In this weeks episode of Office Hours, Dr. Lacy talks about what you need to get clear on to write your dissertation proposal and the 4 actions you can take today to get started on your proposal.
Hey friend, the time has come to finish your dissertation, graduate and become doctor. Welcome to office hours with Dr. Lacy where we talk about how to finally master this time management thing so you can stay on top of it without losing your mind. Every Wednesday you can find a new episode wherever you listen to podcasts, make sure you hit the subscribe button to make sure you never miss an episode. I’m Dr. Marvette Lacy, your dissertation writing strategist here to be with you along every step of the way. I would like to thank you for coming to today’s office hours. Let’s get started on today’s episode. Hey, how’s writing going? I know you don’t like the question, but let me tell you, when you join the finish your dissertation program, you will love that question. Clients often report feeling excited and joyful to go into their process even before they even get to the dissertation process, and that’s what I’m inviting you to do. I’m inviting you to come inside the group and join us so that you can get the structure you need and the tools that will help you to show up consistent and disciplined in your process. All you need to do is come on over to Marvette lacy.com/apply and sign up for the wait list and you will be the first notified when doors are open. See you soon.
Hello, welcome back to a new week on the podcast. We are currently on a week 9 of the 90 day challenge and things are going well. I’m coming to the end of my break for November, and I’m so excited to get back into things. I’m excited to talk back to clients and be in community. I miss everyone so so much, and I’ve had some serious FOMO in my own business. Um, but the break was much needed, much, much needed. And, um, yeah, this week I, um, um, you know, celebrating the last full week of the break and my birthday, um, and having some time off of the nine to five, um, I don’t know if, how many of you know this, and maybe I mentioned this in previous episodes, but in less than a month, I will be leaving my postdoc position and doing business full time. And I am so excited for that. Um, you know, I’m just trying to finish up some last few details regarding that. And so, yeah, it it’s, it’s, it’s been a good, it’s been a good month. It’s I know, I don’t sound like it. Um, probably let’s just say that my birthday was a good one. I had a really good birthday, even in quarantine. I didn’t go anywhere, but I had a whole party just by myself with my family. I think I have more of a party than they did, but you know, that is a story for another time.
Client Spotlight: Bernard!
Um, this week’s client spotlight goes to Bernard. Uh, so we don’t have many men folk in the group and it’s not that it’s not open, you know, just who comes into the group. But Bernard has been the latest, I believe the latest addition to the group. He joined in back in August, um, when we opened up the program and he just, you know, fit right in and I love it when people can come in and just fit right in. And like, you know, you came home. That’s how I, that’s how I describe the, the mood of the finish your dissertation program. You just come in and you like, I, I found my people. This is, yes, this is it. Um, and Bernard came in and was preparing for his, uh, preliminary exams, his written exams and looking for support in terms of just other students looking for support to, just along the dissertation process has a, a great supportive chair, right? And I think people have the misconception that, Oh my chair, we’re good. I don’t have a problem with them. So I don’t need any other support. And I’ve said this countless times on the podcast and to clients, your chair, can’t be all things and everything to you. Like, yes, they can support you and help you through the process. But they also have other students and their own research agenda and teaching and right, like their own other outside obligations and a whole life.
And so while they want to do everything they can, right. They’re only one person. And so Bernard, um, was what I appreciate about him is that he was really intentional about saying, no, I want to make sure that I’m fully supported. Um, and just keep my like health and wellbeing intact throughout this process. Um, and so we arranged, it was just working to get him prepared for exams. Um, I told him the same things, like I told you all last week on the episode about preparing for your exams and got him situated with that. And he went in there, he killed it, he killed it. Um, and if you I’m laughing because if you have done your exams and you get the feedback, and I should have said this last week, whenever you look at the feedback on the exams, here’s what you do. You read them and then you go take a walk, okay. Just go take a walk or go call your person like your really good friend. You’re a person. And you go vent to them because even if right, like you pass your exams, the faculty just have all types of feedback. Like they have questions and you’re going to be sitting there asking yourself, like, did they not know that I had a time constraint? Did they not know how stressful this is, why are they asking me this? Why are they giving me this type of feedback? And so I’m just telling you that to just go take a walk and to remember, it’s not personal, just remember as a part of this whole hazing doctoral hustle.
Okay. Um, and I’m saying that because we Bernard and I had this conversation of like, you know, feedback is feedback, right? Feedback is a gift. And we just going to take it as a gift. And, you know, your faculty are just, they’re doing their job. And because Bernard is also, um, at the University of Georgia and same program I graduated from, I can only imagine the feedback when his exams. Um, and there was one particular question where the feedback, it was a little bit, you know, you had to talk through some things. It was a little bit tough and similar to the conversation I had with Micah who I talked about last week too, is what I go back to when I have moments like that is, do I want to be right. Or do I want to be done? And I’m just gonna give you that gem again. And that was the conversation I have with Bernard. Do you want to be right? Or you want to be done. You want to be right? You want to get to the dissertation part? And I say that to say like, you could have every reason in the world to like go off and have all the receipts pulled up to tell people why they wrong. But at the end of the day, the people you want to go off on your faculty, your advisers, your chair, your committee, whomever, they are the people who have to sign the paperwork to get you to graduate. And when you have those letters and you’re done with the program, you can do whatever you want. You can do whatever research you want to. You can say whatever you want to, but you can’t get there without finishing the program.
And so it comes back to, do you want to be right? Or you want to be, do you want to be done? And so in a similar conversation with that one question, that was some tough feedback. We talked about that and I said listen, go in there, give them what they asked for. Don’t take it personal because listen, the way my petty is set up is it’s fine. Um, you, you want this certain answer. You wanted me to include this in my, my oral exams. Fine. I’ll do it. And look at you dead in your face with a blank look, or a smile, a little smirk tell you, right. The reason why I’m saying like that’s petty or how that’s set up is because a lot of time, whether it’s intentional or not, faculty will give feedback because they’re trying to get a reaction out of you.
They’re trying to, to, you know, like, see like, Oh, how they’re going to handle this. And again, I’m saying, putting that caveat of it might be intentional. It may not be, we don’t know, we can’t be inside people’s heads. Right. But you can control how you respond to things. And if you can keep your eyes on your goal, which is to be done, all of that is just BS. All of that is just everything else beyond that is just my drama. Okay. You want me to address this? I’ll do that. Oh, you want me to talk about that? Fine. Cause I think back to my exams in the oral process, there was a faculty who tried to come for me and I just looked at her unfazed because I was already prepared, right? Like about to go into side rant, you know, your faculty. By the time you get to your exams, you know them very well. You know, the type of feedback they give, you know, the type of ridiculousness you going to come up against. And so instead of going into your exams or any defenses worried about it, go into the defense as being prepared for it. Have a response ready. Even if you have to write it down on a piece of paper and take that paper in there with you, have your response ready. Because they won’t be ready for you to be so prepared. And when you can go in there prepared, right. Confident, knowing exactly what you’re going to say and why are you going to say it? That to me is 70, 80% of the battle of any defense people take their cues from you.
And so I was talking to Bernard to say like, that’s how we’re going into this defense. You’re going to go in there. You’re going to know what to say. Remember your chair has your back, but remember, you know, the answers to this, you know what you need to do, you know, go in there and you’re going to pass this and you’ll go to the dissertation. And that’s exactly what he did. He also, um, and I told him, when you’re done, you need to take a break. You need to take a month of a break. I think it was like three to four weeks. Um, and usually when I say this to clients, they’re like, no, I don’t need to take a break. I’m like, no, no, no. Because even if the exams were take home, which most exams are now due to COVID and everything, even if you felt like you were prepared and you’ve been studying the process of doing your exams, take so much out of you that you’re not even aware of. And so I think it is important for you to have some rest periods, some like recalibration period before you then jumped straight into your dissertation proposal. If you can just take a break, don’t be like me, don’t take an eight month break, take a few weeks off and just be, and get yourself together. Right. Get the emotions out from the feedback. It makes the world of difference. And Bernard did that. And what I appreciate so much about Bernard is how coachable he is. When I’m saying how coachable is, how willing he is to show up, ask for help, have the hard conversations and try it. Because at first he was like, nah, I think I’ll be okay. And then he came and he’s like, no, I’m gonna do it. And he took the full break and he came back and was ready and working on this proposal.
Now I want to, um, next week when I get back in the swing of things, I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole proposal was done or near done, but I absolutely love working with clients like Bernard, just the joy and just like fits in, deals with the ridiculousness of the group. And it’s just so calm and cool and like, okay. Um, so I just wanted to give a shout out to Bernard cannot wait, cannot wait, um, to see the way that his study goes, we have to have him on the podcast so he can talk to you about his amazing research. Um, and I just wanted, I just wanted to shout him out. So thank you, Bernard.
Writing Your Dissertation Proposal:
Uh, so today we are talking about writing your dissertation proposal, which fits right in to the person we’re talking about. Right. Um, and, and I believe I had this conversation with Bernard. Um, when you are working on your, like, when it finally comes like down to like, this is the, for real last step, I just got to write this dissertation. What I see happen with students is that you’re like, this needs to be the best thing I ever done in my whole life. It has to be the best thing I ever write. And all of this pressure comes up from that, that thought that line of thinking of, I gotta do this. It’s gotta be so good. And I gotta gotta do things that people never done before. I get to like, have all this control and people then start to work themselves up so much. Then they can’t write anything. Right? Like this was happening to me during my like eight months stint. I couldn’t write anything. I was putting so much pressure to come up with a perfect topic and the perfect methodology and the perfect methods like that.
I couldn’t get anything on the page, in what I will say to you, if you hear nothing else in the rest of this episode is for real, just keep it simple. I want you to write the most boring, like dissertation. You can think about the most boring, the most simple dissertation. You, I want you to look at the page and be like, that’s not a dissertation worthy. Start there, make it the worst thing you’ve ever written in your life. Why? Because you can always improve something. If there are words on the page, you can edit and change things around and get feedback. But if there’s nothing on the page, there’s nothing like you can’t do anything with nothing that with something that doesn’t exist. Right? So if you can say like, Nope, this first draft or iteration is going to be the worst thing I’ve ever done. That is the best place you can be in.
I promise you it’s the best place that you can be in. Just write the worst thing ever. Okay. So that is, that’s like the first thing, you know, it wasn’t even on my list, right? So once we get into that mindset of, okay, I’m going to write the worst thing I’ve ever written in my life. Then I want you to focus on. So to me, the goal, let me take a step back for a minute. The goal with your proposal and what I suggest is that you start with a four page prospectus. You want to start a 4 like essentially a four page, like a two to four page outline of what your study will be. The reason why you want to do this is you want to get this approved by your, your advisor or your chair before you get too deep off in writing the entire proposal.
Because if you can sum it up, not only do you want to do it to get approved, but if you can sum it up in two to four pages thing, then you even have a great, like starting place, you know exactly what you’re going to write and why you’re writing it. I don’t like telling students to start, just start with the literature review. And I get the line of thinking there because most right, most faculty wants you to start the literature review because they want you to be very familiar with the literature so you can know what to write and you can know what exist, and you can start crafting. But I find that that is too overwhelming of a place to start and that you have so many ideas and most students start at the, they want to start with the methodology and the methods because they are so excited to try all these new things that they’ve been hearing and reading and learning about. Right? And so the reason why I say start with a two to four page perspectives, you can get all those thoughts out of your mind, right? You can get all your ideas, what you’re thinking about, and it forces you to start writing, which then forces you to get clear, right. And that way you’re not, you know, you, you not spending months and months reading hundreds of articles and trying to piece together literature review that you really can’t use. And isn’t really clear because you don’t know what you’re doing. Like you don’t even know what the study is.
You’re just writing about a general topic. It almost becomes like another paper you’re doing for class, but your literature review, which I’ll talk about next week really is supposed to guide the reader in like a persuasive argument of why your study is needed. But if you don’t even know what your study is about, it’s like, how can you write a persuasive argument about it makes sense. So I encourage people to start with a two to four page outline that outlines a clear problem, a clear purpose, a clear methodology, clear methods, um, and like your goals for the project.
1. What is the Problem?:
Okay. Um, so the first part, uh, problem. So background of the like the problem and a clear problem statement. This will require, this is the only time I’m saying go read some literature. Okay. I would suggest you to find about 10 articles, one zero, one zero articles about that will help you get clear on your, um, the background of your study. Okay. that will clear on the background of your study, right? So when I’m saying the background is, what is the problem you are addressing and how would you explain that to a five-year-old right? What is the problem? Why is your study needed? Who is your problem most affecting? Why do you need to do this study now? And why do you need to be the person doing this study?
So I encourage you to address all those points in a paragraph or two, what is the problem? Why is this needed? Why is now, why you, and who was the problem around about one to two paragraphs. And then you want to end that section with a clear sentence of this is my problem statement. So let me try to think of an example off the top of my head. Um, I do a lot of research around sexual assault. So I would say, you know, most of the, you know, literature and common narrative that we know or master narrative, that we know about sexual assault is based around white middle class women. And a lot of like resources and the voices of BIPOC folks are missing from the conversation, right? That’s a very clear, like I am telling you what the literature is saying, but I’m telling you what’s missing. And I told you who was missing, right.
2. What is the Purpose of Your Study?:
)Once you have a clear problem statement, then you want to write a paragraph about, okay, what is the purpose of this? So going more into what is the purpose of your study? Right? So using that example, I may say, like the purpose is to explore the experiences of BIPOC folks going through reporting at their institutions or something like that, right? Like that’s very, you know, exactly who I’m talking about and what I’m going to be doing. And can you start to see how that would be different from the problem statement? Most people, I want to spend some time here. Most people do not, even if they write their whole proposal, even if they go back and look at their dissertation. Now, most people are not clear on their problem and their purpose. And they combine the two and I can look at someone’s chapter one really quick and tell them, this is why it’s not getting approved, approved. I can look at someone’s chapter one and tell them, this is why it’s not getting approved because y’all, this train won’t let me be great. They won’t let me be great.
Okay. We’re back. Okay. I can look at someone’s chapter one and clearly see why they’re not getting it approved. Or if I’m looking at their two to four page prospectus and 80 to 90% of the time, the reason why your advisor, your chair won’t approve your study is because you’re not clear on your problem. And you’re not clear on your purpose. 80, 90%. It goes to, you’re not clear. You think you have a study, but what you really have is a general topic, right? Most people would just say, Oh, I, my, my dissertation is on campus-based sexual assault, but there’s so many areas that you can go within that. Like, what about it? What are you doing? What’s the purpose? Why you need to do this. So really spending time with those three paragraphs will make all of the difference.
3. What is Your Methodology?:
After you have your clear problem, purpose, then you want to go to, what is the methodology? Let me, let me make a point. I skipped research questions. I think people spend too much time on them. Um, I think people go down rabbit holes too much for them. And again, if you don’t even know what your study is, it’s hard to come up with questions. I low key. Also don’t quite fully believe in them, but that is a whole nother episode. So that’s why I didn’t put it here. Because for me, the purpose is to get you to a finished dissertation and a very like solid dissertation, without you going down all these rabbit holes and wasting your time and right, like doing things, that’s not going to help you. Your advisor will be in a much better position to assist you in coming up with research questions. If you can have all these other things mapped out. Okay? So that is that on research questions.
So moving to methodology, what is just choose a methodology again. Why am I saying that? It’s not that I’m trying to tell you to just put any, like, to just throw together something and call it done. No, I’m trying to get you to put words on the page because you learn so much, you grow so much throughout your dissertation process. You’re going to continue to read that things will change. Your dissertation will not look the same from day one, as it will on the last day. It, it just won’t. And so if you can just have a starting place, you can then start to change things. So whatever methodology that is coming to mind in the moment when you’re writing this perspectives, put that on a page, just write a paragraph about what is the methodology. Clearly tell me the methodology, what we’re not doing. Listen to me. We are not saying I’m doing a general qualitative study. It doesn’t exist.
We’re not doing that. I don’t care what citation you can pull up. No, no, no. Go choose you a methodology. Choose you a philosophy of that methodology, because there’s just not a general methodology. Like somebody there’s, there’s several people who have come up with their own philosophy. Right? So what is the methodology? Who are you basing? Whose philosophy are you basing that off on? And then what are just lists like bullet points. What are some methods you’re thinking about? Right. So are you thinking about interviews? Are you thinking about focus groups? Are you thinking about photo elicitation? What? Just list them. So you, so that the person, your advisor can have an idea of what you’re thinking, right?
4. Who Are You?:
And then spend the rest of this perspective, talking about you. Who are you? What is your research philosophy? So going towards, what is your paradigm? What is your philosophy? Meaning what is your philosophy, your worldview going more into, like, why are you the person to do the study? And like, what are your, your goals and hopes for this study? People want to pass this part up because they’re like, well, I’m not going to be objective if I say that again, that’s a whole nother podcast episode. I don’t believe in objectivity or neutrality, but that’s a whole different thing. What the purpose of this is so that you name it, you name who you are, especially if you’re doing a qualitative project, you are the research instrument. So we need to know about you. We need to know where you’re coming from. We need to know about your experiences. We need to know what you’re hoping to get, to prepare us for the study.
So being able to clearly list out the problem, the purpose, the methodology, the methods and your positionality will give your advisor a very good overview of where you’re starting from. And then they can give you more directive feedback on how to take your next steps. Most people or most programs will have to do this as a part of your exam process. But in the case that you don’t do this in your exam process, start here, do not go into a chapter, just start here and say to your advisor, your chair, and say like, here’s what I’m thinking. What is your feedback? Can you give me the green light to go ahead, to move forward with this? It will make all the difference. It will save you headaches. It will save you time doing this. This will not be a waste of your time. Most of you will be like, well, I could just start writing and say, no, don’t do that. Four pages. Turn it into your advisor. And then you have a whole roadmap of how to write the three chapters you need for your proposal. So that is going to be all today. I would love to know what you think about this. Come on over to on over to Instagram at qual_scholars say hi to Barnard. Show him love.
Let me know what you think about this episode. And if you are looking for community and you’re looking for some, some good umph or some inspiration during this time, cause I know we’re getting to the end of the year. You need to come on over then to the Facebook group to qualitative dissertations made simple again, even if you’re not doing a qualitative dissertation, because it’s one of the best, I would say the best community, um, around for doc students. So come over there, join us. Join us for this last leg of the 90 day challenge because we had some, we got some good surprises going. We just had a brunch. Um, that was last Saturday and it was just open and free because our goal is, we know how this process can be. We know how lonely it could be. We know how hard it can be, especially during a whole pandemic. And our goal is just whether you are inside of our program or not we just want, want you to know that we see you, we hear you and we want to be there for you. So come on over, join the group and I will talk to y’all next week. Bye for now.
Join Finish Your Dissertation!:
Hey, you ready to take this work further? Then it’s time for you to join the finish your dissertation program. Finally get the tools, resources, and structure. You need to show up consistent and disciplined in your process. All you need to do is come on over to MarvetteLacy.com/apply and join the finish your dissertation wait list. I’ll see you there. Bye for now. Thanks. Thank you for joining in for today’s office hours. Make sure you come on Instagram and tag me at Marvette Lacy. Let me know what your thoughts were on today’s episode until next time. Do something to show yourself some love. I’ll talk to you next week. Bye for now.