Forming a Dissertation Support Group

Around the time I started writing my prospectus, I formed my Dissertation Support Group (DSG). I formed the group with two other graduate students that were in my year. We chose each other based not on shared academic interests but a shared attitude toward our work. We were all committed to find the joy in the dissertation writing process, and none of us wanted to spend our time together complaining about our work.

The format of our discussions has changed, but during that prospectus-writing time, we took turns every meeting looking at a different person’s writing—anything from a few pages to a completed draft. The feedback I got from my group was so encouraging and helpful, and it was very reassuring and inspiring to watch other people’s growth so closely.

I highly recommend finding a DSG of your own, but choose your group carefully. Don’t necessarily pick your best friends or people in your area of expertise. Pick people who you feel affinities with, work-wise—we found each other through our Qualifying Exam study groups. Also, don’t feel the need to invite everyone in. We’ve several times had to kindly explain to friends that we don’t have room in our group for them. We have a small number and it works for us, so we protect it. I think a group of six or seven would prevent everyone from knowing each other’s work intimately, which is a huge part of what I value in my DSG.

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