Secrets of Dissertation Research: Do Something Every Day
What are the secrets of completing a high quality dissertation (or doctoral study) successfully and rapidly?
That’s what I most wanted to know when I was a doctoral student. So, I made it a point to seek out experts in dissertation research who spoke at required doctoral residencies I attended.
The experts I had the privilege to meet, who were exceptionally knowledgeable and helpful, all said the same thing:
Secrets of Doctoral Study: Speed vs. Quality
When I was a doctoral student, my mentor was a terrific fellow who had very high academic standards (which I appreciated), but who was also blessed with a sense of humor (which I also appreciated).
A short time into my program of study, he correctly surmised that I had several key goals: (a) to learn as much as possible by doing high quality work, (b) to save money by finishing as quickly as possible, and (c) not to trade-off one (quality) for the other (speed).
In short, I wanted it all. Compromise was not an option. Given this set of specifications, my mentor came up with a saying that became my mantra: “Work hard, go fast, save money!”
The Doctoral Journey
A doctoral journey is the academic adventure of a lifetime.
If you find the right school and have good advisors, a doctoral journey can be a magical ride. If you are less fortunate, it can be an endurance test rivaling an ultramarathon. Either way, it will have its share of ups and downs. How you handle them will determine whether you succeed or fail in your quest.
The World’s Greatest Tracker
You are walking through the woods, and you see a deer just off the path. You freeze in your tracks!
You approach the animal slowly, your heart beating faster with every step, until you know that you can reach out and touch it. But you stop short to avoid startling it. Eventually, the deer wanders off.
How did you do this without the deer sensing your presence and bolting?
Golfing in Paradise
I have been a golfer since I was a teenager inspired by the Big Three (Arnie, Jack, and Gary) to take up the game, play on the college golf team, and ultimately become a Certified Golf Teaching Professional®. My love of the game has also taken me to many beautiful places, such as Hilton Head, South Carolina, where we owned a condo for over a decade.
I love variety, in golf and in life in general. A trip in 2015 to Hilton Head Island reminded me of the many wonderful rounds of golf I played on the multitude of designer courses on the island. I had played great golf courses before, like Pinehurst No. 2, a Donald Ross masterpiece, but until we bought a quarter share in Hilton Head’s Palmetto Dunes Plantation, I have never had such easy access to so many excellent designer golf courses. I was, unabashedly, like a kid in a candy store.
Practical Statistics: Using Basic Statistics to Make Better Decisions
Arguably, everyone wants to make better decisions, be they personal or professional. One way to do that is to learn something about basic probability and statistics. However, for most people this is a frightening prospect.
What beginners need to cross the chasm is a simple (not to be confused with simplistic), basic, yet systemic book on the subject. Sounds easy enough. However, when I tried to find such a book for an undergraduate statistics class I was teaching, I could not find one.
Most statistics books, even the so-called easy ones with titles which suggest that anyone can learn statistics by reading them, do not focus on statistical reasoning and practical application. Instead, they emphasize theory and mathematical manipulation. As a result, many people trying to learn the essentials of this important subject (particularly the majority who are not strong in math) find themselves intimidated and confused, rather than engaged and informed.
Frustrated by my search for a simple, basic, and systemic book on the subject to using statistics to make better decisions, I decided to write my own. The result was Practical Statistics.
A Memorable Day Hiking in Acadia National Park
I was on my way to Baxter State Park for some mid-summer hiking, when I made a spur of the moment decision to go to Acadia National Park for a day hike to avoid inclement weather forecast for Baxter. Located on Mount Desert Island, and encompassing Bar Harbor, an iconic Maine seaside resort, Acadia National Park is a beautiful place to visit and hike in.
Having been to Acadia in the fall of 2012 (as part of a reconnaissance mission to scope out the park) and driven to the top of Cadillac Mountain on a picture perfect day, I was looking forward to hiking Acadia in September. To that end, I had eagerly poured over Hiking Acadia National Park: A Guide to the Park’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, a well written and beautifully illustrated book, and identified a number of hikes that sounded like they were within my capability. On the top of my list was the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, which I understood was of moderate difficulty, only a 4.4 mile round trip from the trailhead to the summit of Cadillac Mountain and back and rewarded the successful hiker with some excellent views of Bar Harbor, the Maine coastline, and the surrounding mountains from open ridges on the last part of the climb. It sounded perfect!
The Modern Leadership Model: A Creative Synthesis
How do you lead? Do you plan, organize, staff, exert influence, and control? Or is that the definition of management? Do you focus on providing strategic direction and leave the implementation to others? Or do you dive into the details of day-to-day operations to ensure that people do things right? Do you one-minute manage, or do you focus on moving the cheese?
The answer is a resounding “None of the above.” In fact, the answer lies in a creative synthesis of time-honored management practices, contemporary leadership principles, and a few secret ingredients from the experts in change management.
Collaborative Leadership in Action: A Breakthrough Meeting
After years of study and experience in conducting hundreds of meetings, I developed a simple, common sense meeting management process called the Breakthrough Meeting System.
The Breakthrough Meeting System increases motivation and enhances productivity by giving participants a higher level of involvement in all aspects of a meeting, from premeeting planning through post-meeting follow up. Work done in the meeting to identify, prioritize, and resolve key issues by consensus is integrated with participants' ongoing work. This participative, priority-focused management process leads to breakthrough results.
The breakthrough meeting principles are so simple that you can start putting them into practice immediately. Here are some of the things that the system will do for your meetings:
The Dissertation is a Marathon not a Sprint!
A surprising number of doctoral students, perhaps because their course work is so carefully scheduled by the university, think that the dissertation is a sprint to the finish line. Nothing could be further from the truth.
One good analogy is that a dissertation is like a marathon.