In this week’s episode, Marvette goes over the main reasons why you may be having such a tough time finishing your dissertation. Dr. Lacy dives into how you can get over your lack of confidence and imposter syndrome that is holding you back from accomplishing your goal.
Hey, you can finish your dissertation and start a profitable consulting business. I’m Dr. Marvette Lacy, and I’m here to show you exactly how to do that. Welcome to the Office Hours with Dr. Lacy podcast, where we talk about all things healing from your higher ed trauma. So you could become doctor and live happy, free and pay. Now let’s get to this week’s episode.
Hello. Welcome back to a new week. I have been loving you all’s feedback from the last two episodes. I absolutely think that both of them would be something that you would keep on repeat, especially during really tough times. And if you haven’t listened to them, what you do and you need to go listen, what happens? Like what do you do in life happens is are the two episodes part one and part two and today we are going to be talking about why is it so hard to finish the dissertation. I have been working with, there’s quite a few number of students inside of the finish your dissertation program who are working on the end of the dissertation. So maybe they’re wrapping up data collection, maybe they’re in the pits of four and five or all of the edits, but they are really feeling it. And it is really, there’s no way to else to put this, but it’s a mindfuck.
Um, and I say that because, so when you’re writing your proposal, your biggest like challenge is trying to figure out how do you even start? What exactly is it that you want to say? How do you organize what you want to say in a very clear and simple like research package? And you’re just trying to, like, your brain is just trying to catch up with that you’ve finished coursework that you pass your exams and that all you have to do, like all that standing in between you and graduation and being doctor is a dissertation. And all of that comes up and you get, probably get lost in chapter two, somewhere. You probably have a good idea of what you want to do for chapter three. And chapter one is pretty much writing itself after two and three. And it’s like all of these questions and what ifs, right? And so that’s the proposal.
After the proposal:
Once you pass through that phase and you defend your proposal and you submit it to IRB and you get that approved and you start collecting data, you kind of think like, okay, I’m in the home stretch. All I have to do is finish data collection and write up these last two chapters. If I could write the first three, I could do the last two. Let me tell you what happens though. Now, most people think that when they get to chapters four and five, which are the findings and discussion section, they have this thought like it should be easy, right? I should be able to just write it. I’m just summarizing the data, right. I’m just saying what it means. And yes, that is true. That is the goal of the end of the dissertation and making any edits.
Why is it challenging?:
And then here’s what I have found why it’s so challenging for people. Number one is you have had this incredible experience of meeting with and collecting your stories and spending time with them. And you have so many, like ideas, and connections just bouncing around in your head and your brain says, how could I possibly put that into one chapter? Right? If a chapter is somewhere between 20 and 50 pages, it’s like, how do I honor my participants’ stories? How do I honor everything that they shared with me and wrap that into this nice, like nice, neat package, right? Some of you start to rebel really at this stage. And you’re like, I’m not an academic. I don’t like writing this way. It feels too constricting. It feels too like just too much. And you kind of just want to be probably more expressive and more creative, but you’re thinking you’re getting this feedback from your chair, your committee, your program, whatever, what have you, that it has to be done in a certain way.
The middle of the bridge:
And that is scary. And what I want to do right now is normalize it is scary. Anytime that you’re going to up level in your identity or having a significant identity shifts, it is scary. It can be scary, I should say, because it’s, I tell clients the way I picture it is like, you know, like in Grey’s anatomy, if you watch Grey’s anatomy, you know, they’re like little bridge that they’re always on where you could see outside, or you can see over the hospital, right? So I’m one side of that bridge is you who you used to be you being a student, you right like going through coursework and dreaming about what is your dissertation going to be. And just trying to write that proposal and just trying to right get to the end. That’s you on one side and on the other side is you as doctor, you as ex expert you as Dr. So-and-so you as a person who is known to talk about and research about this topic, you as the person, you know, everybody is going to congratulate and pay attention to, right? So those are the two of the bridge. What I want you to picture is like, you’re on the mid you’re in the middle of the bridge, you’re in the middle. So you can clearly see both ends of the bridge or both doors. You can see that you’re no longer the student just trying to figure it out. Just trying to write a proposal, just trying to like, get to the end. But you also know I’m not quite doctor yet.
I still have a few more steps to go. And it’s kind of like this in between this purgatory of sorts, like you’re in this, you’re in the middle of the bridge. And it’s like, it feels strange and uncomfortable because you’re in between two identities. I hope this is making sense, but you’re in like, essentially, like you’re in between two people or two versions of yourself. And you’re looking at everything. That is how I describe like cognitive dissonance at this stage. Right. Because you know, you have the evidence that you’re not just trying to figure it out. You’re not at day one anymore, but you also know like I’m supposed to walk towards the end where I’m doctor, but that’s scary. It’s unknown. I don’t know what to expect there. I don’t know if I have what it takes to walk over there. What’s going to happen to my life. What will it mean when I’m no longer a student? What will it mean when I’m getting a job?
Or if you’re not, um, if you don’t have a full time job now, like what does that even look like again? Right? Who are my friends? What is that gonna mean? Cause what happens, which is, um, there’s an episode. If maybe we can put it in the show notes where I talk about after the dissertation, but there your brain has already calculated that not only are you losing this identity of the student, but you’re in a lot of ways, losing a significant community that has been important to you for the past however many years you’ve been in the program. And you may think like, I’m not going to even miss these people, but your brain likes routine. Your brain like certainty, your brain likes knowing what is going to happen. And because it doesn’t know what’s going to happen after graduation, what that looks like in the moment of you being in the middle of that bridge, what that looks like is not writing. It looks like procrastination. It looks like, oh, let me just go apply to all these jobs. I’ll get to the dissertation. No problem.
It looks like, oh, let me go do all these other things like conference proposal or work on different research teams. Right? Because you’re like, oh, I know I’m going to have, all I have to do is four and five. I’ll get to it. There looks like you doing everything, but writing chapter four or five, it also may look like you writing chapter four and five, like 10 billion times. Right? And I get that for some people, that’s your process. You need to write it out. And I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the people who like, just, you’re just writing and writing and writing. There’s no structure to the writing. There is no focus to the writing. You’re just writing, writing, writing. And you have like a hundred pages for chapter four and you still feel like you’re not done. And you’re like, what is happening? I see both of these and all the in-betweens and what I want to and what I want to say. And what I tell people is you first have to decide what your life is going to look like after you’ve finished this dissertation, you have to remind yourself, why did you do this to begin with? And your reasons might have changed, right? Why you did it in the beginning could be completely different than why you’re doing it now. But you need to be able to see that clearly and make decisions from that place.
Are you ready to be doctor?:
You have to ask yourself, are you ready to be doctor? Because everything else is lining up for you. And the only thing that is missing is your decision to continue to walk down that bridge to the other side. And that sounds very simple. And it’s not, it requires you to decide, right? It requires you to say, I’m not going to be able to include everything in chapters four and five, but I can include this, these few things. And I’m okay with it feeling like it’s not complete and I’m going to turn it in and I’m going to defend it. And I know that I have the rest of my career to continue to write on this dissertation, to continue to add to it, to continue to play around with it. But like the Georgia bulldogs. What I want you to remember is finish the drill, right?
Do you understand the assignment?:
The dissertation, the purpose of it was an assignment to see if you can, um, design and implement or a complete research project start to finish by yourself. Finish the drill, finish the assignment. Your dissertation is not meant to be your life’s work. It’s not meant to be perfect. It is meant to see if you can right complete a project from start to finish. Meaning you’re going to have way more data than you know what to do with it than you could could that you could absolutely include in a dissertation. Now, if you’re someone who wants to write a 6, 7, 800 page dissertation and your chair has signed off on it, that is great. But if that is not the goal, if you want to come back down to 200, 250 pages, friend you don’t have to pick and choose what are the three to five things that you’re going to talk about and focus on as it relates to your problem, your questions, your purpose, that you’re going to talk about in four and five and be okay with that and be okay with, you can continue to write about the other things in articles, right?
Make the decision that, yeah, you’re going to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re going to feel like an imposter. You’re gonna feel like a fraud and nothing has gone wrong just because you feel like that. It just because you’re, you’re thinking thoughts like that, or you’re feeling like that doesn’t make it true. And doesn’t mean that you have to believe it, right? Your brain tells you a lot of shit that you don’t act on, right? There’s a lot of time, right? You’re in the line and a person, or you’re like at the airport and the person in front of you is taking forever and you you might have the urge to punch them in their face, but you don’t punch them. The same thing is true when your brain says you’re an imposter or you’re a fraud, you, you shouldn’t have made it this far. You could also be like and that’s just not true. Or that’s just something I used to think. You have to make the choice to do that. You have to make the choice to be decisive in chapter four. And you have to make the choice that you’re willing to trust yourself that you know what you want to say for chapter five, because I haven’t met a student who didn’t know what they wanted to say in chapter five. What I do see is people saying, I can’t say that, or I can’t say it like that. And my question is always, why not? Who told you, you couldn’t have you tried it? Have you put the words on the page and submitted it to your chair? Did they tell, you no? Did they tell you some edits to make your ideas more clear, concise?
Okay. The reasons why it’s so hard to finish a dissertation is because it’s really coming down to do you trust yourself? Now I get it for some people. You’re like, no, but for real, I don’t know what to, what’s supposed to go on chapter four and what’s supposed to go in chapter five. And I get that. And what I want you to say, that’s only about 10 to 20% and we can fix that 10 to 20%. The other 80 90% is going to be on you being willing to practice courage, to show up, to be committed to the goal that you set. And we’re going to help you. Qual scholars is here to help you with that 10 to 20% about like exactly what you put in chapter four and five.
New Program Alert: Defend Your Dissertation:
And I am going to be announcing a new program that we have coming up and it’s called defend your dissertation. And we have about two weeks before the doors open and defend your dissertation is all about finishing this thing strong. We tell you exactly how to write chapters four and five. I’m talking about step by step direction. We tell you how to prepare for your final defense. We help you with this belief in yourself. Like how do I show up and believe that I’m already doctor. That’s what this program is going to do, but I will be telling you more about that in a future episode. But today I just want you to decide that you’re ready to walk across the bridge and become doctor to fully live out your dream. I would love to know what you think about this episode. Let us know on Instagram at qual_scholars, and I will talk to you next week. Bye for now.
Share the Episode!:
Know the perfect person who needs to listen to this episode, go ahead and share with them. And if you’re feeling generous, make sure you rate and review the show. This lets me know that you’re enjoying the content and it helps other people discover all this goodness that I’m bringing to you every week. Go ahead, share it. Talk to you next week.