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Destination Dissertation A Traveler’s Guide to a Done Dissertation (my reading notes)

The second book I absolutely did not like at all was “Destination Dissertation: A Traveler’s Guide to a Done Dissertation“. As I indicated in my reading notes of Ogden’s “Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in Two Semesters or Less“, I acquired this book because Dr. Kimberly Wiley, someone whose advice I fully trust, suggested that other academic mothers had suggested four books, all of which I’ve read and written about (here’s my blog post on Bolker, my post on Davis, Parker and Straub, and my post on Ogden).

I should add that I was really, really looking forward to reading Destination Dissertation because (a) other people had recommended it and (b) I’m addicted to travelling (even though I totally see the downsides of academic travel). This book appeared to be a fun read, and since I’ve been reading a ton of books on the PhD journey to help my own doctoral students, I thought I’d buy it and read it. Well, best laid plans…

Don’t get me wrong: Foss and Waters are delightful writers. The book is fun (if long and heavy!). Destination Dissertation is a freaking 474 pages. If you are a slow reader, or have to do something else with your life, just say no.

Here’s where I started to get upset at Foss and Waters’ volume. Again, the Ogden trope that you can get this done as though it were just as simple as spending 12,000 hours in a project.

Losing a reader is easy when you make grandiose claims before page 23. You need 1,078 hours in an easy 29 steps to finish your dissertation?! Wow. I wish somebody had told me before I spent N years of my life thinking, reading, doing fieldwork, researching, analyzing data. If you remove the absurd claims about how little time it takes to finish a doctoral dissertation and the rather impossible timelines, these books are actually quite useful.

So, let me list what I did actually learn from Foss and Waters’ book.

I do not think assigning time constraints to doing dissertation proposals and data collection actually works.

But again, once you get past the ridiculous timelines, there are a lot of fun bits to read in this long tome.

Verdict: A fun read, and I can get over the absurdly ridiculous timeline (where no, you can’t go to conferences, travel, do fieldwork, get sick, have children, if you want to complete your dissertation within Foss and Waters’ rigid schedule). But I would like at least *some* acknowledgment that students may get derailed and concrete strategies for those who fall off the wagon. As with Hunt Ogden’s book, I suggest that as you read Foss & Waters, skip time allocations, read plethora of usefully presented examples, and do have fun.

And as I said, there ARE people for whom it worked. See examples below.

As with everything I write about (and this is why I never say I am doing a book review, but simply typing my reading notes), Your Mileage May Vary.

Posted in academia, graduate school, research, writing.

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