Why is Being ABD so Hard?

Probably every ABD grad student asks him or herself this question…

The answer to this question can be found throughout this website, and is frequently addressed in my newsletter (signup in upper left corner of this page.) I get many letters telling me how helpful the newsletter can be.

ABD’s in the humanities seem to suffer the most. They don’t have a lab to go to on a daily basis, and usually don’t see their dissertation advisor as often as do those in the sciences.

Lack of structure is a huge part of the difficulty of being ABD. Your success up to this point came from responding to specific requests (e.g. “Write a 20 page paper on…”) These requests always had deadlines, and the price that you would pay for not getting that paper in was clear. You could pull an all nighter if needed to get it done.

What worked before doesn’t work anymore. You can’t pull all nighters over and over. The deadlines are rarely firm and are often self imposed. There seems to be no limit to the amount of literature review. You need to make an original contribution yet just recently you were a humble student. The rules aren’t clear, and your advisor doesn’t want to see your chapter until it’s almost done. Your initial excitement, if you had it, has worn off. Things can seem lonely and dismal.

ABD’s who are no longer on campus suffer the most. Without the contact with peers and advisor, it’s easy to let the dissertation slide, to feel dispirited, and to imagine that everyone is doing better than you.

Add a difficult advisor to the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. When you are feeling that tentative, harsh criticism, lack of assistance, or being ignored can really hurt. This stifles creativity and productivity, and self esteem plummets.

Elsewhere on thie site, I have written extensively on the experience of being ABD, and I ALWAYS offer concrete solutions that you can use to help youself if any of these negative situations apply to you

So, welcome to this site! Take advantage of all it has to offer, and stay tuned for constant updates.

Category: Grad School

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