- Understand the committee process – Depending upon what school you attend they will have their own policies about the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee is compromised of the dissertation chair and two additional members. These individuals will be the team that review your dissertation and whom you defend it to. Some schools will allow you to pick your committee, while other schools will allow you to pick the dissertation chair and some schools you will have no say. The decision of which school to attend based upon how they do their committees is up to you, but you will want to understand that process. Once you reach the dissertation phase, you want to go to the distance, so understand the process.
- APA or MLA or another writing format – Ask to understand what the school’s writing policy is in terms of research papers. The most common form is APA (American Psychology Association), but some schools use MLA while others may use a different format. Know the format and start learning it prior to classes starting.
- Check for software that can help with APA or MLA. Personally, I like Perrla (www.perrla.com), there are others so check them out. The key to success is to know and plan what the requirements a head of time and line up the equipment first. You would not build a home first without a plan and so learn the requirements early. So start building the foundation by having the right tools from the start.
- Prepare to research – spending time researching is really important. I know for myself, I prefer to print out the electronic journals I am going to read and use. So for me, I go through loads of paper and ink, which means we buy in bulk. Save the articles and create a filing system that will allow you to refer back to them. Many school libraries have what is known as Refworks and that creates an electronic file.
Working and obtaining your doctoral program is quite a process, but very rewarding at the same time. The key is just to plan and I am a planner for sure. I am about three classes away from my dissertation phase and I am starting to plan who I might want to be on my committee. No decisions have been finalized, but I am certainly tossing names around for consideration. There are many things to consider when deciding on a doctoral program, once the decision has been made, ensure you have the right tools.