Three simple letters carry a lot of weight in the world of PhD candidates: ABD. All. But. Dissertation. You’ve finished your requirements, taken all of your classes… and the only thing that stands between you and your goal is finishing your dissertation. For many scholars, this limbo can become a sort of dissertation nightmare as you work full-time while also trying to finish your research and writing. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and with some focused effort (and maybe a little dissertation assistance), you can go from ABD to PhD!
Here are some tips that I’ve collected on how to get focused and leave the ABD behind:
1.) Don’t: Let perfectionism stunt your progress
Academic writing and researching takes on a life of its own. The dissertation becomes our proverbial baby and it’s really hard to NOT want the best for it… but there comes a time when we have to resign ourselves to “better done than perfect.” This, of course, isn’t an excuse for shoddy work, but a mindset that may be necessary to get you moving and writing when you might otherwise be idle.
2.) Do: Take small steps
Defining your success in terms of quantity can quickly halt your march beyond ABD status. No matter your situation as you enter ABD life, don’t feel beholden to completing huge sections of your dissertation on unreasonable deadlines. Instead, break things down into manageable chunks and appreciate even the smallest amounts of progress.
3.) Don’t: Be ashamed.
There’s no shame in your ABD status – no matter how long you’ve carried it around with you. For many – especially those who have spent several years outside of their academic institutions with great intentions of finishing their dissertations – the overwhelm of time becomes their biggest stumbling block. Coming to grips with years of ABD status can be a bitter pill to swallow, but life happens to all of us. No matter how long it’s been, take note of the old anecdote: There’s no better time than the present!
4.) Do: Pick the right tools for you
Take the time to assess how you work best given your current situation. Take stock of what you have, along with where you need to go, and be honest about how you can get there. Set aside actual time for your research and writing. If you’re working full-time, see if you can work out a schedule that allows you one day/week to work on your dissertation. If it all feels like too much, consider hiring a dissertation editor to help you along the way.
5.) Don’t: Feel guilty about self-care
This process is hard. Don’t let it eat you alive. Take the time to take care of yourself or you’ll eventually suffer from major dissertation burnout and your ABD will continue to plague you.
Are you lingering in ABD limbo? What tips do you have to get over it and get on with your PhD?