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Dissertation: How To Stay Motivated/Focused?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by psigirl, Jun 13, 2012.

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  1. psigirl

    psigirl

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    Hi Everyone,

    So here I am thinking that matching to internship was the hardest thing, which, in all fairness, it was pretty hard, but at least the whole application/matching process was structured and time-limited. But this dissertation process is a different beast!

    I'm in a science-practitioner oriented Ph.D. program and will be starting internship in a couple months at a great site (APA-approved). And I can't tell ya how many times I have been told by everyone and their mother that you should try to get as much of your dissertation done as possible before internship, not to mention the site I'll be interning require that I defend my proposal before starting. :eek:

    The question is, how to stay focus and motivated? It is summer time and I'm at the library most of the time and feeling resentful that I'm at the library most of the time. For various reasons, I don't have a dissertation buddy, which I guess doesn't help. Anyone else on the same boat or have gone through the process to tell your battle wounds? Feedbacks/suggestions of getting through dissertation would be greatly appreciated!
  2. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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    I would think or hope that the fact that the site requires that you propose before starting would help. I thought most required that you propose the diss before application deadline? We weren't even allowed to apply for internship until our proposal was approved. Anyway. I have been on internship this year and defended the first week of May. I had a hard time in the summer and fall, cause, yep, last thing I wanted to do when i got home from 8.5 hours of clinical work was dissertation. The motivation came when i got sick and tired of it hanging over me and I wanted to be able to tell my job interviews that I was done with the thing and they need not worry about it. Kicked my ass into gear in mid feb and defended first week of May. voila...
  3. psigirl

    psigirl

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    Erg, congrats on being done w/ diss!! Must be such a relief! Not having that hanging over your head for seemingly ever!

    [I would think or hope that the fact that the site requires that you propose before starting would help.]

    You're right, it did help both me and my committee to be accountable. But it gets pretty tricky as I'm pushing the deadline and some of my committee members are not so available in the summer months.

    [I thought most required that you propose the diss before application deadline?]

    There are some sites that I came across required that we propose before app deadline, but most stated that it's fine as long as I propose before starting. And in all honestly, I wouldn't be able to propose any sooner due to research/teaching/clinical responsibilities in our program. Some of colleagues are on a 6-yr track, which helps, but since I'm trying to graduate in 5, things get pretty tight at the end.

    My fear is that I'll still be working on this thing same time next year, which is NOT what I want, diss to me is one of those things the longer I drag it out, the longer it takes (because of the motivation factor).

    Anyone else with their 2 cents?
  4. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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    I would just add that a good relationship with your advisor helps. She (my advisor) really helped me. She also had alot of "control," so to speak, in that she alone guided the process. My other members really only gave their 2 cents at the proposal presentation and at final defense meeting. And she always maintained that she could overrule any suggested additions she thought just plain uneccesary...and she did. My advisor was always very maternal and soft, but she emailed me in Feb and said, look dude, I'm 5 months preg and if i dont see a first final draft by March 15th, your timeline for defending before I'm out on materinuty leave is ****ed. So, that helped...:D
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2012
  5. CSOPP

    CSOPP

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    My program runs a bit differently, as we had to have our dissertation defended by the start of internship. I had a lot more imposed deadlines, but I treated dissertation like any large project: I broke it down into smaller steps. Are all of your articles read/organized? If not, how many could you complete this week? 5? 10? Are you writing your lit review? If so, can you write one subsection or section this week? I gave myself little goals like that every week so it didn't get overwhelming. Granted, there's a lot you can't control- getting feedback/IRB approval/approval from outside institutions to collect data in a timely manner, etc. However, if you can break down what you can control it makes it much easier. At least that's what worked for me!
  6. Pragma

    Pragma

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    Wow, letting people wait until their start date to defend sounds like just a terrible idea. Our actual program did not allow you to apply for any internships unless you had proposed (DCT would not sign off).

    Part of why it is a terrible idea is because it is so hard to get your committee together, particularly at the end of the schoolyear or over the summer, which is presumably when you'd be defending .

    To get yourself motivated, I would recommend considering the consequences of not finishing. Then I'd think about how you work best, create a very specific plan, and execute it. Self-pity is not going to be useful for you here. You want to be done in 5 years and this is what you get: summer sacrifices. Had you done it the summer before you could be soaking it up this summer! You could think about the fact that next summer you can be completely relaxing if you get all of this done...

    For example, I got a little lazy about my own dissertation after finishing the internship application process. I gave myself a little time off and then after matching, I hit my analysis really hard, had a timeline with built in rewards, and imposed consequences on myself for not meeting small deadlines. My final defense was 3 months later and revisions were completed within a week. Never looked back.

    Depends how you work best, but it sounds like you are running out of time. I'd block off several hours at a time and just knock out significant portions of it. Break it down into workable portions. Good luck...
  7. bmedclinic

    bmedclinic

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    Pragma my program works the same way- DCT would not let us apply for anything unless proposal was defended. I totally thought this thread was going to be about being completely done before internship, not done with the proposal.

    Not to be too harsh, but I'd expect a fellow psychologist to really have this one in the bag, considering that it's mostly stuff right up the alley of our area of study..eg.how to modify your own behavior? Maybe I'm just bitter because I'm almost done with my entire diss and didnt match for internship.

    Either way OP- make a schedule, reward yourself for being ahead of schedule, and kick it into gear when you're not on time. Have others in your life hold you accountable.
  8. psigirl

    psigirl

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    Thanks CSOPP and Erg the for practical advice. I think CBT is the way to go, set reachable goals and stick to it, right? Sometimes just need to be reminded.

    Pragma, I think programs vary in terms of how much flexible they give students with their dissertation process. I've heard of programs like yours that don't allow their students to apply for internship unless they'd proposed. And I think that's great, the the fact is, I can't change what my program does and doesn't require.

    [Part of why it is a terrible idea is because it is so hard to get your committee together, particularly at the end of the schoolyear or over the summer, which is presumably when you'd be defending .]

    I'm now fully aware of the barriers in terms of defending late..., but it's not something I realized until I was going through the process. And mind you, I do research and present at APA every summer, so it's not like I'm sitting on a beach somewhere and wait til the last minute to do my dissertation. I'm very well aware of sacrificing vacation/personal times for this thing called grad school. But it does get old at some point...

    [You could think about the fact that next summer you can be completely relaxing if you get all of this done...]

    Postdoc next summer, it never ends...

    I think it's great that you got your diss out of the way the way you did, it's just not as simple for everyone. But still appreciate your feedback nonetheless.
  9. psigirl

    psigirl

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    Wow, no need for the harsh tone, we're all in diff programs with diff responsibilities both professionally and personally. I posted here because I was hoping for some "constructive" feedback, not more judging.
  10. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    Just to chime in regarding my own program: ours doesn't require that you be proposed before applying for/heading to internship, although it can vary from professor to professor to some degree. I wasn't proposed by the time I applied, for example, but the majority of our students are (with most defending within a few months of starting).

    As for motivation, for me, the hardest part was/has always been getting started in the first place. Back before I started internship, getting to the library was usually half the battle; once I was out of my house, it was much easier to get in a few hours' worth of uninterrupted work 4-5 times per week. After leaving campus for internship, as erg mentioned, it became more difficult because a) the last thing I wanted to do after a full day working was to work even more when I got home, and b) the second-to-last thing I wanted to do after getting home from work and the gym was to go right back out to a coffee shop. I actually ended up writing nearly all of my defense at home, with the majority of it getting done in 12-hour swaths/flurries of productivity on the weekends. I also lucked out in getting some time on internship to write, which definitely helped.

    I don't have cable at home anymore (although it's a luxury I'll be splurging on come postdoc), so that certainly helped keep me from becoming too distracted. I also found that it was much easier to get started working if I had a definite plan as to what I wanted to work on, and how much (minimum) I wanted to get done. One of the bonuses of working at home was that I could keep my articles organized in stacks by topic all around my living room without having to worry about cleaning them up.
  11. Ollie123

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    I've found it varies pretty widely across programs in terms of what is allowed. A big part of it seems to be the types of dissertations people do. Here, you have to propose before applying, although they do note that exceptions can be granted (though I've never heard of it happening). Given the nature of the dissertations students typically do here, I can't imagine NOT being at least done with data collection. Trust an unpaid RA to do all my data collection while I'm thousands of miles away? Not a chance. Some folks might be able to collect data at their internship site, but that isn't really feasible for me given I need access to equipment that costs quite a bit, and I may or may not have that depending on where I match.

    I have heard of one school that still has students go on internship BEFORE doing their dissertation (i.e. you come back and do it after completing internship). Its a decent school, though that seems a shockingly stupid approach (why on earth add an EXTRA move?). It used to be common many years ago, but this is the only school I've heard of where the practice still goes on, at least intentionally (obviously, every school has an occasional ABD person).

    As for motivation, agree with the above. Behavioral approaches. Remind yourself of the consequences. Sun is a reinforcer, so use that to reward yourself for getting work done:) (can you tell I'm teaching Bmod right now?).
  12. IT514

    IT514

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    I'm in a similar boat, but there not much I can do right now. Proposal is defended, Lit review and methods are basically done. I'm one of those idiots who is trusting a handful of RAs to run subjects for me while I'm 1,000 miles away for internship (literally). I was able to do about 1/4 of it myself, and at this point they should be 1/2 way to what I want them to collect. I also have 4 hours of protected research time at internship, which should help, but knowing me I'll probably be working on another project during that time. I'm guessing I'll do the final defense sometime in July next year.
  13. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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    How does that work in terms of starting post-doc or employment after internship ends this summer?
  14. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    Not sure about employment, but I know for postdoc, all of the sites I applied to except for one were the same--so long as you complete all degree requirements by the start date, and nothing is standing between you and your Ph.D./Psy.D. (other than being formally awarded it via graduation ceremony), you're fine. Only the one site actually required that you have your degree in-hand.

    During the application process itself, there's an APPCN form (for neuro postdocs) that your advisor can sign which basically states, "this candidate is on track to finish all degree requirements by the completion of internship." For sites that didn't require the form, they just asked for a letter either from your dissertation chair or DCT stating as much.
  15. IT514

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    Thats a darn good question. My timeline says May, but I'm trying to be realistic. For my program, an early to mid summer defense before going off to post-doc has been the norm. From what I understand, this timeline has never posed a problem for our students in matching for neuro post-docs at top-notch sites. I'm curious to hear others' opinions and experience with this...
  16. erg923

    erg923 Psychologist-Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

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    So July of the summer that your finishing internship? Ok. I thought you meant finishing internship this summer and not defending until next summer?
  17. IT514

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    Yep - starting internship this July. In an ideal world, the RAs will be done by November, and I'll do the final defense well before I finish internship. What I'm worried about is getting in over my head working on other research at my internship site and blowing off my less interesting dissertation. This is a typical pattern for me.
  18. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    I'd definitely suggest barring yourself from other research projects until the diss is completed. If it comes down to it, I personally would even consider approaching the internship TD and asking him/her to essentially prohibit me from any such projects until my defense date is set.

    Then again, I of course understand that this is easier said than done. But there are enough distractions on internship as is; no need to add another one via extracurricular research projects.
  19. psigirl

    psigirl

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    Yeah, behavioral approaches it is. I think it helps to convince myself (yet again) that there's no way around it, and the sooner I get this thing done, the faster I can move on with life. :xf: I'm collecting data online, so moving away for internship (and I am moving away, across the country actually) isn't a problem.

    As for IT514 who's trying to do research projects OTHER THAN your diss, this really doesn't seem like a good idea from folks I know. One of my prac was in Neuropsy at a hospital and the neuro interns there THOUGHT they would be able to squeeze in some research but that just didn't seem to be possible given all their rotations PLUS diss. Unless of course, the research hours are built in to your internship.

    In terms of postdoc timeline, I know a colleague in my program who started her post doc (at a prestigious hospital) before being able to defend (her advisor was being difficult), so she was able to do her post doc, but her hours didn't count until she defended (around November), which really suck. But at least there seems to be some degree of flexibility there.
  20. IT514

    IT514

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    Sounds like a good idea and surely the most rational one. I've always managed to push myself above and beyond and come out on top...but the stakes are becoming high and I might want to see what its like to work clinically 5 days a week before I jump into another project. Thanks for the input.
  21. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychology Fellow Moderator

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    It could be rough, especially if you're used to multi-tasking/working on multiple projects simultaneously. But in the end, at least in my mind, I'd be telling myself, "wait, I've got time to do research? Then why am I not working on my dissertation?" This being mostly because the diss, unlike the additional research projects, is of course the one thing that NEEDS to get done.

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