Fiercely Independent

It's Just a Dissertation!

Denise Comer and Barbara G. Garrett


Do as little as necessary! . . .  “Shorth is better than length” (Dr. Seuss) . . . Your advisors want and need you to succeed . . . Your advisor and committee members are your entire audience (at this point) so write to your audience . . . Put your ego on a shelf (for now) and do exactly what your advisors say . . . A dissertation is not the capstone, magnum opus of a lifetime, it is a text produced by a beginning scholar.


These are just a few of the many pearls of wisdom you will find in this book that will change the way you think about the dissertation—transforming it from daunting to doable to done.


With a unique blend of therapeutic approaches from a psychotherapist and writing skills and strategies from a writing professor, this book will guide you through every step of the dissertating process.


Whether the Ph.D. is just a glint in your eye, you are ABD (All But Dissertation) with a looming Ph.D. eligibility deadline, or if you are anywhere in between, this book will empower you to believe in yourself and write your dissertation. Academic culture too often sustains overly idealistic, detrimental perceptions about what it takes to write a dissertation. This book busts through these counterproductive trends in dissertation thinking to promote a more realistic, doable approach.


Offering manageable steps, concrete suggestions, and helpful perspectives, It’s Just a Dissertation will get you through any tough spots you encounter and help you complete your dissertation sooner rather than later, with as little stress as possible. You may even enjoy the process! (Okay, that might be a stretch for some, but you can at least not hate it.)


It’s Just a Dissertation is valuable for people in all disciplines and at all stages of the dissertation process. This is the must-have book for you if you are:

  • considering applying to a Ph.D. program, but are unsure about your ability to complete a dissertation or finish in a timely manner;
  • starting your Ph.D. coursework and want to learn how to strategically use your coursework to prepare for your dissertation;
  • selecting your topic, advisor, and/or committee members, and would like to know how to make choices that will make the dissertation process easier (not harder) on yourself;
  • working on your dissertation and ready to ensure that you stay on track;
  • getting discouraged, hurt, angry, or confused by your advisor’s feedback (or lack thereof);
  • feeling stuck somewhere in the dissertation process and want to get unstuck;
  • experiencing distress about your topic, perhaps because it is too big in scope, seemingly losing relevance, or too hard to research;
  • approaching the end of your Ph.D. eligibility deadline and need to make a lot of progress right now; or
  • thinking about abandoning the dissertation altogether.


If you are experiencing any of the above, this book is for you. Or if you are a parent, friend, family member, mentor, or advisor of someone who is—or who may soon be—dissertating, consider giving this book to that dissertator in your life!


It’s Just a Dissertation includes practical suggestions, helpful navigation tips, and reflective exercises—all with a healthy dose of irreverence—so you can mobilize your knowledge and customize your dissertation approach. You will also find narrative anecdotes throughout so you can learn from, and commiserate with, other dissertators. All this in a format that makes it a relatively quick read so as not to take precious time away from your main priority: writing your dissertation.

Don’t delay . . . your path to dissertation completion is right here.