The reflection in the mirror of writing a dissertation

I am writing my dissertation for a doctorate in organizational leadership. As I  look at my reflection in the mirror of the process as I approach the end it has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done for several reasons.  First, it requires supreme motivation. There is no structure or accountability other than my own. I tend to work well with a goal and deadlines, and I do my best work at the deadline. So, having an open schedule to plan and write is anathema to my personality and habit. Second, it’s not about what I think, believe or my experience.

My dissertation is applied, which means it is centered on a problem within an organization. Theoretically more practical because it is directed and applied. In general, the percent of people who have earned a doctoral degree in the United States is roughly 2-3%, and only 3-4% of those have achieved their doctorate with applied dissertations.

It is unlike anything I have done. It isn’t a blog post, or article, or any other idea or thought. Sure there is an idea or problem you are trying to understand, but that is not the same. Why is that different? Well, those other things are based on my assessments, experience or ideas. It seems simple, but a dissertation takes the existing research and extends that research with your own study. You are building on a specific past. That past is validated with peer review.

The most glaring challenge to my own hubris is the literature review, which requires me not to use my own assessments as assertion, but other’s peer reviewed research to lay the conceptual framework for the dissertation. What I believe, what I think is the truth, what I want, or what I have experienced is in general, totally irrelevant to the literature review and any qualitative or quantitative research study.

In one way it is refreshing because for the first time it really isn’t about me, but what others have done. You can dispute the methodology, or the interpretation of some of the literature, but the dissertation is grounded in what others have done. My beliefs, ideas, and personal preferences are not. Although, I can easily take what might be considered a logical argument, or even some quantitative data, or experience and use that as fact to support the correctness of what I know to be, correct. That is still just my assessment. Until others confer validity meaning is singular.

In the end, completing a dissertation is really about perseverance and motivation. When my work is included with others in a peer-reviewed process there is identity. Getting to see my reflection in the mirror of the writing process, and consider my place in the process is an added benefit.