The Dissertation Stage: Part II
Last year, I posted an article on my progress of the dissertation journey. At the time, I was waiting for my dissertation proposal to be approved. The summer semester had ended, and I knew I had to wait until the fall semester (end of August) for a status update on whether I could proceed to defend my dissertation proposal. I decided to try and make the most of my summer meaningful. I spent more than a week in France visiting family for the first time, and also got to meet and connect with more family in Canada.
As most summers, time flew by quite quickly. In certain moments, I unfortunately was not fully present at all times because I felt the weight of the dissertation on my shoulders. I was concerned how long it would take me to finish, as I could not imagine taking more than one more year off from work. The decision to “retire” from work (I kept one volunteer job, a Peer Mentor for new doctoral students) was not one that was easily made, though I felt prolonging the dissertation experience by working would make me feel a little uneasy and unable to fully concentrate on all aspects of my life.
Thankfully as soon as the summer semester ended, I heard back from the committee that I was indeed ready to defend! I was thrilled that I had reached this point (took from end of September 2015- early September 2016 to get to this point). After I defended my dissertation proposal, I realized that this time was what I needed. I could not worry to much about time anymore, as I recognized what was most important to me was to have a dissertation I could look back on and be proud of. I didn’t want to take any shortcuts, and I recall telling my committee to please challenge me where you see possible as I wanted this dissertation to the best it could be. I received tons of feedback, and by the time my dissertation proposal was ready, there was not much more to say. I was ready to move on to the next steps. Chapter 4 (Findings — also known as Results if you are using quantitative research methods) and Chapter 5 (Discussion, Recommendations, Conclusions), here I come!
After I defended my proposal, I needed to wait for IRB approval before I could begin collecting data. This process took about two weeks, due to a hurricane scare that could have caused massive damage in Florida. After I received the email I was okay, I began collecting data shortly after. This process had a few steps, as I was using an autoethnography methodology and had a few data collection sources. By the time January arrived, I was ready to begin Chapter 5 of my dissertation. By this point I was exhausted from the data collection, though I did take breaks here and there.
In the meantime, I submitted Chapter 4 for review during that time, while I worked on Chapter 5. A few weeks later, I received feedback from Chapter 4, and I worked on making this section more organized (and ended up moving some sections to the appendix). Around early April, I knew I was getting closer to the end. Sure enough, I was surprised with a defense date for May 9, 2017! However, the journey was not over yet.
As the defense date drew closer, there were pivotal personal moments in my life that occurred that needed to be added even as I was going to defend soon. I informed my Chair and wanted to add this information in to the presentation. My Chair fully supported my ideas and during the defense, it was a nice feeling to share the surprise (my parents got re-married after 17 years of being divorced!) Because of this phenomenon, I ended up having a great Epilogue section to my dissertation, which was finalized and approved in June, which was also when our graduation commencement ceremony took place. I was so happy that my parents and my brother and sister-in-law were there on that special day.
Now it is July and I am patiently waiting (deja vu). After you defend, there is some post-defense requirements to complete. I have been waiting to hear back from the format editor so I can hard-bound my dissertation. Should be any day now, I hope! My birthday is July 7, so I hope one of my dreams can come true! Once that is done, I also submit my dissertation to ProQuest and then…. conferral of degree (which means diploma in the mail!)
I owe much gratitude to the committee of my dissertation (they were supportive, responsive, and helpful!), and to my family and friends along the way. Miracles really do come true….