Dissertation writing is hard. The difficulty is often a surprise to graduate students eager to begin projects long delayed by the demands of course work. This discrepancy between expectation and reality leads students to miscast their own struggles as personal deficiency. Without a clear sense of what dissertation writing looks like, students can become hostile to the final task in their professional development. Whether they are convinced of their own inferiority, imagining that others are doing it right while they have somehow managed to get it all wrong, or otherwise soured by a process that has stripped them of their intellectual confidence, students rarely seek out productive forms of relief. The abundance of corroborative horror stories on the web does little to help matters.
Although the strain of beginning is itself an essential stage in the process, it need not persist as its defining trait. Through the support of Rackham, the Sweetland Center for Writing offers Dissertation Writing Groups. These groups are student-led and meet once a week throughout the semester. As a former participant, I can personally attest to the advantages of joining a DWG. Much more than a general forum for support, the DWGs offer transparency to a mystified process. While each group is tailored to the individual needs of its members, some aspects are universal. Writing is exchanged every week. Goals are made (and met! It’s shocking but true). Ideas are thoughtfully considered and challenged. Revision happens. Chapters are completed. Advice about alternative sites of campus-sponsored support, from formatting workshops to lectures on professionalization is shared.
No matter what stage of writing you are in (my own group varied from someone just beginning to a woman defending at the end of the month), consider applying for the fall semester. Sharing writing is vital for intellectual and professional growth. Why wait?
-- Konstantina Mary Karageorgos, Ph.D. Candidate English Language & Literature
Fall 2013 applications are due Wednesday, August 28, 2013.
Visit the Dissertation Writing Group web page.