Writing your doctoral disserrta

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For the past twenty-five years I have been working with doctoral students,
guiding their evolution to doctoral recipients. During the time we work
together, I become intensely conscious of their need to understand the culture
of the university as it impacts on their progress. Concurrently, they need to
be receptive to engaging in a transformative, life-changing experience, the
essence of learning. As I recall my own days as a doctoral student, I
remember being at a total loss to understand what was happening to me. I
have discovered this is not unique. Most have no idea what a dissertation
looks like or how it evolves.
While most doctoral students expect to draw on their earlier collegiate
experiences, nothing in the academic world prepares them for the complexity
and intensity inherent in the doctoral process. I have identified the crucial
issues to include in Writing Your Dissertation: Invisible Rules for Success
from multiple sources:
• my experience in guiding more than seventy-five doctoral dissertations to
• more than 200 anonymous responses by doctoral students and graduates
to open-ended questionnaires;
• focus groups with doctoral students and graduates; and
• informal conversations with current doctoral students and graduates,
including some of whom teach in doctoral programs across the nation.
Increasing numbers of adults are receiving doctoral degrees (Magner, 1999),
but it is a culture in which most admit a lack of knowledge of the rules. They
frequently search for explicit information about what this complex, highly
interactive, academic, social, and political process involves. Access to
knowledgeable sources of information is limited, yet essential for emotional
and intellectual survival. This book serves as a practical guide for students to
progress in planning, writing, and defending their dissertations.
When students seek to understand the rules of the program, they are
frequently referred to the university Bulletin or told to see their advisor. There
is little explicit documentation of what occurs in a doctoral program. What is
particularly missing from these sources is information about the human


element, the social interactions which are the hallmark of doctoral programs,
and probably the most problematic for most doctoral students. Recognizing
the need to address this gap, I have developed a comprehensive guide to many
dimensions of the doctoral process, particularly focusing on the writing of
the ...
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