A Cautionary Tale *With Advice!*for Doctoral Students

“I’ve been robbed!” and then the tears fell.

“My entire Dissertation is on there what do I do?!? Somebody help me!” more tears fell.

This happened to somebody I knew who had their laptop stolen and had planned to graduate in less than 12 weeks. The look of distraught on their face shook me to the core and made me think, what if that was me? How would I handle this situation? Is there anyway to prevent having the feeling they had? 


I decided to reach out to Doctoral students who recently graduated this past year and asked them for advice for those of us who are navigating the college experience and here’s what they said:

“Don’t do what I did; please get an external hard drive and keep extra copies of your work. I heard people say get on but I figured why would I waste my money? That is until I lost my ENTIRE dissertation and didn’t back up any of my information. My heart sank when it happened and the only saving grace that I had is that I had turned in my chapters to my chair however that was before all the edits. I had to rewrite ALL the edits and remember what articles I pulled and other relatable things that I saved to my desktop that are now gone.”

“I celebrated the little things. If I made it through a semester, or if I added a paragraph to my chapter I celebrated it! Sometimes you can get so busy in the hustle and bustle of classes and writing that you forget to pause and celebrate the little things. This helped me refocus and motivated me to move forward in this program.”

“Don’t compare yourself to everyone else.  I always felt I wasn’t good enough and I moved at a much slower pace than everyone else but you know what, I graduated just like everyone else.”

“I had a hard time focusing so a friend told me to try using the pomodoro method (google tomato timer) and you know what it helped me focus. This method had a series of times where you focus on your work and you take short and long breaks along the way. Knowing I had a break coming kept me for drifting into my social media and staying there. Once I got used to this method I then shifted to setting a plan where I wrote down my goals for each session and checked off each time I completed it. I saved those sheets and I was in awe at how much I completed especially at times when I felt like I didn’t do anything.”

“Understand that your chair/committee will be your colleagues one day. They play a pivotal role in your doctoral journey and beyond: chose wisely.”

“Don’t take the feedback from your work personal, remember their goal is to get you to the finish line. Writing at the doctoral level is different and you often feel that you’re over citing at times but you’re not. Keep the APA format book near and know that in time you will be fluent in APA.”

This by no means is a comprehensive post on advice for Doctoral Students so we would like to hear from you.  Post in the comments below and let us know what advice have you received? What about those of you working… How does advice about a dissertation project mirror your experiences in the office setting. Let us know!

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