It’s the last day of the first half of the year and four months following the defense of my dissertation. My writing has been stunted since that time; or rather my blog writing, and I feel the need to finally put to print the journey of my dissertation. This first part is a bit wordy. Feel free to skip to the next post for my dissertation tips.
I began a doctoral program in education and educational leadership in summer 2009. My institution provides 3 credits of tuition support per semester (student is responsible for anything above 3 credits, all fees, books, supplies), so I was a part-time student for the next three years. Last May, thirteen months ago, a member of my dissertation committee outlined how I could complete my doctoral work more quickly than planned with a few course changes. The original idea was to defend in fall of this year with a December graduation date. Always up to a challenge, I added the final courses to my summer calendar, moved to full time student status (expensive), and gathered my committee for a preliminary research discussion.
I worked with my advisor to schedule dates for a preliminary oral defense and dissertation defense. Our graduate college requires filing of intent to present a dissertation and committee in the term prior to the oral defense. And the final defense must be at least six months after the preliminary oral. My committee paperwork was submitted in May 2012, summer term, my prelim was on August 22; the third day of the fall semester, and my defense was scheduled for February of this year.
Those summer classes were essential for defining my theoretical perspective and Chapters 1 and 3, the introduction and methodology of my prospectus. I had a solid Chapter 2, the literature review, developed over the prior year. I hastily prepared for my prelims and capstone defense (final project) in August, one of the busiest months of the year for student affairs professionals. I was underprepared for this step, failing to adequately prepare my committee, but managed to muddle through. There was great benefit from having not only a student relationship but also a professional relationship with my committee. They were incredibly gracious.
And then I ignored my research. For six weeks.
With the school year securely under way, I burned vacation days and went back to writing. After several false starts on analysis, I consulted my advisor and hired a statistician to assist with the more complicated calculations. As the statistical work began to fall into place and I developed rudimentary skills for analytical writing, I sent my completed questions to my advisor for review. Four of the seven questions required nine tables each of painstakingly intricate ratio analysis. The final paper included 54 separate tables and figures. I wanted to club myself over the head on many occasions.
As I was finishing my results and powering though my final chapter at the end of the semester, my editor suffered a broken elbow and notified me that she would not be able to do any work until after the first of the year. With a late February defense date, this seemed minor, so I kept at it, taking some time though the holidays, but working, writing, revising, lather, rinse, repeat.
January was spent in edits. My editor made recommendations, I would approve or rewrite a bit. I primarily used the editorial process for structural detail such as the table of contents, placement of tables, and pagination. Also, there are rules for publishing from our grad college that are not strictly APA style, and my editor was well informed.
With advisor approval, I was able to send a draft to my committee on February 12, fifteen days before my defense date. This may seem late for many writers, but being early in the semester, there were not yet many defenses scheduled in our department. I moved into fine-tune mode and began work on my oral presentation.
The very next day, my advisor, faced with a medical situation, requested that we move my defense date ahead a week to February 20 or 21. Now you recall that my grad college requires that a defense must be six months at minimum between prelim and final oral defense. As such, moving to February 20 or 21 required special permission. After significant wrangling by my advisor and committee, the grad college approved the request, and my defense was moved to February 20. I requested more vacation days to prepare and ultimately, a week early, I defended.
And I passed.