Writing a dissertation can be a long, demanding, and solitary process.
You’ve completed coursework and residencies, but the research and written interpretation are largely individual pursuits. It can be intimidating at times. What if you need assistance? Where could you find help?
Jonathan Gehrz, Capella University’s dissertation success program manager, has answers to these questions. Most importantly: Yes, there is help out there. At Capella, it comes primarily in two forms—human and written resources.
- Mentor. Gehrz says this should be the student’s first line of enquiry, as the mentor has subject matter knowledge, theoretical knowledge, and practical experience. The relationship a PhD student has with his or her mentor should be a close one, with frequent, regular contact. Capella has a platform, the Dissertation Courseroom, that students can use day-to-day to reach their mentors.
- Dissertation Advisor. Unlike course advisors/coaches, dissertation advisors specialize in problem-solving at the dissertation stage. Gehrz notes that these are the best people to approach with questions about integrity, time management, professional conduct, etc.
- Additional Specialized Personnel. These may include Disability Services, Career Center, or Financial Counseling (especially if the dissertation phase requires travel that could be underwritten by a grant or a fellowship, or if the student needs to take a leave of absence from his or her job to finish the dissertation).
- Dissertation Writer’s Retreat. This face-to-face time can be beneficial to students for many reasons, including moral support.
Start with both university-level resources and school- or program-specific resources offered by your school.
- Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) are a helpful resource for those in the research phase of the dissertation.
- The university library should have a wealth of databases and information on dissertation writing best practices (the Capella University Library maintains hours for Dissertation Literature Review Consultations).
- An external option for support is Smarthinking, which offers basic and advanced statistics tutoring.
- Your mentor should be able to point you towards more written resources at your university. PhD programs usually have extensive collections of written materials for study, including accepted and published dissertations in your field, or materials on the writing and research processes. At Capella, the Writing Center, Success Factors collections, and Dissertation Research collection provide comprehensive resources for information literacy and management, and critical thinking, ranging from conceptualization of a problem to publication of a final manuscript. The Dissertation Success Program is a good source for students facing problems in completing their dissertations. There’s also the Dissertation Knowledge Base, where students can submit their questions and find most popular answers.
With all of these resources, the primary message is: don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your university wants you to succeed as much as you do, and these resources are there expressly to help you get you to the finish line.
Capella University offers PhD and professional doctorate degrees in programs ranging from business to education and health to technology. Learn more about Capella’s doctoral programs and support services.