Friday, June 15, 2018

Committee Coordination...Together or Apart


While working on your thesis or dissertation, you may occasionally find yourself out of regular communication with your director and/or committee members.  Several factors can lead to such a situation.  Examples: a committee member goes away on a sabbatical, someone receives a distant research fellowship, or you or others need to conduct field work away from campus for a while.  

But even during phases of separation, you still work on a team.  To borrow thoughts and phrasing from Robert Frost, you and your committee work together, whether together or apart.  (Read the original thoughts and lines in Frost’s “The Tuft of Flowers” here.)  

In previous posts, we’ve covered various aspects of forming and working with committees.  For general thoughts on committee relations, see this post from September 2017.  For details on different types of project directors and their working styles, see this one from April 2016.  And to read about approaches to choosing a director, check out this entry from March 2016.  In today’s post, we offer ideas on coordinating with committee members—whether nearby or far apart—during the middle and final stages of your project.  We also add a few thoughts for those of you who may need to reconnect with one or more members after an extended period of separation. 

In Progress: Staying in Touch

In the Thesis Office, we strongly recommend that thesis or dissertation writers regularly update committee members on their progress.  In-person updates are nice, but, as noted above, not always possible.  Consider how you might be able to adopt or adapt the following approaches to updating:

Office Visits:  If you and a committee member haven’t seen each other in a while, such a meeting can be especially rewarding.  Even a brief face-to-face chat can be meaningful and uplifting.  If possible, arrange to stop by a day or so before or after you’ve completed an important chapter draft or other project milestone.  

Classroom and/or Lab Visits:  Similarly, catching up with a committee member while that person is engaged in teaching or research can be constructive.  If possible, arrange to audit a class session or to observe lab activities that touch on interests or concerns you’re currently working on.

Group Email:  A commonsense way to integrate progress reports into your email practices, but one worth reviewing here, is to include each committee member as a recipient when you send out a “major” email message.  Examples include (1) any message with a revised chapter attached for review, (2) any message in which you respond to feedback on a chapter or chapters that all members have seen, and (3) any message in which you review or confirm procedures or scheduling matters that your director has asked you to follow.  

Nearing Completion: Bringing Everyone Up to Speed

As your document grows and its parts come together, consider the following ways to communicate its holistic development to all members your committee.  

Share a Folder Online:  Uploading files to a cloud service is not just a matter of safe computing.  Doing so can also make your large document easier to access and evaluate.  Share a folder on OneDrive or Dropbox with your committee members.  When the time comes, you can upload your combined file to this shared folder.  (The combined file may be rather large for email, especially if it contains images and/or other graphics.)  Your committee members can then conveniently open and experience your whole document in one piece.  

Share a List of Author’s Notes:  If you’re like me, as you make progress, you compile notes of various kinds concerning the text you’re making.  Some notes emerge from additional reflections on past feedback from committee members.  Others develop as the overall document starts to take shape.  When you approach your project’s end, share a list of author's notes with all committee members, via group email or the online shared folder.

Final Thoughts

About that Near-Final Document:  Over the past few weeks, a few student writers have contacted us to ask if their thesis or dissertation needs to have all front matter—including abstract, acknowledgments, and dedication—complete and properly formatted before their oral defense.  In short: the Grad School has no rule on this.  (Note: if your director wants these parts included, then of course you need them.)  But, at minimum, your defense document should feature coherent page numbering throughout so that committee members can easily refer to parts of the text during the defense examination.  Note that, as shown on the Results of Oral Defense form, your examination can result in one of two kinds of “Pass”: (1) a pass requiring no further revisions or corrections or (2) a pass requiring such changes.  Regardless of the kind of pass received, the document will need to contain all needed parts and meet all Graduate School formatting requirements before it can receive final approval for graduation.

As always, if you have questions about formatting or submitting your final document, be sure to contact us here at the Thesis Office.  Good luck...and happy committee coordinating!

Images
Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept by Lumaxart: Flickr.
Robert Frost Stamp: Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Why Write a Thesis?: Alternatives to the traditional route

The thesis as the gateway to a degree is a time honored tradition, dating back to the middle ages. First, it demonstrates the breadth and scope of master's student's knowledge. Second, the long-suffering, mostly independent work put into it indicates that they are ready to work in their fields. Or.. does it?
They want more time in the lab than behind the screen.

This still-new millennium has so far been a time to rethink academic traditions. Collaborative projects are becoming more en vogue, and in fact, more practical.  And if we're being practical, what does writing really have to do with showing one's knowledge in fields like engineering and chemistry? The long-form monograph is having to work hard to argue for its value, especially when even academic readers today have shortened attention spans and prefer to consume data and ideas in more digestible nuggets. Tables upon tables with pages upon pages of analysis? Please no! How about an interactive infographic?

Universities are notoriously slow to change anything but their logos, but alternative theses are nevertheless beginning to gain a foothold at graduate programs around the world, and in the US. So, before you dive into a master's degree, perhaps consider whether you really want to write a thesis? And where can you go to school that will allow you to forgo that long journey?

Some thesis alternatives:

Juried Lecture

A juried lecture is a bit like the oral defense of the thesis... but without a thesis. Granted, since the written component is not as substantial (you may have powerpoint slides, handouts, anything that makes sense for attendees at a lecture), you will be graded harder on the oral and presentational components of your work. Your advisors attend this as they would a thesis defense. This option seems excellent for a student who wants to continue to teach rather than focus on research. Or for someone who is flipping their degree into a more communication oriented role.

Should they write a paper about it? Or show us how it works?
Project and Presentation and/or Report

This option is available at some schools (including NIU) in departments such as Engineering. Rather than spending months working on a written document, the student is able to focus on project management, down to the nuts and bolts and blueprints. The project must be reported on or presented, in order to have something to submit for the degree requirement. Do you want to study something that lends itself better to a project than a "paper"?

Multiple Article Publications (or 3-Part Thesis)

Some departments, especially in the sciences where frequent publication is important and somewhat easier to do than in the humanities, offer a publication option. Often this will consist of  publishing multiple short articles, or writing multiple short article length pieces and submitting those as a thesis. The article size stays manageable, unlike the onerous task of producing a monograph. Some departments at NIU offer this option. Check with graduate directors in the departments you are interested in to find out the details.

Collaborative Thesis

Collaboration is key! It's key to avoiding reproducing work in the sciences, it's key to understanding one another in the social sciences, and it's key to getting something off the ground in engineering, where not everyone can know everything! Collaboration across disciplines is something embraced more and more by universities too. At NIU, we see geologists working with geographers (seems likely) but we also see computer scientists working with geographers and dietitians. Hmm. All of these crossovers, likely and not so likely, lead to better research. We have always known that two heads are better than one. So it is a shame that universities are moving very slowly when it comes to "allowing" a collaborative thesis. While collaboartive work is often encouraged, scholars are producing separate theses and dissertations. Perhaps we could simplify this, and even make the impact of each scholar's work farther reaching.

In the future:

Maybe you could perform your thesis?
Perhaps none of the above thesis alternatives are really alternative enough for you? Consider that in the arts, a show or a recital is often the student's "thesis." Maybe thinking completely outside the box of "school project" or "graduate thesis paper" could lead to even more options for the master's candidate.

Some suggestions we've gotten are a documentary, an interactive website, a database, or a new translation with an introduction. All of these sound as if they would take immense knowledge of a subject, and would easily demonstrate proficiency in researching in that subject.

Who knows how long it will take the slow mechanisms of the university system (and culture) to allow for such potentially amazing collaboration and creativity in research. But I hope we don't have to wait another millennium.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Your Defense: Closer Than You May Think

Soon the day will come when you stand before a room full of peers and speak in defense of your project.  That is, you’ll sit (and stand) for the oral defense, the final exam for your degree.  Whether your oral defense is scheduled next month or not yet scheduled, think ahead and plan carefully for this important event in order to reduce stress and ensure success.

Who Will Be There?

In almost all cases, more people will be present than at your proposal defense.  For thesis writers, the final oral defense features at least four participants: you and your three committee members.  For dissertation writers, the smallest number of participants will be five: you, your minimum of three committee members, and the exam’s designated reader, who is appointed by the dean of the Graduate School.  (In almost all cases, you won’t know who the designated reader is until you show up at your oral defense.  For an official explanation of this non-voting faculty participant, see information at this link under “Designated Reader, Dean’s.”)  Of course, you’ll likely invite friends and family members to experience the proceedings.  But you should expect others to be in attendance as well.  Both the Graduate School and your department will announce an oral defense of a dissertation ahead of time, and the event is open to all interested parties.  Colleagues from your graduate program, former professors, and perhaps even people from other departments may be in the audience.  Various public-speaking skills will no doubt come into play.

When 

When it’s time to defend, you’ll know.  Not only will you have a sense, as a writer, that the argument you advance in your document is suitable for public airing, but your director and committee members will have communicated to you that your work is ready to be defended.  At least three weeks before the examination (a Grad School deadline), you need to submit a Request for Oral Defense of Thesis or a Request for Oral Defense of Dissertation.  Note that the Graduate School also has several strict deadlines, including a deadline to submit the post-defense version of your thesis or dissertation.  Ideally, schedule your defense more than three days before this deadline.  That way you’ll give yourself ample time to make any needed changes to your document before submitting it electronically to the Thesis Office for final review.  Your committee may request that you make changes during or after your examination.  In addition, you may need to reformat your document so that it meets the Graduate School’s format requirements.  (See Thesis Format Guidelines or Dissertation Format Guidelines.)  Here in the Thesis Office, we often assist writers editing their documents during the post-defense phase.  We strongly advise that you plan ahead so that you have more than three days to prepare your final copy.

How

Procedures during the 90 minutes or so of an oral defense vary slightly, depending on expectations of your department and committee.  But, as noted in the Graduate School’s Quick Guide for Faculty (see “Defense, Oral”), all defense meetings consist of two main parts: an examination session and a public presentation with opportunity for Q & A.  The order of these parts is determined by your department.  Last year, when I attended a colleague’s dissertation defense in the Department of English, the candidate opened the meeting with an overview of her work (a presentation that lasted about 12 minutes).  Then the examination began.  Each committee member—as well as the designated reader, who came from the Department of History—asked probing questions about the dissertation’s content and its relation to other studies in the field.  The session was formal and rigorous but never became overly tense.  The Q & A was lively and enlightening, with questions from several colleagues and guests in the audience.  The event was also “traditional,” in that each committee member was there in person.  However, these days, it’s not uncommon for a “nontraditional” defense to take place, whereby one or more members participates via Skype or some other internet-based communications program.  Here in the Thesis Office, we’ve recently become aware that such virtual participation is often unavoidable in fields like anthropology, in which faculty members and even degree candidates routinely spend extended periods of time away from campus to conduct field research.  On this note: if your oral defense will require internet-based communications, you may wish to look into alternatives to Skype.  For a recent list of such options, see this link.

Final Thoughts

Once you’re past the halfway mark on your big writing task, earnestly start thinking ahead to your defense.  As soon as you start on the last segment of your document, get back in touch with your director to determine when to schedule the important day.  Best of luck to each of you defending sooner or later—this summer and beyond!


Friday, May 4, 2018

Announcing: Dissertation Boot Camps

A post-traditional NIU student
*trying* to work from home
This summer, for the eighth year, the University Writing Center at NIU is offering its Dissertation Boot Camps!

These camps are retreat-style workshops, presentations, and writing sessions for those who are in progress (past prospectus defense) on a dissertation in any field. What is retreat-style? That means you the Writing Center facilitates full-day schedules (from two days to a whole week), giving you dedicated writing time with interruptions from home life and other work. We all know it can be impossible to write at home with kids, pets, and responsibilities distracting us. Or even if you write at work... there is always other work! Dissertation Boot Camp is a chance to get away from everything that's been keeping you from writing, and work on your dissertation surrounded by peers with the same lofty goal: a done dissertation.
Quiet writing time in the lab
or around campus


In addition to long blocks of dedicated writing time (approx. 5 hours per day), Gail Jacky, director of the UWC and veteran writing tutor, will lead sessions on tackling writer's block, how to relax, and other common problems. Writing coaches will be available to give formal consultations and feedback, and talks with your peers can be just as fruitful.

Intellectual isolation from our family and friends can be almost as frustrating as not being able to find time to work around family and friends... so being in a cohort of dissertation-writing peers can also potentially alleviate the stresses of compartmentalizing everyday life and feeling alone in our struggles. Even if just for a few short days.

Schedules for the programs depend on the length of the workshop: the cost of the 2-day camp is $100, and the cost of the week-long camp is $250. Some writers decide to go ALL IN and stay overnights at NIU! The Holmes Student Center offers affordable lodging on campus, if your really need to get away and focus your time on your work.

Workshops run throughout the summer. You can make this fit around your summer vacation or work responsibilities:

Writers can chat, cheerlead, or just comisserate!
2-day Bootcamps

June 13-14
July 17-18
August 1-2

Week-long Bootcamps

June 25-29
July 23-27


Learn more at the UWC website, and email Gail Jacky with any questions!




Friday, April 20, 2018

Embracing Academic Conferencing

When you present at an academic conference, scope out your room before your session starts.

Many of you have likely attended an academic conference during your graduate program, and several of you are probably planning on presenting at one in the near future.  Conferences are of course major components of academic life but also common in research and/or knowledge-based fields.  The unstoppable conference phenomenon naturally gives rise to plenty of guidelines for presenters and speculations on past, present, and future uses for conferences.  For a recent overview of such concerns, see this short but informative 2013 article that ran in The Guardian.  Conference etiquette, or seeming lack of it, is another topic of interest to conference goers, as noted in this 2015 piece that appeared in Chronicle Vitae featuring an interview with Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of famed etiquette guru Emily Post.

In contrast to such general-interest articles, this post offers some conferencing food for thought specifically targeted to you, the NIU thesis or dissertation writer.  Photos and most anecdotes come from my experiences this past week presenting and attending the 54th Allerton English Articulation Conference in Monticello, Illinois.

Traveling

In addition to obvious preparation musts such as practicing your planned speech (at least three times) and identifying sessions to attend before and after you present, double-check your travel arrangements with the goal of arriving at the venue at least an hour earlier than registration time.
Ordered rows in the gardens at Allerton.
Beware: routes to conference sites may not be so orderly.
Commonsense advice, yes, but nevertheless worth repeating.  You may have fairly clear directions, but expect to run into complications during the actual journey and plan accordingly.  Case in point: the drive down to the venue in Monticello (not my first trip there—I also presented at Allerton four years ago) took longer than planned because I got lost.  My memories of the route off the interstate were fuzzy, my printed directions turned out to be slightly out of date, and access to directions via phone or GPS device is wonky in this rural area.  A related anecdote: last April I presented at a conference in San Diego.  Accomplishing the first trolley ride from hotel to venue there also took a bit longer than expected.  Once on the scene I found myself relearning how waiting to cross busy streets can add minutes to your walking time and that trolleys don’t always arrive or depart exactly when scheduled.

Surveying

The small but adequate Butternut Room at Allerton.
Room size naturally affects your speaking approach. 
After registering and donning your name tag, wander and mingle but also check out the room you’ll be presenting in.  A common bit of advice is to test equipment you may need such as computer, OHP, screen, or microphone.  The earlier you can do this, the better.  Ideally, you should visit your room well in advance of your session so that you can also get a feel for its size and layout in relation to your talk.  A large space naturally requires a different speaking approach than a small one does.  If you can scope out the room while it’s empty, stand at the front or at the lectern.  Practice parts of your presentation.  If chairs or tables are movable (and if your session is the next one), consider ways you can rearrange the speaking and/or audience areas to suit your needs but especially those of your expected attendees.  Also consider lighting.  Depending on the sun’s position during the time of your session, window shades might need to be adjusted.  Before the presentation at Allerton this past week, my speaking partner and I went through all these steps.  As a result, our presentation ran smoothly and featured engaged participation from attendees.

Presenting 

Food line at Allerton.
Surely you’ve heard plenty about practical approaches to delivering a presentation.  Let me add a reminder that your planned speech, though very important, is still a minuscule moment within the overall time you’ll spend sharing your ideas at a conference.  Before and after your session and during other sessions, you’ll have numerous chances to speak with others about your work.  At Allerton, I met and chatted with several attendees during lunch; I met and conversed with several others between various sessions, during walks in the gardens, and over dinner.  In so doing, I naturally discussed aspects of my joint presentation but also my dissertation, teaching, and career plans.  Remembering that presenting at a conference means more than just speaking formally for a short time can actually help you when it’s your time to stand and deliver.  Share main ideas in your planned speech.  Expect to elaborate on these and other ideas during Q & A and during other interactions throughout the event.
     
Reflecting

How did the presentation go?  Were the follow-up discussions and later sessions constructive and helpful?  Was it all worth it?  You’ll have various answers to these questions immediately after your session and as the conference moves to a close.  But you can expect a different set of answers in the days and months that follow.  These later reflections will be most useful to you in the long run.  Expect to reevaluate your studies, your stance on issues important in your field, and your ongoing thesis or dissertation project during and after your next academic conference.  If you can, spend some time outside the venue during and after the event to foster these healthy reflections and to add to the overall experience.  Allerton is especially rewarding in this regard.  But no matter where your conference is held, there is always much to explore within but also beyond the center.

Path to the Walled Garden at Allerton.
Heed your long-view reflections after an academic conference.


Friday, March 23, 2018

The Graduate Degree: A Prelude to Knowledge Work


Investigating, analyzing, evaluating, creating, contextualizing, self-directing: skills like these are integral to the writing of a thesis or dissertation but also characteristic of the broad occupational domain called knowledge work.  To thesis and dissertation writers at any stage of their projects, below we offer thoughts on how you’re already developing—and can continue to develop—skills that are crucial for success in knowledge-oriented fields.

Tallies and Time Clocks?

Knowledge work is generally hard to quantify or measure.  Ironically, though, those who engage in such work across fields of academia tend to be fairly obsessed with counting and measuring.  Most carefully keep or monitor totals of papers presented, articles published, grants awarded, committees served on, and classes taught per year.  When you arrange your CV and the several accompanying documents needed for an academic job search, your field’s particular obsessions with such performance-related numbers boldly reassert themselves.  Other academic endeavors are sometimes summed up in terms of hours spent per week in classrooms, offices, labs, meetings, field investigations, grading sessions, or writing stints.

Yet the efforts that go into various kinds of academic production are not always easy to break down into regular time chunks.  Realistically, much academic work can keep the worker occupied from early morning to late at night, during parts of weekends, and during stretches of semester breaks.  (Let me briefly add that plenty in and outside academia do seem interested in figuring out the number of hours per week academics actually work—or in debating how many hours per week they should work.  A couple of recent reports (see here and here) suggest that such investigations and debates are complex and sometimes testy.  We avoid these issues in this post.)

Your Project: Training in Key Knowledge-Work Skills

A lot of what you do while completing your thesis or dissertation is obviously solid preparation for a future career in knowledge-centered domains.  As outlined and nicely detailed by the Careers & Employment Division at the University of Manchester, those aiming for a career in academia need to develop at least five skills for success.  Good news: as soon as you embark on your project, you’re immersed in an experience that can help you hone each of them.

Networking: As you develop relationships with members of your committee, each member can introduce you to others to help build your professional network.  In addition, while researching and writing, you can further extend your network by attending and/or presenting parts of your project at conferences.  Last year around this time, I traveled to a national conference to present a paper based on research for one of my dissertation chapters and attended multiple panels in areas central and peripheral to my academic interests.  The experience led to new contacts and eventually a request to submit a piece to a scholarly society’s publication.  Next month, I’ll travel to a regional conference to deliver a presentation with an NIU colleague and attend several discussion sessions.  You’re likely taking advantage of similar networking opportunities.  If not, seek them out.

Time Management: You’re already a knowledge worker and thus already weighing priorities and setting many deadlines of your own.  In previous posts on this blog, we’ve covered approaches to managing time during writing sessions, balancing your project with family matters, and maintaining your focus and enthusiasm by mixing work with recreational activities.  Consider such scheduling practices as sound preparation for the self-directed knowledge work of your post-degree career.

Resilience: While writing a thesis or dissertation, setbacks inevitably occur.  Data may need to be reanalyzed.  Ideas and approaches may need revamping.  Feedback on your progress from committee members—or from attendees at academic conferences—can be encouraging but also humbling.  As you get closer to the project’s completion, you’ll likely start looking for your postgraduate job.  Academic job hunting is especially fraught with pressures, rejections, and disappointments.  But lows like these that you experience throughout your project build your patience and resilience for similar wrinkles you’ll face down the road.

Presentation Skills: As a knowledge worker, you need to be able to present ideas clearly, in a variety of settings, among colleagues but also among people unfamiliar with intricacies of your work.  Each time you revise a section of your long document, you add useful material to your expanding pool of well-articulated expressions of your findings.  And you shouldn’t just aim to present them at your defense—another reason to plan to present at conferences while completing your project.  If you’re teaching, consider ways to integrate insights from your developing work in the classroom.

Project Management: At the NIU Thesis Office, we stress the value of being proactive in managing your thesis or dissertation project.  In a previous post, we featured a review of a useful book that describes the project-management approach to the dissertation.  Ultimately, you’re the manager of your project—under supervision of your director, of course.  The management experiences you gain now will certainly inform many aspects of your future knowledge-oriented employment.

Final Thoughts

Happy investigating, analyzing, evaluating, self-directing, and writing to all.  And good luck to those of you defending over the next few weeks!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Why All These Books?: The Explosion of the Dissertation Self-Help Market

Let's talk about Self-Help books. And let's face it -- most are bad. But some, the practical ones, or maybe the ones that use a metaphor that just sweeps you off your feet, can be good, if used wisely, and taken with several grains of salt.

What's Wrong with Self-Help?
Historically, categories of self-help fall into a few repeating areas: Success, Health, Optimism. Think of the "How to be Rich" books, or "How to Get Friends" books. You've seen them or heard of them, maybe even taken a peek inside? And the health books? WOW. There is a whole section for those in the bookstore.

In the 1970s, as America moved forward from the Civil Rights Movement, and then Vietnam, the feelgood book became more of a thing than ever. And then it became a huge publishing industry. It tapped into people's insecurities, their struggles with body image, and their dissatisfaction with life. For some, self-help really helped. For others, it left them as isolated as before, and out a few dollars...or more. I remember digging in my mom's bookshelf when I was a kid in the '80s, and finding books with titles like Real Women Send Flowers. The most striking one I remember? A slim motivational handbook entitled F*** Yes! My mother grew stronger and stronger as we grew up, but I don't think it was because she spent $10 on F*** Yes!

In the 1990s, the pitfalls of self-help were becoming evident. The market was flooded with The Art of the Deal, 10 Days to Self-Esteem, and other well known but probably useless books. Counselors, psychologists, and other began to notice that self-help was replacing folk wisdom, making people actually feel more helpless, making them blame outside things for their own failures, and offering glib and disingenuous advice (especially the success books). In 1993, Wendy Kaminer published I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional, an intelligent indictment of the entire self-help philosophy, and she marked the decline of the decades-long fad as the 21st century approached.

Though the industry of self-help did not collapse, it has been replaced in part by self-care methods like meditation, one-on-one counseling (owing to reduced stigma), and time honored traditions like group yoga. We are not afraid to let others help us anymore. So no need to read about it in private!


The Dissertation Self-Help Book

So where has the self-help book found a new lease on life? In the form of the dissertation self-help book.

Don't jump!!!
The dissertation self-help book has exploded over the last twenty years or so. Familiar metaphors from 20th century self-help, such as survival, demystification, baby-steps, a journey, grace the covers of these books. Familiar models of coping and solution fill their insides: 12-step programs, "invisible rules" that just need to be uncovered, methods to diminish the importance of the problem (I have a book called It's *JUST* a Dissertation!), romanticization of the reader's situation and magical thinking.

It's true that there are helpful pieces of advice in these books. But oh dear, the metaphors... Can we stop talking about the dissertation as if it's not a real thing?

Well... for some of us the dissertation takes a million years to write, so it really does feel like a journey. Or like any number of the romantic and fearsome metaphors on those book covers! But there is a real problem with the self-help model: It focuses on recovery. Any recovery approach itself has problems, but to suggest that a dissertation is something that needs to be survived or overcome is to suggest that the dissertation is a malady or even an addiction. Ill advised it may be! But it is not an illness in need of a cure. It is a project in need of planning, management, and other practical solutions. (See "Practical Dissertation Help Books" below)

Someone needs to write the I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional of dissertation help books. I'm Not Writing My Dissertation, You're Not Writing Your Dissertation.  It's good to have some inspirational books around. And it's helpful to envision yourself on a journey or a quest or whatever floats your boat (yet another diss metaphor...). But how do we read about dissertations with care and a critical eye?

This article on the dissertation book culture is a helpful read:

The Failure of Dissertation Advice Books: Toward Alternative Pedagogies for Doctoral Writing


Practical Dissertation Help Books

BUT WAIT! After all our nay-saying, there is hope. We do recommend some of these books to our students. And other universities do too. I'm just on about the self-help so you know there's no magic "cure" for your dissertation. But what there is are some good books with practical advice:

Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach
(We recommend this to everyone!)

The Craft of Research

Proposals that Work

Here are some more books you might want to explore, curated by the University of Michigan graduate school. But don't forget your shaker of salt.

Recommended Books on Dissertation Writing

One final and important suggestion: Taking a page from this millennium's change from self-help to self-care and group help, maybe don't look for all the answers in a book? Talk to other dissertation writers often, take care of yourself and your body, and seek help from professionals if you need to. You are the first person who can help yourself write this dissertation. The words and research have to be yours, but you don't have to handle the "journey" alone.

Explore this map and other fun stuff at
https://www.academiccoachingandwriting.org/dissertation-doctor/the-dissertation-journey