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Weed out bad advisors, boost job prospects, write more, and other dissertation tips | Issue 230

In under 8 minutes, discover how some universities are canning bad advisors and boosting job prospects for their PhDs. 

Also find tips for writing more, beating procrastination, unleashing your inner genius, and landing a job in the same city as your sweetheart.

Time to Weed Out Bad Dissertation Chairs


Some professors should never be allowed to supervise a dissertation, as too many ABDs know. They wreak havoc in students' lives without any consequences for themselves. Meanwhile, their competent peers who shepherd doctoral candidates to the finish line in a kindly, timely manner may get little or no credit from their departments.

A group of eight Australian universities has forged a strong stand on the issue of advisor quality. Their assessment procedure weeds out the bad apples while retaining the good ones. Professors get rewarded for timely completions and successful rescues of would-be dropouts and penalized for those who drop out due to dissatisfaction with their supervisor.

Furthermore, these same universities require training and registration of doctoral supervisors. These measures have led to an eight percent increase in timely completions, research finds. Keeping score not only helps students but also allows faculty objective data for their own performance reviews.

When will U.S. institutions take note? Share this with the graduate school dean at your university.


Do We Need PhD Job Fairs?

"Yes!" asserts Leonard Cassuto, frequent Chronicle of Higher Education columnist on graduate education. Universities and colleges routinely plan career fairs that bring employers to campus for undergraduates. Given the dismal academic hiring scene, it's about time they do it for their graduate students as well, he argues.

"For years, faculty and graduate students in most fields disdained work outside the university walls," writes Cassuto, a Fordham professor, which led outsiders to ignore the ivy tower. "We have to forge ties with them now. We can't afford to wait for them to come to us," he concludes.

Read his entire column here—and don't skip the readers' valuable comments. For more, see Cassuto's book, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It. Better yet, give the Cassuto article and book to your chair and dean. Then start negotiating for a PhD job fair at your institution.

Lean the Secrets of Prolific Academic Writers

Stop struggling to adopt someone else's dissertation writing habits. It's time to be yourself.


Check out Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write. In her new book, award-winning scholar Helen Sword kills the myth of the "one-size-fits-all" model through fascinating interviews with highly productive academic writers. You will be amazed at the diverse ways in which academic writing actually gets done.


An astute observer, Sword identifies four important foundations for the academic writer—behavioral, artisanal, social, and emotional habits. Diagnose your developmental needs with Sword's free assessment here . Struggling to make writing a habit? Master the art of writing? Connect with other writers? Cope with emotions? You can improve.

Fortunately, each chapter includes "things to try" and excellent resources so you can create your own best practices. (By the way, Sword notes that women doctoral candidates are among those who express the most frustration with the writing process.)

For more ways to enhance your verbal fitness, consult her prior books, Stylish Academic Writingand The Writer's Diet. Get immediate feedback on how "flabby or fit" your prose is by entering a sample here.


Conquer Procrastination with 10 Quick Tips

Stop delaying dissertating by implementing science-backed tips from Forbes contributor Vanessa Older.

1. Pick your poison, i.e., focus on just one thing you've put off.

2. Start today—that means now.

3. Try the Five-Minute Miracle: Spend five minutes on it-and notice what happens.

4. Do a Power Hour: Dedicate distraction-free twenty-minute chunks to it.

5. Kill it with kindness: Forgive yourself for past procrastination and get back on the wagon.

Wait—that's only five. Find the next five here.

Stop Dismissing Your Genius Thoughts


Who comes to mind when you think of geniuses? Einstein? Picasso? Tolstoy? Someone in your discipline? What about you?

The only thing standing between you and genius status is your tendency to dismiss the strange or weird ideas that pop in your head—those freaky ideas that scare us—but attract a genius's curiosity.

According to the experts at The School of Life, most of us are afraid of being seen as odd, so we let those brilliant, original thoughts slip away. . . only to be leveraged by someone else.

Why settle for mediocrity when you could be great? Follow the path at YouTube in How To Be a Genius.


How Two ABD (then PhD) Lovebirds Snagged Jobs in Same Location

It's tough enough for one aspiring academic to find a position. Now imagine how much harder it is to find two jobs—and in the same location. That's the challenge for doctoral students who marry another student. When your partner is in the same field and graduating at the same time, well, the odds become miniscule.

That was the case of Chandani Patel and Brady Smith, who finally ended up together in New York City. But that was only after one of them spent four exhausting years in the job market—enduring 30 interviews and six campus visits. Read the happy couple's advice in Inside Higher Ed.

Major takeaway: Don't spend all your time huddled over your dissertation, isolated in your study. Develop various marketable skills. Be prepared to think beyond a tenure-track position. Now that's good advice for any doctoral candidate.

App of the Month: Five Minutes a Day to Enhance Productivity, Positivity

Want more energy and focus to speed you to the finish line? In just five minutes a day, you can find more energy and focus by using a simple journaling app based on positive psychology principles.

By jotting down your gratitudes, affirmations, and uplifting experiences each day, you can keep the productivity and positivity flowing. Gentle daily reminders will help make this a most productive habit. Endorsed by Tim Ferriss and Leo Babuta, the Five-Minute Journal garners top ratings as an app (iOS and android, $4.99) and as a print book ($18.88) available from Amazon.

Use it each morning to identify three good things in your life, three top important outcomes for the day, and your strengths and talents. In the evening, reflect on three amazing experiences and add an inspiring photo. [It's my favorite app after Lexulous, by the way.] Daily notifications help you cultivate the journaling habit that can rewire your brain for success and happiness.

Editor's note: Discover more ways to increase your happiness in the free course, "The Science of Happiness," offered by two Berkeley psychologists via edX, a recognized provider of quality internet-based college courses.


Would you benefit from one-on-one support?

A positive psychology coach can partner with you to find a better advisor or desired job, to guide you in cultivating good dissertation habits, or support you in countless ways so you finish faster and enjoy the journey. Apply for a free consultation today here.


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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