The Problem with Most Dissertation Proposals

You have decided to earn a Ph.D. You are ready to devote your time and energy to revealing new discoveries to the world of science. As you immerse yourself into the process of learning research skills, you are probably amazed at how much time and trouble doing a single study takes.

With this realization, you  may be thinking that if you are going to have to spend 1-2 years doing a dissertation, it might as well be a study that makes a significant contribution to the field – a study that will make a name for yourself. What does this mean?

It means for most people that you carve out a very large research question that will take more than 2 years to complete. How about 6-8 years?

I made one helpful suggestion to every one of my Ph.D. students that made it possible for them to complete their programs. Here is my speech.

You have developed some interesting – might I say intriguing ideas here.  How long do you suppose it will take to finish your dissertation?

Here is the typical  answer.

“Probably a year – maybe a year and a half”

“If this were my program of research, it would take me 8 years. Did you plan on hanging around that long as a Ph.D. student?”

Every student I ever worked with took on too many questions. They do a great job of laying out a 5-10 year program of research.

As I see it – you have 3 studies here. Why not choose one for your dissertation and delay the other two for later?

I am discussing this as a faculty member. This is also what I did as a Ph.D. student. This is what most people do from my experience. If you want to finish your Ph.D. program, you have to focus on one and only one question to ask.

It sounds simple. Believe me – it is not simple. It only looks simple after you are finished.

Robert Rodgers. Ph.D.

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