∗ CHALLENGES IN WRITING YOUR DISSERTATION ∗
Bruce M. Shore, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Fellow of the American Educational Research Association
Author of The Graduate Advisor Handbook: A Student-Centered Approach
University of Chicago Press
§ Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles is an original, positive, witty, fun-to-read, and welcome diversion from step-by-step dissertation guides overly focused on the mechanics of the dissertation and insufficiently on the full lives of students.
§ The book is good medicine for mild anxiety to panic attacks, and uniquely useful to an often invisible but large population of mature, part-time doctoral students who have family, community, and work responsibilities, and who do not get all the help they should (or some full-time students might obtain) from their committee chairs.
§ Challenges gives sensitive, compelling advice plus clear talking-points for nurturing relationships and overcoming barriers in one’s family, friendships, employment, and on campus on the way to the degree. The book is written from the perspective of an experienced dissertation coach who is uniquely dedicated to the student’s success and sufficiently outside academe to observe the big picture and call a spade a spade.
§ Read this book right through for an overview, tab the pages that speak most loudly to you for easy referral, browse items in the comprehensive reference list, and do not let it get buried under a pile of unread articles.
≈ If you are preparing to advance in a career by earning a master’s or doctoral degree, writing an article, or just beginning a scholarly study, you are well served by considering the practical and supportive advice of Dr. Noelle Sterne. Her advice has been honed through 30 years of providing editing assistance and mentoring of more than 900 graduate students and now chronicled in Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles.
Having traveled down this difficult path myself, I can attest that I know firsthand how the maze of unknowns attached to the dissertation can close in and capture you in a claustrophobic grip of fear. Add family and work pressures to the situation, and completing your goals in a timely manner can often become a life-changing struggle.
In Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation, Dr. Sterne addresses students still in the maze. She uses informed anecdotes (with identities protected) to share lessons that have been learned by those who came before you. These lessons will prevent you from reinventing the wheel during what will seem like endless turns as you progress toward the completion of the doctorate. With Dr. Sterne’s guidance, you may well enjoy the process while still coping with the changes in your life that impact your work, family, and friends.
My reliance upon Dr. Sterne’s keen advice did not end at the conclusion of the doctoral degree. I have repeatedly relied upon her insightful critiques in article publishing and other professional matters. As Chair of the Departments of Aviation Science at two universities and Assistant and Associate Dean at my present university, I advise junior faculty always to consider the importance of an editor and mentor in their writing and project development.
I consider Dr. Sterne my copilot and have come to depend upon her unfailing guidance that has always resulted in a clear and better written document. When my doctoral major adviser once referred to me as one of his “best students,” in the back of my mind I thought, and continue to acknowledge, that my copilot was on the job.
Gregory Lee Schwab
Professor and Chair
Department of Aerospace Technology
Indiana State University
Terre Haute, IN
≈ My grandfather, the late Deacon Gene Cone, was my first mentor and role model. As I observed him mentoring young African-American men in the church and community, I knew what my calling would be: with the doctorate, a dream of my life.
I found joy in affirming that I was good enough to pursue a Ph.D., during my formative years. Finally, as an adult I pursued the doctoral program and eventually began writing the dissertation. With constant revisions, I finally admitted I needed an editor. I found Dr. Noelle Sterne, the author of this great book, Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation.
Dr. Sterne points out in the beginning of the book, and I found out, that starting the dissertation was indeed a BIG Change. I literally had to withdraw from personal and fun activities and many times talked nonstop about my difficulties to family members, friends, and my church ministers.
During my dissertation journey, I experienced all the challenges Dr. Sterne discusses. I reached the victory of graduation in 2009 through her mentorship. She has distilled her wisdom in this book, especially concerning the issues very few professors and other dissertation books speak about. Writing the correct content is a challenge enough. Dr. Sterne deals with the other issues that are as challenging. Without guidance such as she supplies, these can cause many doctoral students to drop out.
Any writer of a dissertation who is at risk of failing or giving up will be blessed by reading and following this book. Thank you, Dr. Sterne.
Rev. Dr. Patricia A. Wilson-Cone, Ph.D., ACPE,
Manager, Spiritual Care and CPE Supervisor
Providence Alaska Medical Center
≈ Dr. Noelle Sterne blazes a new trail into the forest of dissertation writing. In this essential resource for dissertation writers, Dr. Sterne dares to connect research with dreams and visions. She includes the student’s inner mentor and urges enrolling the Higher Self and supportive networks in the endeavor. She addresses the pitfalls of the relationship with committees, as well as essentials such as proposals, writing styles, and forms. In our doctoral program, we are using this seminal book as more than a textbook. Rather, it is a map for navigation of the territory of creativity.
Will Taegel, Ph.D.
Dean of Wisdom School of Graduate Studies
Mill Valley, CA
≈ In dissertating as in life, a holistic approach provides a deeper, more engaging, and more satisfying journey through the process. Dr. Noelle Sterne has the wisdom and experience to provide such an approach in her guidance of students, from choosing a topic to writing a dissertation on that topic.
I have found that, in my work as Manager of Dissertation Editor Services and in guiding students in all walks of life and at all levels of professionalism, the other-than-academic problems Dr. Sterne primarily addresses frequently surface and hamper students’ progress. In this entertaining yet serious and practical book, she provides useful tools, examples, and advice to help students surmount these problems, articulate dreams and goals, and then breathe them into being.
Manager, Dissertation Editor Services
≈ My dissertation journey at times was fraught with confusion, anger, self-doubt, grief in the loss of a beloved professor, financial woes, and yes, writer’s block—but then I found a source of help and hope. That source was Dr. Noelle Sterne, my awe-inspiring dissertation coach. Dr. Sterne’s coaching and spiritual guidance were instrumental in my successfully navigating the peaks and valleys of the dissertation journey. I am blessed beyond measure to have made this journey with her by my side. As I begin a new journey as a licensed minister I shall be eternally grateful for her guidance.
I am sure her guidance, wisdom, and understanding of the numerous issues beyond scholarly content in this book will help many other doctoral candidates complete their dissertations with less frustration and anxiety. I am happy to recommend Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation.
Dr. Valmarie Ward Rhoden
Author, School Leaders’ Behaviors, Climate, and
Program Director for Informed Families/
The Florida Family Partnership
≈ At last—a book geared toward the myriad trials and tribulations confronting many a hapless graduate student on the pilgrimage toward the graduate degree. As I experienced myself, with family and full-time job (and dog and lawn and neighborhood watch), the “nonacademic” troubles were as testy as learning APA.
I am positive all graduate students will find Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles a veritable fund of valuable insights and practicalities in their quest for that degree. For those of us who are veterans, not having had this book is our loss. To those to whom we pass the torch, the book is a godsend.
I recall those wonderful conversations Dr. Sterne and I used to have as I pursued my own doctorate. She weren’t a nag—well, not really. She was most influential in helping me keep my priorities straight and my eyes on the prize. Her keen sense of humor was always welcome, and it eloquently comes across in Challenges. For all graduate students and all those involved with them, this book is a treasure.
Howard Chislett, Ed.D.
Former Dissertation Editor and Secretary
Teachers College, Columbia University
New York, NY