Dissertating from a Distance
People often ask me how I manage through my program even though I live so far away from my campus. Just like any rigorous program, you need a supportive community. However, as a distance student, you have to build the community over the Internet. Here’s how I’ve done it:
Forming interest groups
I belong to two main groups that have been cobbled together by fellow grad students like me. One group started when I had lunch with a few of my classmates on a visit back to my campus. We talked about how lonely the PhD program can be, once you’ve finished classes. Together, we decided to form an email group. Once a day, we send each other an email blast, and we work together with writing sprints to keep us motivated.
I also belong to another group, started by a doc student from another campus. We met on Vitae, and she created the Agraphia group, which is a bulletin board of sorts. Each week, we post our goals, as well as our reflections from the previous week. It helps with accountability, but also, it keeps us motivated.
Subscribe to Twitter – Use it to link to like-minded people
Some hashtags I like to use: #writingsprint, #acwri, #PhDchat, #amwriting
These will all help you get started in the different conversations and support groups available on Twitter
Reach out to your advisor
It’s important that your advisor supports your needs, and doesn’t leave you out there hanging. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, or reach out to them when you need support. I didn’t know, until later, how helpful it can be to send an email like, “Hi there! I’m stuck! Can you help me out?” Because sometimes, when we’re all alone in the world, these conversations get stuck in our heads. Don’t be afraid to reach out for your #1 sounding board and advocate!
Memo. A lot.
I write each day. Sometimes these are little memos to myself, sometimes, they are part of my work, and other times, they may include outlines, analysis, etc. When I get stuck on something, I start with a memo that questions myself. Sometimes, it just helps to write, and get things out on the screen where you can read them.
I know others belong to professional organizations, hobby groups, and other things for help. Find out what works for you. But most importantly, just know that you’re not alone in this, and you don’t have to be.