So, when do you think you'll finish?
It's a question that's hard for many reasons. First of all, a doctoral program is not like a law degree, MBA, or medical degree, spaced out and designed to be finished at a precise time.
The question does not always factor into other responsibilities, such as a job, teaching, family responsibilities.
The question does not always take into consideration department changes, such as faculty on sabbatical, developments in the material, changes in funding, etc.
On the surface, it looks like an easy question, to be answered quickly and precisely. But no.
It's a question that we've had to prepare and revise often, as the project has developed. Our original defense date may have been pushed back by an advisor's recommendation, our own delays, unrealistic goals, or a set of other circumstances. It's a question that we often fear that when we answer, we will have disappointed or let down the person who asked it, showing that we were unable to meet our original deadline. It is our least favorite question, because our response is carefully crafted to hide any fear of failure or feeling like an imposter (just one article of many on Imposter Syndrome in grad school:https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/university-venus/how-i-cured-my-imposter-syndrome).
|Feeling not smart enough to successfully write a dissertation looks like this|
I read an article on Inside Higher Ed before the New Year that was a response to a concerned parent (also an academic) whose child who like her, became a professor, but had yet to get her book published.
I’m writing because she will be visiting us for the holidays, and I don’t know what to do. I wish I could finish the book for her, but I can’t. I’m not even sure if I should ask the dreaded question: “How’s the book coming along?”
A Professor's Parent
The author, Dr. Kerry Ann Rockquemore, President, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, came up with an excellent response (https://www.insidehighered.com/advice/2015/12/16/how-help-family-member-or-friend-complete-their-first-scholarly-book-essay) and I think her main points can be applied to the support network of graduate students. We all need our squads, but I think sometimes our loved ones don't know what to do say or do, for fear of hitting the wrong nerve. I'm including a few relevant sections, with my own comments in italics.
Create the Space for Real Conversation
- Do not ask the dreaded question in the first 10 minutes of her arriving at your house.
- Do not ask the dreaded question as casual conversational banter over the snack table (“Did you get a haircut?” “How’s the book coming along?” “Wow, your cheese dip is yummy. Can I get the recipe?”).
- Do not -- under any circumstances -- ask the dreaded question in front of a crowd of others (at the holiday dinner table, in the middle of a football game on TV or during a gift exchange).
|Will make this dream a reality someday!And there will be many people to thank who I know will help get me to the finish line.|