At some point in the future few people will remember this particular virus. I was around in 1997 when the US monetary system almost folded up, we lived in a state where the savings bank crisis hit, the 9/11 attacks I watched on live TV and I was a stock broker sometime after the 1999 technology stock collapse. We thought no one would ever forget these momentous earth shaking events. Few of my college students now have ever heard of them. So your excuse for the loss of your doctorate will mean little even 5 years from now. No pity and no one feeling bad for you. You will just be one more person who could not move forward and achieve a goal. You will probably be working for a doctoral person who is your direct supervisor or working in some other doctoral person’s organization.
My job is to take the other side when you are tempted and pressured to give up. There are many fine websites that tell you how to write, how to assemble or how to research your dissertation. Many are very good. I would stay away from the ones that will write stuff for you since I think (my guess) they sell the same stuff over and over. The software to check on “borrowed” dissertation materials is probably as good as the software we use in our classes on class papers. You do not want to be caught plagiarizing.
Pay for a tutor at your college, a flesh and blood person, who is recommended by your department or the graduate college. I have real concerns over a source you use over the net and who you pay with something like Paypal or some other medium. How embarrassing to find out the dissertation you bought was someone else’s earlier doctoral thesis repackaged as your work. Do the work yourself and get advice from your graduate college, doctoral committee or your department on hiring specific specialists to help with writing, researching or assembling your dissertation. You may even be able to hire a research librarian by the hour to assist you and teach you some techniques. I was poor so I hung around the library late at night and (politely) pestered Librarians.
So the crisis is here, now what do you do? First, email your doctoral committee separately and ask each if they are OK and if they need anything? Later email them and let them know that you are still working on your dissertation. For the first contact be a good person and show concern for the professors. Perhaps being older they do need a bit of help. This contagion is causing a lot of fear for older folks especially with additional health concerns. They may also be alone so the outside contact will be nice. They may be in a state of fear and snappish, if so be polite and remind them that you are around and be compassionate. Later you can work on discussing your paper. For now just be a caring human with them as you are with others. Be a positive light in this time of fear and confusion.
When was the last time you worked on your paper? Does the thought of starting up on it make you mad? Are you mad at me for even bringing this up? That feeling is a good place to start. Recognize it and deal with it. Pick up your paper and read it out loud (the out loud part is important) and maybe tape it as your read. Being away from it should give you some insight so write down what you feel and note any rough spots by making some actual written notes. Set up a schedule and ease back into daily work periods. Yeah I know this may suck to a number of you but are you going to reach your goal or not? Can you see in your mind’s eye you walking down the aisle graduating? Can you see yourself dressed sharply being introduced to the other staff as doctor such and such on your first day at the new job? Can you see the higher wages, bigger paycheck, more power and decision making as you work your way up at the next level in any company?
Take the gray fog that has filled your brain/life with all this COVID stuff and vacuum it from your brain. Ten years from now your life will be radically different or the same as it is now. You get to decide! Do you roll over and quit or do you get yourself back in the saddle before you have lost all momentum? When all of this ends there will be confusion and craziness but colleges will want to show they are still moving forward. So they may push hard to get doctorates and other degrees out the door to show politicians that they deserve more money. If that happens you want to be prepared and be one of the first pushed out as a graduate.
To do that you must be prepared and on the minds of your committee members and the department chair. So make humble and polite contact, offer to help if help is needed. You may only be able to help in small ways and you may only be able to help by providing social support. Do not use this as a sales tactic. If you are not genuinely concerned then stay away. Folks can tell if you are just doing things to get things. Your first concern should be for others. Start with your families, neighbors and perhaps the school folks I mentioned above. Use common sense and do not expose yourself to sick folks. Use common sense and good timing.
Mind your goals,
Dr. Randy Parker
National Doctoral Students Association