The systems, content, and services of doctoralnet.com have been evolving since 2007 when Dr. E. Alana James started to mentor doctoral students through to graduation. Very quickly her work for one University became mentoring for two others as well. She found that her viewpoints and insights on the work to be done frequently overlapped from one school to another. She found herself spending a lot of time responding to the same questions over and over. She saw that when dissertations went to committee it was often the same things that bogged them down – lack of understanding of the nature of the dissertation as centered on the study, lack of coordination between the theory, the lit and the methodology.
It was for all of these reasons that she decided to create a website, www.doctoralnet.com, which is geared toward helping doctoral students with every step of the dissertation process. Alana began to make videos focused on important challenges faced by her students. For example, no matter what your degree, a review of literature requires an ability to discuss reading in a certain fashion, or the importance of the correlation between the literature review and the methodology remains the same. Videos allowed students to watch and re-these key points until the concepts caught hold.
Part of the maturity process of DoctoralNet.com included going through defense of proposal and final defense with, what is now, over 20 graduate doctors. The viewpoint of many people going through the same processes allowed Alana to question which writing strategies might offer the most possible efficient trajectory towards finishing faster. A survey of doctoral students reported that they were interested in dissertation retreats. The first of these was held in November 2011.
Retreats evolved from in person to virtual as Alana learned that part of the challenge with going away was the travel cost – thus virtual retreats over several weekends were born – allowing students to work via the web in their own locations. Luxury retreats to Ireland (where Alana lives) are still an option as well.
Doctoralnet.com is dedicated to providing services by making use of the efficiencies of Internet services and small group processes. DoctoralNet Academy is a self-guided membership service through which a person can develop a defensible dissertation by following a map. Once a month group webinar meetings allow questions to be asked and answered.
A step up from that that is the Finishing Faster groups making use of group processes. These have more live meetings, regular daily accountability surveys, weekly check-ins on the net and facilitated processes that include writing buddies. A proven strategy, doctoral students tell the doctoralnet.com team that Finishing Faster helps them stay on track as their work progresses efficiently.
If you ask any of the DoctoralNet.com professors, they will tell you that 50% All But Dissertation status is a current travesty of higher education. There are many legitimate reasons doctoral students do not finish, but many also are discouraged on their path because of changes within their departments at their universities, etc.
Doctoral work is hard enough, especially with a growing population of students employed full time and parenting. Whatever support can be given that allows candidates to fulfill their dreams and recoup their investments in time and resources seems great work to many. More and more editors, professors, etc are signing on to support students who use the site and the services.
DoctoralNet.com has paid off for Alana and her partner Tracesea Slater as well. Sage Publishing has asked them to write a book on the dissertation process – another way to help students finish faster!