Posts Tagged ‘ABD’


Winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel.  Duties include upkeep and minor repairs.  Perks include large amounts of free time.  Perfect for ABDs.

I’ve previously noted some of the ways that works of fiction (such as Candide, The Lord of the Rings, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) are related to graduate school and the job market.  Settling down to watch a scary movie on Halloween night, however, I found what may be the best dramatization I’ve seen about working on one’s dissertation (especially when on fellowship): The Shining.  For example:

As a graduate student there were many times when my wife would come home from work and ask me how my work went during her time away.  Typically, I would respond to this with some vague statement intended to disguise the fact that I had gotten up at 10, read things on the internet, taken a shower at 12:30, eaten lunch, opened a document to work on, read other things on the internet, taken a nap, and then read some things on the internet until she got home.  If she ever called during the day and needed me to bring something to her, the disruption to my “work” had the potential to frustrate me to no end.  It wasn’t so much that I was working but that I had the potential to work and may actually start doing so at any moment.  Any interruption was thus an interruption of my potential to actually accomplish something.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

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If nothing else, the process of writing a dissertation has given me a new appreciation for those who write books.  Although I don’t have the production of journal articles down to a science, I’ve gotten pretty good at writing coherent papers between five and 20 pages in length.  My dissertation has been like writing six of those papers and hoping that they magically coalesce into something cohesive in the end.

While I can’t be sure without writing a book for comparison, I think that the biggest reason for my frustration has been that going on the job market ABD prevented me from completing my analysis before I began writing.  Instead, I did some analyses and wrote a chapter based on them, then did some more analyses and wrote a chapter based on them, etc.  As a result, when I started writing a chapter I had no idea how it fit into the larger whole other than the fact that it came from the same dataset as my other chapters eventually would.  Working in this way, it was impossible to create a simple outline of my entire dissertation, much less something like this.

Despite the cohesion problem, my dissertation is nearly complete and my advisor recently told me that neither of us would be embarrased by the finished product.  I’ve always been an advocate for the idea that as long as you have a job lined up, a good dissertation is a done dissertation, so this reassurance (back-handed compliment?) was all I needed to hear.  Thankfully, I have not gotten to the point of being sick of my data, as publications based on my dissertation will likely require substantial revisions.  At least I won’t have to worry about whether or not they fit into any sort of larger work!

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