take months and even years to complete these final stages.
In my opinion, the key to avoiding this pitfall is to view these three stages not as isolated segments but, rather, as tightly inter-woven processes that connect and complement one another. For example, before you even begin the first stage of taking courses, it is highly beneficial to have at least a general idea of what you would ultimately like to research for your thesis or dissertation. If you wait to make this decision, all of the work you complete in your coursework will be simply to fulfill university course requirements. But if you’ve already pinpointed a general subject area, you can use every single course as a vehicle to explore your interest and, consequently, contribute to your end-stage document.
Stage #1 – Coursework.
Always keep uppermost in your mind how you can apply whatever you learn to your final document. If you’re interested in researching Aging, for example, you can choose core courses that will enable you to pursue some aspect of that topic. Even if you are required to take biology you could write about the biological aspects of aging. Then focus all of the papers and/or research you are required to complete for that class on a subject matter that will ultimately contribute to your thesis. Remember you are working on becoming an expert in that particular topic, the more you know the better off you are.
Think of every paper and project you complete in your classes as another means to research and explore your subject matter. Always stay focused on the big picture, and look for connections between what you are currently studying and what you will soon be researching and writing. Leave every seminar with at least a literature review of some area of research. Use a required paper to create a first draft for publication … then you can take some time over the summer or other breaks revising and submitting it for journal review.
Stage #2 – Qualifying Exams.
While some may believe that qualifying/comprehensive exams are just a means to torture graduate students, the true purpose of the exams is to demonstrate your knowledge in a particular discipline. Passing these exams offers proof that you have a strong command of a specific subject area, which is an absolutely essential prerequisite to writing a dissertation.
Moreover, think of these exams as a preparatory step to writing a comprehensive literature review. They measure not only your knowledge of the topic, but also your awareness of the connection between all of the literature written on your topic. And isn’t that exactly what a literature review is all about? If you can make all of these connections, you can pass your preliminary exams. And you are also well on your way to writing your dissertation.
Stage #3 – Dissertation/Thesis
If approached properly, your coursework and qualifying exams have ensured that you won’t be beginning your dissertation topic from scratch at this stage of the game! You should already have completed a great deal of research, and studied volumes of literature already written about your subject matter. The toughest step here is to narrow your topic to a very specific focus–one that will answer a research question that has not yet been answered. What problem do you wish to solve? What questions do you hope to answer? What pertinent knowledge do you want to uncover? What do you aspire to prove? (Refer to last month’s newsletter for more information about writing a dissertation proposal.)
Your dissertation proposal will specifically define what you wish to discover with your document, and viola! That proposal can then serve as the initial chapters of your dissertation … or, at the very least, as the introduction. Again, think of every task you complete as wholly connected to finishing your end product. (Some students have even used conducted a pilot study– perhaps earlier in a research methods course—to write their dissertation proposal, using the results of that study as one of the chapters in their dissertation.)
The key to your success is to make every single step in this process work for you!!!
Email Question of the Month:
Hello Doctor Carter,
I have written my proposal, but my problem now is how to start. I please want you to help me out with tips on how to break down my chapters, what each chapter should entail and a brief definition of all the steps I must go through.
The biggest problem I have is that nobody has ever done the project I have chosen-THE PRODUCTIVITY OF INDUSTRIES IN SIERA LEONE. I couldn’t find any material of the sought in our departmental library. I have made some web research in that regard but to no avail because I am not a registered member. Your help in that respect would be very much appreciated. Any copy of the productivity of industries in general would improvise.
May be I am going too far-one last request for today-The TADA CD copy. I am barely living on approximately $2 U.S. a day. For now, I can’t afford $29 to purchase a copy.
The Internet research that I even do at times, if not for the grace of God. I may not have even come across somebody like you. But the most interesting thing is I must graduate and time is running. I would be very much grateful if you help me out, and I would be in a ready position to update you of every accomplished stage. Thank you very much for your concern and I am looking forward to receiving the tips as early as possible.
D. A. K.
Thank you for contacting me at TA-DA Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished.
Chapters — Please see our newsletter about writing a proposal. The Q and A section shows you what parts of the proposal go in what chapter of the dissertation. Look specifically in the Email of the Month Section (Q & A section) http://tadafinallyfinished.com/newsletter/news0305B.htm
Sources for your research — Use our TA-DA Links and Resources page under the academic discipline of Business and use any of those databases there to find some more information. http://tadafinallyfinished.com/links/index.html
You might want to be more specific about what industries you are interested in and be more broad about your location. For example you might pick a specific industry in Southern Africa, Eastern Africa, or just Africa to begin with and see what you get.
Finally, I also suggest that you use www.googlescholar.com and if your university is not a member of JSTOR online, I suggest that you walk inside a brick and mortar library where they might have a hardcopy of the journals that you are looking for. In the library, you will also find a reference librarian to help you as well. www.googlescholar.com
I hope my answers have been help to you so you can make some forward progress.
To your success,
TA-DA!(TM) Graduates –
Congratulations on Your Success
Congratulations to Dissertation House Alumni who finished and defended their dissertations.
I want to let you know, I followed your pointers for writing a Theses. Halleujah! I did it. I graduated May 23rd. I ‘m not a Masters or Doctorate graduate. I received my BS in Organizational Management.
I had no idea what a thesis was. When I was told it is a requirement for your degree. I went on the internet seeking information on how to write one. I searched and searched, and I was so stressed. I came across your website, and you were not easy to find. I’m so grateful I found it and the rest is history. My Professor informed me Monday, I passed and got an A grade. I have you to thank for that. If I were going for my Masters I know I could do without stress. My next endeavor is becoming a Pilot. I’m 63 years old. I will be searching for work next week, and seeking a school to take pilot lessons. Thank you again for your help!