Post-Dissertation Blues

The year after the dissertation defense tends to be one of both joy and exhaustion. After all of that work and angst, it’s hard to think one iota about revising it into a book project or working on new projects. As one person told me, “Mostly you want to sit around the house watching Gilligan's Island and eating as much ice cream as you can afford.”

I’ve seen three basic approaches to the post-dissertation blues: Chucking it all and taking a vacation from scholarship for a year. Gutting it through that year by revising the dissertation into a viable book manuscript/research proposal/grant application. Rebooting for new research interests that go in different directions from the dissertation, intentionally ignoring the dissertation area.

As dean, I encourage my new Ph.D.'s to balance that year with both rejuvenating projects and at least a minimal amount of work on those all-important book revisions. Once that year passes, it will be even harder to go back to that project and rework it into a substantial manuscript; new research will be published during that time, your memory of details will fade, and quickly you will be tempted to move on to more interesting (i.e., different) work.

What advice can you offer to freshly minted Ph.D.'s who are contemplating their next steps on the research agenda? –Gene C. Fant Jr.

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