If you can find a local dissertation support group in your community, join it. The bond and community around sharing in the journey toward your degree offers just the safe haven we need to encourage, question, and commiserate. You won’t be alone in your doubts and fears. You may even find that you are ahead of other students.
The best place to find a support group is meetup.com. A quick search of “dissertation support” revealed dozens of options around the United States, England, and Australia. Don’t see one in your area? Start one. A support system is critical to your success.
Decide that your Dissertation Support Group will be a source of both accountability and information that you will accept and give as needed. Before I found a dissertation coach to check in with weekly, I had a friend that invited me to a movie every Sunday night. The catch was that I could not go unless I had completed my coursework for the week. Now that my coursework is over, the path is not so direct, so a support group will provide me with a connection of people on the same journey. Everyone can relate to finishing a paper or project for a class, but the dissertation labor is known to few.
Don’t plan to read one another’s work in a dissertation group. The idea is to offer support related to goals. Did you meet your stated goals? If not, why not? What are your writing goals for next week? Who in the group will call to nag you? The peer mentoring process, aka nagging, will lead to progress.
Even when you think you are the one who needs the support, you will find that you have something to offer someone else in the group, which should make you feel pretty good about yourself. I’m gratefully headed to my first Dissertation Support group in the Orlando area on Sunday loaded with APA questions. But if anyone asks about how to create a title page in Word 2010 on a Mac, I’ll forward my template. I am a little nervous that everyone will be so far ahead of me and I’ll have nothing to offer, but then again I was nervous to start a doctoral program also. I’ll let you know how it goes.