My thesis needs a power-up.
February 14, 2011 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for feedback from grad students who have used a thesis or dissertation coach. How did it work out for you?

I'm attempting to finish my PhD thesis in the social sciences - I have done all my research, transcribed all of my interviews, and written about 60 scattered pages of the (at minimum) requisite 200 pages. There is now a push to get the thing done by June (looking to defend in late summer of September) because my supervisor is going on sabbatical in Fall 2011. However, realistically, I have been at this for several years and it would be time to get it done even if my supervisor was not going away.

The thing is - I work full-time (have for a long time) and work 12 hour shifts at my job, with sometimes only a few days off every couple of weeks. Needless to say, I don't have much time to work on the bloody thesis (though I hope to take two weeks off in the Spring). My supervisor is very supportive and brilliant, but I am looking for ideas to amp up my productivity, which lead me to consider accessing a thesis coach (I was quoted $50 per hour, btw). FWIW, I think I am a good writer - I don't need too many rewrites once I actually write something - but I need to supercharge this whole thing and wondered if a coach might help. And yep, I have already institituted other productivity-enhancers such as playing less Super Mario Galaxy.

Thanks in advance for any feedback on thesis coaches!
posted by analog to Education (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I haven't used it myself, but I (internet-)know someone who was very happy with Academic Ladder. I think they used the Writing Club rather than 1-on-1 coaching, though.
posted by lollusc at 8:31 PM on February 14, 2011

Response by poster: typo - should be "looking to defend in late summer OR September" - sorry.
posted by analog at 9:36 PM on February 14, 2011

"I am looking for ideas to amp up my productivity"

Find a way to stop working 12 hours a day for longer than two weeks. It's just not realistic to work that hard and expect yourself to have energy leftover to work on such a major project. You'll probably need most of that two weeks just to rest and get your shit together before you can even begin thinking about your thesis.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:13 AM on February 15, 2011

Response by poster: Don't mean to threadsit, but - Jacqueline, thanks for your concern, but I should clarify that while I have been looking for ways to increase my productivity, the fact remains that my work schedule isn't changeable - so my question here centers on thesis coaches, not really other productivity ideas ATM. I don't want to end up feeling more freaked out than I already am.
posted by analog at 3:54 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: If you take a look at Phinished, you should be able to find some people who have or are willing to talk about their firsthand experience with dissertation coaches. A number of people there have used them and can give you recommendations.
posted by synecdoche at 4:50 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Here is a page of links from the Phinished site synecdoche linked above. Academic Ladder is rated highly, as are a couple on the second page of links, but there isn't much discussion there.

If you join the site, you'll be able to access the forums and more specific recommendations either through searching the archives or posting yourself.

If you want to save some money, you might be able to self-coach through some of the strategies on Phinished. There are chat features and daily and weekly boards where you can do brief updates on your progress and get feedback and encouragement. Many people there work in "tomatoes," 25 minute chunks of time followed by a brief 5 min. break. Some work better in "mangoes," 45-55 minute chunks followed by 5-15 min. breaks. For longer-term ideas, some people recommend making a thesis binder (part way down the page) to track where you are when you start having too many bits and pieces of chapters floating around.

I don't want to talk about the site too much if it's not a good option for you, but you may be able to make it work for you. And if not, I'd still sign up and search the threads for coaching recommendations. I don't get any junk mail from the site, so it's worth signing up for, even if you just need a bit of practical or emotional support every once in a while.
posted by BlooPen at 6:56 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Here is a thread from the forum that might be useful to you. Search "dissertation coach" and you'll find some more discussion as well. I never used a coach for my thesis, but I know how helpful it can be to have a fresh set of eyes to help you. Best of luck!
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:21 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: I have written in detail on AskMetafilter about how my dissertation/career coach helped me get through grad school and finally finish the dissertation.

I never heard of Academic Ladder before reading this thread. My dissertation/career coach was independent; she has since moved into a different, full-time job so I can't recommend her services specifically. It was important that we really "clicked" and enjoyed working with each other. She did not push any particular productivity regimen on me, but rather helped me think through my options and choose the approach that seemed best for me and my immediate situation (work habits, schedule, external stresses, stage of the writing process, etc).
posted by Orinda at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: You might also want to sift through previous questions about dissertation writing for advice; see, for example, this question about finishing a dissertation on a very compressed schedule.
posted by Orinda at 9:40 AM on February 15, 2011

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