Discerning Dissertating Learning Cohorts


The dissertation is known as the capstone of doctoral education, yet planning and writing one is often a confusing, stressful, and solitary endeavor. Indeed, for most students the majority of time in grad school consists of the years after coursework and exams are completed - the protracted process of "dissertating" that can be exhilarating, exhausting, lonely, inscrutable, and profound - all at the same time.

In an effort to help you navigate this process, the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning has launched a series, Discerning Dissertating, to support and connect you with peers as you move through this new landscape together. In four linked seminars over time, we'll help you propose, begin, navigate, and complete your dissertation. The goal is to help guide you through critical points in your doctoral journey: transitioning out of coursework and preparing a dissertation proposal or prospectus; delving into research and developing a long-term work plan; navigating ongoing "day-to-day dissertating" and keeping in touch with advisors; and eventually closing in on completion while looking ahead to post-grad school life.  We'll strive to unpack the dissertation process as part of our efforts to demystify the "hidden curriculum" of graduate education more broadly.  Dissertating doesn't have to be quite so hard. Let's do it differently, together.

What is this series?

Discerning Dissertating entails four separate seminars, each with approximately six synchronous, virtual meetings complemented by online and asynchronous materials to scaffold your learning, create community, and ensure accountability between meetings. (In addition, we hope to offer in-person options in the next year, as well.)

  • Planning: "Planning the Dissertation" is the first in the series. Here, we'll explore the transition from coursework to research; discuss choosing advisors and committee members; think through developing a prospectus; learn tools for effective project management; and much more. 
  • Launching: In this second seminar we discuss strategies to help you begin your independent research while also practicing habits to promote progress and well-being long-term.
  • Navigating: Here, we work on maintaining motivation for the long haul, sustaining communication with participants' mentors and advisors, and interpreting and implementing their feedback.
  • Completing: In "Completing the Dissertation" we work toward getting your theses ready to submit and defend,  discussing what "done" might mean, and looking ahead to life after grad school.