What is a Doctorate? Well, I am here..

To understand where, exactly, here is, you’ll just have to go see the rest: What Exactly is a Doctorate?

I have planned 20 hours a week to work on my finishing the dissertation starting in September. I’m guessing I have about 100 hours to go (which doesn’t sound too bad considering I’ve got 425 hours in).  I probably won’t be much fun for a few weeks.

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The Trail of Dots in a Table of Contents

For years, I’ve tried to figure out how to get the “proper” trail of dots into a Table of Contents (TOC).  The problem?  I didn’t know how to google it properly.  Apparently, you need to use the phrase “leader dots” in your query (because that is officially what they are called).


It turns out to be pretty easy to do, once you understand that a typical TOC with leader dots is set up with two TABS.


The first tab sets the END of the leader dots.  We use a right-justified setting for the tab to do this, and click on the “Leader dots” option.


The second tab sets the BEGINNING of the page numbers, so it is left-justified and placed just to the right of the first tab.  For example, if you set the first tab for 5.375″, you might set the second tab for 5.5″.


Of course, it’s easier to just generate a TOC automatically from the Document Map, but that isn’t always an option (i.e. APA or MLA documents are tricky).   Here’s my quick 2-minute tutorial for setting the tabs for leader dots in Word 2007.

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Inspiration for Rough Dissertation Days

Some days you need the eloquence of Obama, sometimes you need the light-heartedness of the masked bunny.

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10-minute Breaks

For the majority of the time I’ve been working on my dissertation, I’ve had my computer set to lock me out every 50 minutes so that I have to take a break.

I noticed that Halley had some good break strategies, so I decided to try hers on sunny days.

My 10-minutes as a dog:

Sometimes it backfires.

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Re-entering Society after Life as a Hermit

I’ve been sitting in my office at home working from dawn to dusk on my dissertation for approximately 7 weeks with no travel or distraction. I wish I could report that my literature review is done, but after 220 hours, 215 collected papers, and over 20,000 words written … it’s not. I’ve simultaneously loved what I’m learning and cursed why I ever wanted to get a Ph.D. in the first place – sometimes in the same day (or even the same hour).

Friends on twitter have kept me sane during long days at home alone and picked me back up late at night after dissertation breakdowns. My advisor has (very awesomely) met with me for an hour every weekend to remind me to stay focused, give me pep talks, and help get me out of the mire of confusion that is my lit review. Joel has spent some late nights, after he is exhausted after working late himself, to help me make sense of some jigsaw puzzle of ideas or writing. I am starting to understand why every dissertation has an “Acknowledgements and Dedication” page right after the title page, and I wonder if I will be the first Ph.D. candidate to officially thank my social network on mine (assuming I get there, that is).

I look forward to the two days a week when Christine comes in to the office. Even if we both sit silently working, it’s nice to have the company. I love it when friends (Leah, Rose, Dan, …) video chat with me on the Internet so I feel like I am not such a hermit (even though I am). I value it greatly when an old friend (Jesse) will listen to me ramble on about issues in math ed on a Saturday night until my phone threatens to spontaneously combust. I love Sally for just knowing that I just can’t be trusted to drive with so much on my mind.

I rarely leave the house (except to greet the UPS guy or to walk to the end of the driveway to get the mail). I work out on an exercise bike in the basement (while using my laptop to check and respond to email). I don’t think I’ve had to buy one tank of gas in six weeks.

Usually, I can’t tell you what day of the week it is and yesterday, I accidentally signed a check with the year 1999 instead of 2009 (if that’s any indication of my level of sanity). I eat the exact same breakfast and lunch every day because it’s too hard to think about little things like recipes, cooking, and grocery-shopping (an interesting and unexpected side benefit of this practice is that I’ve actually lost a few pounds). Today, I got out of bed, fed the dogs, and sat down at my computer at 7:30am. I finally thought to have breakfast at 2:30pm.

Some days, even after taking a shower, I get back into my pajamas for the rest of the day. If it’s going to be a really hard day, I wear my pajamas with my “magic dissertation boots” … (self-portrait)

But today I leave my dissertation for a week and temporarily re-enter society. Do you think society will take me back?

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