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Take a Great Guide on Your Dissertation Journey | Issue 258

Summary: What a superb dissertation guide looks like: Savvy advice for ABDs who want to finish and get on with their life.

Estimated Reading Time: Four minutes that will save you time, money, frustration, and angst.


By Gayle Scroggs, PhD, PCC, ABD Survival Guide Editor

Travel guru Rick Steves expresses shock at folks who fork out thousands of dollars on a vacation—and then balk at spending $25 for an updated travel guide that would vastly improve the experience. 

It makes no sense as a great guide can save you oodles of time, money, and angst. 

There's an academic parallel—namely, the doctoral journey. Of those who embark on the trail to the academic pinnacle, many invest thousands of dollars and untold energy—but never bother to invest a few dollars in a good guidebook. Sadly, about half of them never reach their goal. 

If you want to improve your chances of finishing your doctoral degree, get a top-notch guide. It helps by letting you know what to expect—and what is expected of you. It will make your trip more rewarding and less frustrating. 

The ultimate ABD guide for many is The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending Your Dissertation. Now in its third edition, it continues to earn rave reviews from doctoral students and advisors alike.

In the latest edition, Carol Roberts teams with colleague Laura Hyatt to update her perennially popular guide to planning, writing, and defending your dissertation. 


Step-by-Step Advice From Planning to Defense

Unlike most dissertation writing guides, the authors begin by ensuring a firm foundation for your dissertation by explaining how to choose a solid topic and the right team for you. Taking care with these preliminaries smooths the many miles of road ahead. 

They then take the reader step by step through the dissertation process the way you secretly wish your advisor would. (But most don't because it is not their job and they have other responsibilities.) 

Despite discussions with your advisor, do you wonder what goes in the introductory chapter (or any other chapter)? Their detailed discussions of the introduction and every other chapter will calm your anxieties. 

Tip: Before you hit "send," refer to the checklist for each chapter in the Appendix—a feature that all by itself justifies the price of the book. 

Are you stuck trying to understand "conceptual framework"? Are you stymied trying to estimate your time to degree? Do you need to polish your academic writing style? Or unravel the mysteries of the IRB process? They've got you covered. 


Rock Your Lit Review

The information on the literature review is impressive as the authors go beyond merely explaining the purpose and scope of the lit review. They make sure you will impress your advisor with your thoroughness by showing how to create Boolean search terms and offering a two-page list of potential literature sources. 

If you worry about what to expect at your proposal meeting or your final defense, study their recommendations on how best to prepare for them. You will also find advice for getting organized and taking care of yourself. 


They punctuate the book with tips and resource links. You'll see apps to manage all aspects of your work—and even one for relaxation, which you just might need! Their suggestions are sound, and some might surprise you. For example, they recommend that you write a "crummy" first draft—but that you only turn your best work into your advisor. 


You Deserve a Great Guide

Your dissertation is likely the most complex project you have ever embarked on. No one expects you—an apprentice scholar—to have already mastered the process. You only need to learn how to do it. For that, rely on a trusted guide and your own best efforts. 


With the combined savvy from the authors' decades of successfully shepherding doctoral candidates through the process, The Dissertation Journey stands out as a worthy companion for the trip. 


P.S. Rick Steves would tell you to get the latest edition—the updates are worth every penny. 


If you are considering whether to get your own coach to help you reach your academic goals, fill out this brief application for a free consultation with a dissertation coach.

An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources

BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (, a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.



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For more recommended books and resources, see our webpage:


Could you benefit from one-on-one support on your dissertation journey? Apply for a free consultation with a dissertation coach here.

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