Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Doctoral Dissertation

Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Doctoral Dissertation

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane:  Do you have any suggestions on how to avoid the pitfalls many other doctoral students may have encountered when writing their dissertations?

As a doctoral chair, I guide students through the process of writing a dissertation.  There are different problems that many of them may face based on the topics they chose to study.  I prefer to chair quantitative, business-related studies, so my suggestions may be slanted in that direction.

Here are the top 10 things that I think a doctoral student should be made aware of from the beginning:

  1. The process will probably take longer than you think.  There may be a set of doctoral courses required for the dissertation part of your degree.  For example, there may be Class 1, 2, and 3.  They will explain that if you don’t finish 1, you can take 1a and 1b, etc.  Be prepared to take 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, etc.  Remember that every time you take the class, it costs money.  Have it in your budget in case you need extra courses.
  2. Find a good doctoral chair (also called doctoral mentor).  The school will probably have a website that lists professors that you can pick from, to be your chair.  Go through the lists carefully to find one that fits your topic and your needs.  Send them a very polite letter of request to be your chair/mentor.  Do not send a bulk message to a lot of potential chairs.  This is seen as tacky.   I recommend talking to them on the phone prior to signing up with any of them.  If they don’t want to do this, you may want to pick someone who is more hospitable.  Find out if they work at your speed.  I had two different chairs in my journey.  The first one was not a good fit for me.  The second was much better. Keep in mind that you can probably change chairs later if you find out it isn’t working for you.
  3. Become an APA expert.  Most schools require that your paper is in APA 6th edition right now.  Click here for writing help.  When you submit a dissertation, the review board will be beyond picky about this.  Every space, every heading, every table, etc. has to be exact.  Schools usually have writing centers that can help you with APA as well. 
  4. Find a good statistician.  If you are going to do a quantitative study, you will need an excellent statistician for guidance.  It helps to have SPSS software as well. It is important to understand how to do a Power Analysis when deciding on your population and sample size.
  5. Strong editing is a must.  Schools are very picky about anthropomorphisms and they don’t like what they call “fluff” wording.  They want the writing to sound scholarly.  Avoid using words like:  However, In Addition, Therefore.  Do not refer to yourself in the document.  Example:  The research did blah blah blah.  Don’t use the wording “the researcher” unless you are referring to someone other than you.  There should be no first person references in the paper at all. The proposal will be written in future tense so everything you write will be about what will happen.  The only thing that the proposal has in past tense is what others have written.  For example:  Hamilton (2011) stated blah blah blah is OK but everything that you propose to do must be in future tense.  There should be no personal bias.  Use research citations to back up your points.  When you write Chapters 1-3 of the proposal, you need to refer to your study as the proposed study.  Do not forget to include the word proposed
  6. Have a good template.  Some schools use a company called Bold that offers a dissertation template that has all of the formatting set up already.  These templates usually cost under $100 and are worth it.  They have the hard parts like the table of contents set up for you.  Some students try to write their dissertation in a regular Word document first and transfer it over to the Bold document later. This can cause a real headache with formatting and I don’t recommend it.
  7. Set up a schedule and become organized.  I have seen students flounder because they find the process overwhelming and don’t know where to begin.  Setting up a schedule for when you will do things is very helpful.  Set aside a certain number of hours in the week dedicated to your research and writing.   Usually the first doctoral class is set up to create Chapters 1-3 of your proposal.  It may be helpful to begin with Chapter 2 first to research the topic you have in mind. Look for areas in the research where there are gaps that still need addressing.  When you have written about everything others have done regarding your topic in Chapter 2, it should help highlight the exact area where you want to focus for Chapter 1.
  8. Download past dissertations. Looking at past dissertations written by students at your school can be very helpful.  It will give you a template of the format that is appropriate for your school and show you how others handled specific sections.
  9. Keep studies in notebooks.  I personally found it helpful to keep all of the studies I referenced in notebooks. I would alphabetize them by author last name.  I had 5 or 6 different notebooks based on the topics.  For example, since my dissertation was on emotional intelligence and its impact on sales performance, I would have a notebook about sales studies, another about emotional intelligence tests, another about emotional intelligence in workplace, etc. 
  10. Don’t give up.  Think of writing a dissertation as you would writing a book.  It has chapters and has to be approached one step at a time.  You wouldn’t write a book all in one day and you can’t write a dissertation that way either.  Sometimes students fail to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s there.  It just takes a while to get there.

I recommend reading some of the following books:

APA Publication Manual 6th Edition

Business Research Methods

Research Strategies

Methods in Behavioral Research

10 Most Important Steps to Obtain Dream Job

 

I often speak to students and career groups about how to obtain a dream job or reinvent a career.  I have listed some of the most important points from my lectures, with appropriate links to articles, to explain the process.  Be sure to click on the links listed under each step to watch videos and read the articles to get step by step instructions.

  1. Define Your Goals:  People fear making mistakes.  Although it can be argued there are no mistakes, only learning experiences, part of avoid mistakes is to have good goals.  The goals must be measurable with timeframes listed for when you wish to achieve those goals.
  2. Analyze “You” as the Product:  To get a job, you must showcase your talents by thinking of “you” as the product.  When you are networking and interviewing, you are “selling” a product and that product is you.   Be sure to analyze your online reputation.  You can be sure that companies will check on this.
  3. Create a Personal SWOT Analysis:  SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  By creating a personal SWOT analysis, you can work on capitalizing on your strengths and find solutions for any weaknesses or threats.
  4. Analyze Your Competition: When you are interviewing, you must remember there are a lot of others that are competing for the same job.  Think of those things that you bring to the table that your competition does not.  What do others have that you need to be working on in the meantime?  Have you done your research?  If an interviewer asks you the question: “Why did you pick our company?” . . . do you have a good answer?  Know the answers to difficult job interview questions.
  5. Capitalize on Personality Skills: Part of finding the right job is based on understanding your personality preferences.  Personality tests like Myers Briggs MBTI can be very helpful in leading you to the right job.  It is also important to work on developing emotional intelligence. Find out why employers are placing as much value on EQ as IQ.
  6. Analyze Jobs:  Find out what jobs pay:  One of the first steps is to find out what a job is worth.  Consider what types of jobs motivate you.  Check out top 10 ways to find a job or have a job find you.
  7. Showcase Your Talents:  Use social networking to get noticed.  Find out how you can use a simple PowerPoint presentation and Camtasia to showcase your abilities.  If you are not on LinkedIn, you should be.  Use Google Docs and LinkedIn to get noticed.  Rev up your business card by adding a QR code to it.  Avoid putting these top 10 wrong things on resumes.
  8. Ace the Interview:  Once you are able to obtain an interview, use personality skills to wow them.  Deliver information in the job interview based upon understanding introverts and extroverts.  Keep in mind the proper answer to tough interview questions.
  9. Follow up on the Interview:  Always follow up with a thank you note.  It is important to stand out from the crowd and having manners is very important.  It is important to realize that millennials have unique job expectations and may not come across as respectful at times.
  10. Use what You Have Learned to Succeed: Continue to use the things you have learned in order to obtain the job.  Don’t stop setting goals.  Stay connected through social networking in case the job doesn’t work out.

Have a Laugh from Site that Compiles Past Tweets

 

There is a fun little site called That Can Be My Next Tweet. It pulls information from your Twitter account and calculates what your possible next Tweet could include based on what you have Tweeted in the past.  Every time you push the “get your next Tweet” button, it comes up with a new jumble of words combined from your past postings.  I put in drdianehamilton and the first three times I pushed the button, I got the following responses:

  1. You are emotionally intelligent? 3 Answers: Consumer Trends to Target its 90 Million From Russian?
  2. Develop Socially You About Your Current Job Google and Psychological Bloggers and Business Review: How?
  3. Boomerang Generation: College Tuition Really Want This New Pew Is Your Current Job Google Using QR code!

It was fun for a few minutes.  I’m not sure it has lasting appeal, but it can be good for a few laughs. I put in a few personalities that can tend to be characters to see what their next Tweet might be.  Here is what it generated:

Charlie Sheen:  Sloppy TunaGet you’re going to Colombia, it’s my page & ! KH & RH RT!! Anger Management ANGER & coke round.

Ashton Kutcher:  I’m a joke. retweet to keep spending millions to people sounds funnier than astronauts.

Kanye West:  Chilling with my stress and I just threw some bassoon on Yeezy’s and the right thing but I know Howie?

BrianWilson (the closing pitcher for the San Francisco Giants):  Charlie Sheen is why. The Tux. Made of the Wharf. you enjoy choking on today’s run, upon reaching the 1st!

To check out: That Can Be My Next Tweet, click here.

Increasing Motivation, Right vs. Left Brain, MBTI and Who Will Rule the World

Dan Pink, author of several books about motivation and left vs. right brain thinking, presented a very entertaining and informative talk at a TED.com conference called Dan Pink on the Surprising Science of Motivation. The premise of his presentation was that there is a mismatch between what science knows about, and what business does, in terms of motivating people.

He made a strong argument for the importance of how having autonomy may help creativity.  A famous example he used is how Google allows employees to spend 20% of their time working on any project they want.  He noted how ½ of all products developed at Google are created during this time.  He argued for something he called ROWE which stands for Results Only Work Environment.  This is when people don’t have to have schedules, attend meetings or do anything specific other than to be sure that they get their work done.  By following these guidelines studies have shown it will increase productivity and reduce turnover.

Two of Pink’s books include:  Drive . . . The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us; and A Whole New Mind . . .Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World.  After looking through his book on “right-brainers”, I found a lot of what he had to say to be quite interesting.  He pointed out the importance of empathy which is a big part of emotional intelligence.  For my dissertation, I studied quite a bit about empathy and the part it plays in one’s emotional intelligence.  Researchers like Daniel Goleman, Ruevan Bar-On and others have shown that emotional intelligence can be developed.  In this respect, what Pink had to say is good news for everyone because we can all work on becoming more empathetic.

The part of Pink’s information that may not be such good news for me and others like me is that he thinks that, as you can see from the title of his book, right-brainers will rule the world.  Before reading any further, you might want to take this right or left brain quiz to find out your type.  I’ll let you know that I received a 2 which means I am strongly left-brained.  Not much right-brained thinking going on here!

 

To define the difference between left and right-brained, think of it this way:  Left-brainers are sequential, logical and analytical.  Right-brainers are non-linear, intuitive and holistic.

His theory supports that those with a high N or Intuitive personality type in the Myers-Briggs type indicator (MBTI) may be the ones who rule the world.  The N is the opposite of the S or Sensing personality who uses their senses rather than intuition in their processing of information.  In my training to become a qualified Myers Briggs instructor, I learned quite a bit about the differences between the personality types assigned by the MBTI. One of the main things researchers have found is that your MBTI results don’t change much over time.  It’s about preferences . . . .like whether you prefer to write with your right or your left hand. Think of the MBTI results as your preferences for how you obtain information and this won’t change.  So if you are an intuitive or an “N”, you will always be an intuitive and if you are a sensor or “S”, you will always be a sensor.  Some people may be very close to the middle of the scale between S and N and so their results won’t be as cut and dry as they may find their type changes slightly when they take the MBTI.

Dichotomies
Extraversion (E) – (I) Introversion
Sensing (S) – (N) Intuition
Thinking (T) – (F) Feeling
Judgment (J) – (P) Perception

In our book, It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, Toni Rothpletz and I gave several examples of famous people with different MBTI results.  The qualities of the right-brainer, as described by Pink, fall very much into the category of the “N” or intuitive personality portion of the 4 letter type given by MBTI. What is interesting to me is that less than half of people have an “N” or intuitive personality type according to Myers-Briggs MBTI which is close to the about 50% figure experts say are right-brained.

If our type is pretty much set in stone, then 50% of us aren’t going to rule the world!  I guess I am OK with that.  However, I do take solace in knowing that my MBTI personality type, ESTJ, accounts for l0-12% of the population and of that population some very big names also share that type including Sam Walton, creator of WalMart.  He may not have ruled the world, but he came pretty darn close.

Spot the Fake Smile: Fun Test That May Surprise You

Have you ever wondered if that smile someone flashed you is sincere?  You might want to check out some research on the BBC Science site.  “Their experiment is designed to test whether you can spot the difference between a fake smile and a real one.  It has 20 questions and should take you 10 minutes. It is based on research by Professor Paul Ekman, a psychologist at the University of California. Each video clip will take approximately 15 seconds to load on a 56k modem and you can only play each smile once.”

I took the test and only got 14 out of 20 correct.  According to this research, I am not alone in having difficulty spotting the fake smiles.  “Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles. One possible explanation for this is that it may be easier for people to get along if they don’t always know what others are really feeling. Although fake smiles often look very similar to genuine smiles, they are actually slightly different, because they are brought about by different muscles, which are controlled by different parts of the brain.”

If that is the case, I guess getting a 70% is that bad.  I personally found one of the smiles to be a little disturbing.  I noticed that I did get that one correct.  Click here to take the Spot The Fake Smile Test.

Important Facts about IQ Tests

In the old Bob Newhart Show where Newhart plays a psychologist, there is a great episode where his wife Emily takes an intelligence test and discovers she is smart enough to be included in Mensa Society.  Newhart’s score was not nearly as high as his wife’s which leads to his feeling of insecurity.  At a Mensa convention, this painful reality is driven even further home as he mingles with other Mensa members that show off how they can say their name backward.  When they all have an interesting way of announcing their reversed names, they ask him how to say his backward, where he disappointingly replies, “Bob”.

How important are IQ tests?  According to NursingDegree.com, “Even though its accuracy and reliability have been criticized over the past few decades, the IQ test continues to be the most widely used test for assessing mental ability.”  In their article 10 Interesting Facts about IQ Tests, the authors cover areas such as:  The difference between men and women’s intelligence; how IQ relates to breastfeeding; birth order and IQ; and much more.  To see this list, click here.

Generation of Haters Hiding Behind Social Media Anonymity

We’ve all seen the areas on Youtube, blogs, and other news areas where people make their anonymous comments about the topic at hand.  It has become very easy for people to make comments that they might not otherwise have made should they have had to have their name or face associated with their remarks.  Many comments are made by children under 18 and some of those comments may be just dismissed as immature.  However, as more news stories surface about children killing themselves from cyber-bullying, there is growing concern about society accepting this kind of behavior.  (For 11 facts about cyber-bullying click here). Cyberbullyingprotection.net reported that 75% of students have visited websites that bashed other students.

Many blogs, including this one, allow screening of posts before allowing them to be exposed.  This is useful to avoid the deluge of spam that comes across from people trying to sell their unsolicited products.  However, it can be reassuring to know that “haters” can’t just post anything they want.

Why are there so many angry people out there that want to write negative comments?  Part of the issue that these people have, other than immaturity, is a lack of emotional intelligence (EI).  Emotional intelligence may be defined in many ways.  One of the easiest ways to think about it is to define emotional intelligence as the ability to understand one’s own emotions as well as those in others.  People who write these posts have little consideration of the feeling of others.  This shows a lack of interpersonal skills.

It brings forth a question as to whether any specific demographic has more issues with emotional intelligence than others.  Rueven Bar-On, creator of the EQ-i emotional intelligence test, found that his model, “reveals that older people are more emotionally and socially intelligent than younger people, females are more aware of emotions than males while the latter are more adept at managing emotions than the former, and that there are no significant differences in emotional-social intelligence between the various ethnic groups that have been examined in North America.”

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be improved. Authors like Marcia Hughes and others have written several helpful books about how to increase levels of EI.  Author and psychiatrist John Gottman discussed helping our children’s emotional development in his book, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child.  Some of the things Gottman suggests are to:

  • Listen to our children with empathy.
  • Help your children name their feelings.
  • Validate your child’s emotions.
  • Turn their tantrums into teaching tools.
  • Use conflicts to teach problem-solving.
  • Set an example by remaining calm.

By helping our children develop emotional intelligence, perhaps we can see a future of less “haters” and cyber-bullies making anonymous hurtful comments.

 

 

Bones Brennan Character Exemplifies Lack of Empathy

 

Having empathy is a part of emotional intelligence as defined by leaders in the field of EI such as Rueven Bar-On.  Daniel Goleman describes three types of empathy including: cognitive, emotional and compassionate.  In the book It’s Not You It’s Your Personality, it is noted that having empathy is a big part of interpersonal skills.  It has to do with how much we care about other peoples’ feelings and whether we can see things from other peoples’ perspectives.

A recent episode of the TV show, Bones, showed an excellent example of how Emily Deschanel’s character Temperance Brennan lacked empathy.  For those unfamiliar with the program, the Brennan has a high IQ but may lack in the EQ or emotional quotient department.  In this episode, Bennan lacks the ability to realize that her logical thinking and lack of understanding of others’ emotions is rude.  In the episode, Feet on the Beach. Brennan must work with a podiatrist that she feels lacks her superior training and skills.  While this may be fodder for entertainment, people may run into a similar situations at work where they may feel their abilities are being dismissed.

How can someone so smart lack empathy?  It may be difficult for people to do what Dr. Jeremy Sherman refers to as “shoe shifting” or putting ourselves in another’s shoes.  “When you put yourself in another person’s shoes you risk seeing yourself as others would see you—not quite as special as you think”

How do we improve our empathetic abilities?  One way is to improve our listening skills.  For more tips on improving empathy, check out Sherman’s article in Psychology Today.

Myers Briggs MBTI: Testing Your Relationships

Myers Briggs MBTI personality assessments are often utilized by organizations.  In today’s Wall Street Journal, the article Do You Get an ‘A’ in Personality discussed the importance of utilizing personality assessments in family situations as well. 

Greg Cellini from WSOU 89.5 FM interviewed me recently about this very topic.  One of his questions Greg had for me was if using the MBTI was helpful for families.  It definitely can be.  The reason is that a lot of misunderstandings occur due to the fact that many people don’t realize “why” other people do the things that they do. 

By understanding personality preferences, we are more likely to be tolerant of others.  In the audio clip that follows, Greg Cellini and I discussed the difference between the J and P personality types.  For those of you unfamiliar with Myers Briggs, there are a lot of articles you can access on this site. The J personality is someone who is very structured and on time.  If you tell them to be somewhere at a specific time, they’ll likely get there early to be sure they are not late.  The P personality is more spontaneous and less structured.  If you tell them to be somewhere at a specific time, they’ll likely get there on time but may wait until the very last moment.  By realizing that the opposite personality functions the way they do for a reason, frustration can be avoided.   For more about this, check out the excerpt from the recent radio interview that follows.

If you have not taken the Myers Briggs assessment, I highly recommend doing so.  You may find out some valuable things that could help you with your relationships at home and at work.  In the article from  WSJOnline.com, they noted that in order to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator you can “Go to MBTIreferralnetwork.org to find someone to administer the test. You also can take it online and receive a one-hour telephone feedback assessment for $150 through the Center for Applications of Psychological Type at www.capt.org. Or take a computer-scored version of the test at MBTIcomplete.com for $59.95. When family members take personality tests, their self-awareness goes up and they quickly figure out their strengths and weaknesses, says John Williams, a life coach in Portland, Ore., who uses a test in his work with teenagers. “People realize they are different from other people,” he says. “The personality test becomes a road map.”

If you can’t afford to take the actual Myers Briggs MBTI, check out this link to help you discover your personality preferences.

The Human Brain: Gender Differences in Intelligence and Maturity

Experts continue to research what makes individuals unique.  Is there a difference between human intelligence in males vs. females?  Ask a woman and you might get a different answer than if you ask a man?  According to Hedges, ” IQ tests, regarded by psychometricians as measures of intelligence, have shown that differences between men and women are minimal or negligible, but men are often overrepresented at extreme scores, both very high and very low.”

Rueven Bar-On, a leading expert in emotional intelligence, reported that “no differences appeared between males and females regarding overall emotional and social competence.”  That is not to say that both sexes were identical.  “Females appear to have stronger interpersonal skills than males, but the later have a higher intrapersonal capacity, are better at stress management, and are more adaptable.”

Scientists have now looked at the brains of both sexes at the age of 10, 16 and 20 to see if there truly are differences in maturity levels between the two.  WJSOnline reported “Although boys’ and girls’ brains show differences around age 10, during puberty key parts of their brains become more similar.”  By measuring the brain’s cortex and how it may change as boys and girls age, the National Institute of Mental Health Child’s Psychiatric Branch studied 284 people and found “boys’ and girls’ brains, on average, differ significantly at age 9, but by the time the participants reached 22, the brains of the two sexes grew more alike in many areas critical for learning.”

Some interesting differences in Gender Development noted in the article included:

Gender Development

Some typical milestones and when boys and girls tend to hit them:

At birth: Girls are a few weeks more mature neurologically and have more advanced hearing. Boys on average weigh half a pound more.

First words: Girls typically utter their first word at 11 or 12 months, one month ahead of boys.

Vocabulary: At 18 months, girls on average know 86.8 words, more than double boys’ 41.8 words. By 30 months, boys’ and girls’ language skills have converged, at about 500 words.

Walking: Caucasian girls and boys tend to walk around 12 months. African-Americans walk sooner, at nine to 10 months.

Potty training: Girls are fully trained by 36 months, according to one study. Boys took a bit longer, training by 38 months.

Onset of puberty: For girls, the process can start at age 9 to 10. For boys, it’s closer to 11 to 12.

Source: WSJ research