Now you have decided to pursue your doctorate degree, you have selected your degree program and the college or university you want to attend. Wonderful!!
Congratulations on your decision to take your education to the highest level!
One of the most important things when going for your doctorate degree is time management. At the doctoral level, the work is all about the research and by that I mean valid research. Look for an upcoming blog about research and the expectations at the doctoral level. For now though, time management is going to go be necessary to be successful at the doctoral level.
What do I mean by time? Well much depends upon the school and their requirements. For example, at the school where I attend, we have two discussions each week. So for me that means, I need to allow time to read the required chapters which can range from 2 – 3 chapters each week. Then I have to do my research on my discussions, which is going to take me several hours to find, read and write. So I try to allow about eight hours for my discussion work. Some colleges have only one discussion and some college will have more, so you want ensure you understand your own time schedule and the school requirements.
Then we have the papers, oh the many papers that are required in doctoral programs. The goal of the doctoral program is get each individual prepared to conduct an original research paper and place it into a five chapter book (dissertation). So to prepare each student for this achievement, there will be papers that are to be written. In my doctoral classes, the typical requirement is four short papers about 4 – 6 pages in length with a final paper being anywhere from 8 – 12 pages as a requirement. My classes are accelerated so basically we write a paper almost every week. How many papers and how long the papers, depend upon the school, but estimate about 6 – 10 hours to write the small papers and 15 – 30 hours for longer papers. Remember these papers are preparing you for the dissertation phase, so practice and working on writing is really important.
I can hear the thoughts now, WOW that is a lot of time to take out of my already busy life just to meet the discussion requirement. Remember we are working on a doctorate degree and so we may have to give up some activities until we have finished the doctoral journey. If there is one thing I understand it is sacrifices, I have many activities that I love to do in my free time, but for now my doctoral journey is a priority.
Procrastination is one thing as a professor that I see a lot of from my undergraduate students, but at the doctoral level that can present real challenges if proper research is not obtained. Personally, I had just this situation occur. I planned ahead and pulled about 15 articles for my paper, but after rereading the assignment, my research was not correct for the topic I was about to write.
So plan assignments ahead of time, manage your time wisely, set aside a quiet place to work, prepare to do research early and prepare to spend a vast amount of time writing. Also do not forget about proofreading! Proofreading is really important, while spell check will catch some errors, it will not catch everything. What happens if you type the word correctly, but it is not the right word?
This is where proofreading comes into play! The one thing we do not want as a doctoral student is our writing to become a Grammarly cartoon. If you are not familiar with Grammarly, they put out some great cartoons about writing, but I digress. For proofreading, one should estimate about two hours or perhaps more if you are like me. What I like to do is take my writing and set it aside for overnight, the next day, I like to reread my writing and read it out loud as well. I find reading out loud helps me catch more errors and then if at all possible ask for a second opinion. Sometimes fresh eyes will catch errors because as the writer, we know what we want it to say, but our eyes may not be reading what is on the paper.
Time management is critical for the doctoral learner because it will determine success or failure. Many individuals start doctoral programs, but few actually complete the journey. One of the keys to success is being able to manage ones time. Life is a journey and there will always be something going on in life, the key is to manage your time wisely. So being willing to give up some hobbies and plan ahead are great tools to success for the doctoral journey.