Finishing a Dissertation and Making Post-Dissertation Plans

Habiba Chirchir
By Habiba Chirchir
June 11, 2013

I spent the past academic year writing up the results of my dissertation, which proved quite a task. I call it a task because it was the first time that I had all my data together and could think of my dissertation as one body of work that needed to be communicated in a comprehensible manner. With all the data collected and processed, the end of graduate school seemed near yet so far since I still had to make sense of all the little pieces of the puzzle (data!) and more so make the case to the dissertation committee members that the work done is sufficient to be awarded a doctoral degree.

As if this is not enough, while writing I had to think beyond the PhD process (as all candidates do). I found this period quite stressful since I had to halt my dissertation work at different points and think about viable future projects, which ultimately became postdoctoral applications. It was also stressful because at the time the future appeared very uncertain; I kept wondering would I remain in the DC area? Will I have to pack and move? Is my project convincing enough to be awarded a postdoctoral fellowship? What next?

I think what helped in my experience was taking a day or two in a week and using that time to think and work on possible future projects. In addition, brainstorming with lab members and faculty members really helped. Most had refreshing advice on how to improve my ideas. At the end of it, I came out of the dissertation writing process more resilient, more experienced, with an exciting future project, and with a more positive experience of graduate school.