- Online Degrees
- Tuition & Financial Aid
- Transferring Credit
- The Franklin Experience
There was an unexpected error with the form (your web browser was unable to retrieve some required data from our servers). This kind of error may occur if you have temporarily lost your internet connection. If you're able to verify that your internet connection is stable and the error persists, the Franklin University Help Desk is available to assist you at [email protected] , 614.947.6682 (local), or 1.866.435.7006 (toll free).
Just a moment while we process your submission.
Setting The Record Straight: ABD (All But Dissertation) Degree Status
Doctorate degrees are a lifetime achievement that few individuals pursue and complete. In fact, according to leading labor market analytics firm EMSI, only 3.6% of degrees completed in 2020 were doctoral degrees.
It’s not surprising that doctorates are completed by fewer individuals. Doctorate degrees are intensive, requiring the highest levels of scholarly research and writing. For many people, the dissertation is the most challenging part of getting a doctorate degree. That’s why “ABD,” or “all but dissertation,” has entered the mainstream terminology of doctorate degrees. However, the term leaves many confused if ABD is a type of degree or not.
We’re here to help clarify what ABD means and how it relates to earning your doctorate degree.
Is ABD A Form Of A Doctorate Degree?
No . High-quality doctorate programs require the completion of a dissertation to earn your doctoral degree (with the exception of professional and clinical doctorates in areas like law and nursing). ABD simply means you have completed all required doctorate coursework, but have not written and defended your dissertation.
While ABD brings you one step closer to completing your doctorate, achieving ABD status doesn't mean you can take your foot off the gas. ABD doesn’t hold academic weight and you can’t be called a doctor until you finish your dissertation.
Unfortunately, many doctorate students stop at ABD. Let’s look at the reasons why.
Why So Many Doctorate Students Stop at ABD
There are a host of reasons doctoral students may dropout or take a break at the ABD stage of their doctorate program. Let’s look at some of the most common reasons students stop at ABD so you can navigate these pitfalls:
- Self doubt: Some students struggle with imposter syndrome and wonder if they’re really qualified to get their doctoral degree. Lack of confidence can leave students feeling unmotivated, causing them to put their degree on pause or dropout all together.
- Time Management: Once you get to the dissertation stage, you no longer have the structure of a typical course with weekly deadlines. Some students struggle with managing their time and fall behind. If procrastination gets the best of them, it may feel easier to quit than get back on track.
- Finances: Getting a doctorate degree is a significant financial investment. If students don’t properly budget, or face new financial challenges, they may pause their degree at ABD.
- Personal Circumstances: Whether students have family or professional changes, some situations that lead to ABD are unavoidable. If students need to take a break, they should put a plan in place for picking up where they eft off.
- Dissertation Intimidation: Starting a dissertation can feel like a stark departure from the familiarity of taking coursework. At this stage, students are put into the driver’s seat and are responsible for their own progression, which can feel daunting.
- Difficulty Writing: The dissertation is extremely research and writing intensive. Most dissertations are over 100 pages. If students struggle with focused and scholarly writing, it can be a detriment to finishing a doctoral degree.
- Lack of Support: Some students feel isolated when they move into the dissertation phase of their doctorate degree. If you don’t choose a program with support services or create a strong peer network, the solitary nature of a dissertation can deter students from finishing.
Earning a doctorate is challenging and rewarding, but do you know what to really expect? Download this free guide for tips and insights to help you prepare for success.
If you started but haven’t completed a doctoral program you aren’t alone. According to the Council of Graduate Schools, almost 50% of students who start a Ph.D. program don’t complete their degree. However, Ph.D. programs only represent one type of doctoral degree. Completion stats vary widely between universities and doctoral degree programs. The biggest difference in successful completion of a doctoral degree is often the university and program a student chooses. If you’re ABD, you need to find a student-centered program designed to meet the needs of ABD students.
Measuring Doctoral Student Success: Average Doctoral Program vs. Student-Centered Doctoral Programs at Franklin University
*Source: First Cohort Data January 2017-August 2021
Are you still feeling stuck at ABD? Let’s look at ways you can set yourself up to successfully complete your doctoral degree.
6 Tips to Complete Your Doctorate—from ABD to Dr.
No matter how long you've been ABD, you can regain your motivation and finish strong. Here are 6 tips that can help you graduate from your doctorate degree program:
- Get inspired early and start thinking about the topic of your dissertation at the beginning of your doctorate program. If you’re ABD, pick a topic you’re passionate about before restarting your doctorate.
- Create a plan that maps out steps and milestones to complete your dissertation in your desired timeframe. Being proactive and setting your own deadlines will help you stay on track.
- Get into a routine so that researching and writing your dissertation just feels like a normal part of your schedule.
- Develop a support system —both at home and in your program. Your family and friends can help you stay motivated, while faculty advisors, committee members and peers can make writing your dissertation feel more manageable.
- Practice self care , because a dissertation isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Most students take anywhere from 1 to 2 years to complete the dissertation, but it can take longer based on the amount of time you commit.
- Find a student-centered universit y that offers dedicated support, including personal faculty advisors and a student support network, that make it easier to complete your doctorate.
Don’t Stop at ABD—Find The Right Program and Complete Your Doctorate Degree
Remember, ABD is not a recognized credential and there are ways to overcome the barriers that prevent many from finishing the work. A doctorate is the academic achievement of a lifetime and is attainable if you stay organized, motivated and dedicated.
Choosing the right doctorate program is the first way to set yourself up for success. Whether you’re starting from the beginning or picking up where you left off, you need a doctorate designed for your unique needs.
Franklin University offers transfer-friendly online doctorate degrees that help working adults achieve their goals. From start to finish, you can complete your doctorate degree in as few as 3 years, including your dissertation. Franklin doctorate programs accept up to 24 hours of transfer credit, so if you have completed coursework, but not your dissertation, Franklin can help you get over the finish line.
Explore the doctoral programs offered at Franklin to see if there is a program that will help you take your career to the next level.
Franklin University 201 S Grant Ave. Columbus , OH 43215
Local: (614) 797-4700 Toll Free: (877) 341-6300 [email protected]
Copyright 2023 Franklin University
All But Dissertation (ABD): A Complete Guide
Published by steve tippins on may 8, 2019 may 8, 2019.
Last Updated on: 30th August 2022, 04:36 am
What does ABD Mean?
The term “ABD” stands for All But Dissertation. This means that you have finished everything in a PhD program except for the dissertation. Someone who is ABD has successfully completed all of the required classwork and any required comprehensive exams. The term itself has no academic standing but is used to tell others where you are in your program.
Having completed in the neighborhood of two years of classwork, it is nice to have something to acknowledge this accomplishment. Many use the term “ABD” to let others know their position in their doctoral journey.
However, this should not be a destination. ABD should just be a way to tell people where you are on your journey, similar to telling someone that you just passed the hardware store on your way home. Home is your destination, not the hardware store.
Can You Get a “PhD ABD Degree”?
The short answer is no, there is no such thing as a “PhD ABD degree.” Rather, the term “PhD ABD” is used to refer to a place in one’s journey towards getting a PhD.
Another term that has begun to be used to connote a similar message to “PhD ABD” is “PhDc” (also expressed as “PhD(c)” or “PhD-c”). This term has gained popularity recently but there is concern about its use. The APA has expressed concern that the general public may not know what the term means and believe that the holder has completed her/his PhD. Similarly, the term “ABD Degree” makes claim to a degree that was never completed.
When a similar question was asked online, one user commented, “A PhD that’s All But Dissertation is like an espresso that is All But Coffee. It’s hot water with a bit of sugar, thus defeating the entire purpose of the exercise.”
Neither PhD ABD nor PhDc represents the achievement of a degree, so the use of either in a formal setting, such as your CV or in correspondence, should probably be avoided. Avoid making claims like holding an ABD Degree.
However, a new type of degree has arisen lately for those who stop their studies having completed all but their dissertation. This gives people something to show for their time in the PhD program. Called names such as Certificate of Doctoral Completion, this is a way to allow students who leave a program to do so with a degree–albeit, one not nearly as esteemed as a PhD. This may serve the purpose as an ABD degree.
All But Dissertation: Why Do So Many PhD Candidates Quit?
Around 50% of those who start a PhD program do not finish . Many of those who do not finish get to the All But Dissertation stage before they leave their program. Why would someone leave a PhD program after such a big time and effort investment?
There are many reasons why people leave at the ABD level. Among the reasons are:
Lack of funds
Getting a PhD takes time and money. For many people the money (or access to loans) can run out. If that happens, there may be no other option but to leave.
Life happens and situations change. Maybe you have had two kids during the process and they need your time and attention, perhaps your aging parents need your care, or maybe your Aunt Melville died and left you her $30 million estate. We cannot predict the future, and valid reasons may arise to leave a program.
There are many stories about abusive advisors/mentors in PhD programs. There is an uneven power distribution between committees and doctoral students. This can turn into a reason to not finish a degree.
Realization that they don’t want/need a PhD
One of the things that you learn in PhD classes is critical thinking and asking questions. What is not part of these programs is solving problems. You learn to answer questions and leave the application/problem solving to others.
Some people get to the ABD stage and determine that they are more suited to being advocates and solving problems than answering questions, giving them an incentive to go out and begin solving the problems that they see. The world needs both types of people.
All But Dissertation: How Not to Stay There
Many people get stuck at the ABD phase of the journey and do not finish their degree. Most of the time, this leaves them with nothing to show for the considerable amount of coursework they completed.
If you decide to leave a program at the ABD stage, having loans can make it seem worse. Eight months after you stop attending school, student loan payments kick in. No one really enjoys making student loan payments, and they can seem even worse if you left a program without a degree.
Here is my advice for powering through the all but dissertation phase and earning your degree.
Know what’s coming
When you were taking classes, your program was laid out in front of you. You knew which courses to take when and what grades you needed. As you enter the dissertation phase things are not as straightforward. You should read everything that your school provides on the process and become familiar with any templates that are provided. A good template can signal to you what sections are needed in each chapter and save you time.
Also understand the review process for the work you submit and plan accordingly. If it takes two weeks for your committee to review your Prospectus , then work on finding more literature for your eventual Chapter 2. If your Proposal is being reviewed, start preparing your IRB submission. Be as efficient as possible.
Hack Your Dissertation
5-Day Mini Course: How to Finish Faster With Less Stress
Interested in more helpful tips about improving your dissertation experience? Join our 5-day mini course by email!
Work every day
There is a book titled “Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day.” The idea is that you need to work on your dissertation consistently, everyday. I find that people who put time in on a regular basis, daily if possible, tend to move forward faster than those who put in a lot of time on an irregular basis. If you have large amounts of time between sessions, you have to spend time remembering where you were. Make writing your dissertation a habit and you will move beyond the ABD stage.
Ask for help
In our society, we’re often taught that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But if you want to complete your PhD program, you’d better let go of that belief and recognize that asking for help is both wise essential for your success.
If you are in a graduate program there are people out there who can help you if you ask. For example, librarians can help you find material and save you lots of time. If your writing needs help, most schools have Writing Centers and if that is not enough, a good academic editor can save you a lot of time and help you move forward.
You dissertation chair and committee are resources as well. Ask the members of the committee for guidance (read: What to Do if Your Advisor is Ignoring You ).
If you are looking for more hands-on help, a dissertation coach can help you towards the finish line.
Be good to yourself
Graduate school is not a sprint. It can be a long, grueling process so you need to take care of yourself along the way. You don’t want to reach the end and be so burned out that you aren’t able to use the degree you worked so hard for.
Self care is very important. Try to add simple things like taking a walk of talking to a friend to your routine. This can save your sanity and help you move forward. For more on this see my article on self care .
Realize your progress
It is easy to get lost in the vastness of writing a dissertation and not realize how much you have actually accomplished. Sometimes it is good to stop and look back at what you have accomplished. For example, you have finished all of your coursework and comprehensive exams. You have done a great deal. Now you get to concentrate on something that truly interests you.
Reward yourself for genuine progress. Rather than paying attention to how much time you spent writing, set mile markers such as writing 2,000 words, finishing a draft of your Chapter One, or addressing all of your committee’s comments.
All But Dissertation: Summary
You have the chance to be one of the 2 percent of the population with a doctoral degree. Take care of yourself on the journey, stay dedicated to the process and call on all available resources. You can do this!
Book a Free Consultation
Book a Free Consultation with one of our expert coaches today.
Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins
What makes a good research question.
Creating a good research question is vital to successfully completing your dissertation. Here are some tips that will help you formulate a good research question. What Makes a Good Research Question? These are the three Read more…
When it comes to writing a dissertation, one of the most fraught questions asked by graduate students is about dissertation structure. A dissertation is the lengthiest writing project that many graduate students ever undertake, and Read more…
Choosing a Dissertation Chair
Choosing your dissertation chair is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make in graduate school. Your dissertation chair will in many ways shape your experience as you undergo the most rigorous intellectual challenge Read more…
Please subscribe me to your newsletter.
Weekly hour-long meetings
Review of materials
Email support between meetings
Someone who’s on your side & dedicated to your success
Add to Cart
This website does not fully support Internet Explorer. For a better experience, please consider using a modern browser such as Chrome , Firefox , or Edge .
All But Dissertation: What Is It?
If you’re wondering about all but dissertation (ABD) status, then you’re likely already a doctoral student or you’re thinking about heading back to school to earn your terminal degree. Like other terminal degrees, a doctorate represents the pinnacle of academic achievement in any given field. Having a PhD or other post-nominal doctorate title instantly confers prestige and professional recognition.
Earning your doctorate can also open the door to greater professional opportunities further up the career ladder. Yet, there is a reason why comparatively few people earn a doctorate compared to those who earn bachelor’s degrees: It takes a lot of time, hard work and resources to complete the degree. Unlike a bachelor’s degree, a doctoral degree requires both coursework and the completion of a dissertation. During this process, a doctoral learner may find themselves with an ABD status. What is ABD? Read on to find out.
What Is ABD?
If you’ve begun researching the process of earning a doctoral degree, then you’ve likely come across this acronym and are wondering what an ABD is. All but dissertation is a status that a doctoral learner achieves after completing all of the required coursework and passing the qualifying exams. It means that all the learner has left to complete is the dissertation, hence, “all but dissertation.”
Is There an ABD Degree?
Many people confuse ABD status with an ABD degree. There is no actual ABD degree — it’s not a specific course of study. ABD is simply a status that refers to where a particular learner is on their doctoral journey.
There is another way to indicate a learner’s ABD status. When a doctoral learner is working through the coursework, they are referred to as a “doctoral student.” Once that person achieves ABD status, they are then referred to as a “doctoral candidate” or a “PhD candidate.”
However, again, there is no ABD degree. ABD status can refer to a doctoral learner in any type of doctoral program in any field. It refers to a person who is just beginning the process of dissertation topic selection, as well as to someone who is about to step in front of the dissertation committee to defend their dissertation — the final step in the process of earning a doctoral degree.
Here’s a quick look at the typical doctoral degree process:
- Complete the required doctoral coursework
- Pass the qualifying exams
- Propose, research and write your dissertation
- Defend your dissertation before the dissertation committee
- Receive your doctoral degree (and celebrate!)
Is There an All But Dissertation Completion Program?
In academia, the word “program” typically refers to a “degree program.” Although you won’t find an all but dissertation degree program, you likely will find a system of support for doctoral completion at your school . However, your school might not refer to that system of support as an official program.
Different universities establish different types and degrees of support and resources for doctoral learners working toward finishing an all but dissertation completion program. Some schools, such as those that offer online coursework , will also offer on-campus residency programs, for example.
Even if your school’s on-campus residency program isn’t mandatory, it’s always a good idea to take advantage of them. An on-campus residency involves visiting the campus for a period of time in order to collaborate in person with your advisor, the rest of your dissertation committee, other faculty members and your peers — fellow doctoral learners.
On-campus residencies are an excellent way to refine your ideas, gather some new perspectives and explore areas of your dissertation topic that you might not have thought of by yourself. You may also attend seminars and workshops, and you may have the opportunity to present your preliminary dissertation research and ideas. These presentations will prove to be invaluable practice for defending your dissertation later on.
Why Do So Many Learners Struggle With All But Dissertation Status?
Not all doctoral learners complete their degree. Some of them will complete the coursework, achieve ABD status and then remain in perpetual ABD status. This is unfortunate, and there are many possible reasons for it, including the following:
- Lack of structure: Some doctoral students may do well with the coursework, but they can struggle with the lack of structure associated with ABD status. As a doctoral candidate, you won’t receive class assignments any longer; instead, you’ll have to give yourself assignments and hold yourself accountable.
- Time management: Upon first achieving ABD status, it might seem like there’s suddenly plenty of time to research and write your dissertation. Yet, it’s all too easy to fall into poor time management habits.
- Finances: Some students may decide to return to work full-time for a while before returning to school to work on their dissertation. However, not all of them do return.
There are other common reasons, such as a lack of support, difficulty with scholarly writing and imposter syndrome. If you’re aware of the potential pitfalls of ABD status in advance, you may be better positioned to handle them and successfully complete your dissertation. Another smart strategy for staying on track with your dissertation is to enroll in a doctoral program that has the dissertation process integrated directly into the coursework, so that there isn’t an abrupt shift between attending class and beginning your research.
You’ve Achieved All But Dissertation Status. What Now?
All but dissertation status doesn’t have to be intimidating. The best way to avoid getting into a quagmire is to begin writing a rough draft right away, even if you aren’t completely sure of your topic yet.
Many doctoral candidates do an excessive amount of research first before narrowing down their topic and beginning their own original research. They might not write a word of their dissertation until their original research is complete. This seems like a rational, linear way to approach the project, but it can also lead to writer’s block when the candidate finally sits down to start writing.
Instead, set aside 20 minutes each day to write. It’s likely that you won’t use any of your initial writing for the final draft of your dissertation, and this is perfectly acceptable. The important thing is to start writing as soon as possible in order to generate some cognitive momentum.
Here are a few other tips to help you move from ABD to doctoral candidate:
- Create a dissertation map that includes every major step you need to complete your work.
- Pair your dissertation map with a monthly schedule of milestones you need to reach. Then, break those milestones down into weekly goals.
- Develop a daily routine for task completion and stick with it.
- Rely on your support network when things get challenging.
- Have a designated place to work, ideally where you won’t have visual or auditory distractions. (If you lack a quiet place to work, position yourself to face the wall and use noise-canceling headphones.)
- Make use of your school’s doctoral resources and support system.
Lastly, remember that you won’t get your dissertation done in a matter of a few months. You’re in it for the long haul, so don’t burn yourself out early. It’s important to practice self-care throughout the entire process.
Strive for work-life balance by taking some time off when needed. For example, you could designate 10 minutes each day as “me time” for meditation, prayer, light reading or even funny pet videos on YouTube. Try to eat well and exercise regularly, and make time for friends now and then.
The College of Doctoral Studies at Grand Canyon University provides extensive, structured support to doctoral learners as they complete their studies and their dissertation. Our dissertation process is integrated directly into the curriculum, which means learners begin working on their research project before completing their classes. This provides a greater degree of support for our students, who also benefit from our scholarly network, faculty support and on-campus residency opportunities.
Approved by the Dean of the College of Doctoral Studies on Dec. 16, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.
- Dissertation Resources
More About GCU
- Campus Experience
- Online Experience
Related Articles in Doctoral Journey
What Is a Conference Paper and How Is It Written?
DNP vs. PhD in Nursing: What’s the Difference?
A Guide To Becoming a Medical and Health Services Manager
- Account Activating this button will toggle the display of additional content Account Sign out
What’s worse than getting a ph.d. in today’s job market not finishing one..
Image courtesy of Purestock
When I first began my Ph.D., I kept hearing other graduate students bandy about the term “ABD,” but I had no idea what it meant. Arrested Botox Detonation? Anointed Between Demigods? I didn’t dare ask, because Rule No. 1 of Grad School Fight Club is that you never admit that you don’t know something in public. (“Oh, Phenomenology of Spirit ? I’ll have to re -read that this semester.”)
Eventually, I figured it out: ABD stands for “all but dissertation,” a description of a student who has finished coursework and passed comprehensive exams, but has yet to complete and defend the doctoral thesis. Today, the Ph.D. Completion Project estimates that the ten-year completion rate (that is, someone’s status a decade after they begin) is 55–64 percent in STEM , 56 percent in the social sciences, and 49 percent in the humanities. Not all Ph.D. dropouts advance to the dissertation stage before they leave—but since the project’s charts start leveling out around Year 8 (the dissertation begins in Year 3 or 4), it’s safe to assume a hell of a lot do.
Aside from the obvious professional consequences (it’s hard enough get a job with a doctorate!), there are also psychological ramifications to leaving grad school without finishing. Last month, Jill Yesko, an ABD in geography, took to Inside Higher Education with a wrenchingly honest look at how she and many of her fellow ABDs feel:
Only in the parallel universe of academia is it possible to log years of Herculean scholarship, write and defend a complex dissertation proposal, and – upon failing to complete one’s dissertation – come away with nothing to show but the humiliation of not being recognized by the academic industrial complex for one’s blood, sweat and uncompensated toil.
Many programs do disown their dropouts, refusing to write letters of recommendation and often cutting off all contact. But the anger, disappointment, and betrayal Yesko expresses here reveal far more about the lasting emotional damage that leaving graduate school can cause. It is, in fact, especially wrenching to students who never envisioned a life outside of academia (and, often having gone directly from college to graduate school, have never lived one). In recent years, many , many online resources have sprung up to offer academic cast-asides the support they otherwise lack.
Speaking of which: Reaction on IHE to Yesko’s piece—and her solution, to offer a new kind of degree between an M.A. and a doctorate—was a snide pile-on. “Can we make sure that the Certificate of Doctoral Completion also comes with a little plastic trophy and a large green ribbon signaling excellent participation?” sniped one commenter. Added another: “These degrees aren’t soccer trophies for young childrens [ sic ] whose spirit might get crushed. Terminal ABD has a meaning: Failure.” And you, dear reader, may also feel, right this second, as if those who leave Ph.D. programs simply couldn’t hack it.
Maybe they couldn’t. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Dissertations—some 250 pages of original research in the humanities, and topping 400 in the social sciences—are objectively, indisputably difficult. It sometimes takes years just to collect data or comb through the necessary archives, and then the damn thing must be written, often in total isolation. Dissertations are not impossible, but they are very hard, and most people in the world—including, perhaps, you, my friend—cannot complete one.
There are innumerable reasons for this, and I know them all, because when I quit academia , I started working for a company that “coaches” dissertators who are blocked, stalled, or simply in need of some practical guidance. Thus, I happen to have firsthand knowledge of the countless obstacles put in the way of ABDs—by outside forces, and by themselves—because it is my job to.
First, the outside hindrances: Some advisers are helpful and supportive. But many run the gamut between absentee, excoriating, and micromanagerial. There are the advisers who retire, leave, or even die. Then there’s the total lack of preparedness for such an extensive and rigorous project: A seminar paper is a 5K fun run; a dissertation is an ultramarathon . And in the social sciences and STEM fields, there are data sets or experiments that simply fall apart.
Then there are the inner hindrances, the ones that cause procrastination, and then shame, and then paralysis. Here’s my favorite: believing, erroneously, that one must read and master every single word of existing scholarship before even beginning to write. Here’s my least favorite (which happens to my clients all the time): refusing to turn in any chapter that isn’t perfect, and thus not turning in anything at all—which results in the adviser getting irate, which puts even more pressure on the student to be even more perfect, ad infinitum . This is how dissertations are stalled, often forever.
So what can be done to fix this? The Izzy Mandelbaums of academia may argue the system is fine the way it is : In a field that requires extended independent work to succeed, the trial by fire of the dissertation is an apt initiation. (“All aboard the pain train!”) But does it have to be this way? I see no reason why, for example, more dissertation advisers couldn’t be enthusiastic about seeing early drafts, to provide guidance and support. Some already do this (mine did), but far too many of my clients say their advisers won’t even look at anything that isn’t “polished.” Every adviser who says this is part of the problem.
Another step in the right direction would be not just to hold dissertation workshops, but also to make them mandatory. A lot of grad students are simply too paralyzed (or ashamed to admit they don’t know what they’re doing) to attend one of their own volition. A mandatory workshop frees them to get the help they need, without having to admit they need help.
And, most importantly, though I’m not sold on Yesko’s idea for an in-between degree, Ph.D. programs need to stop disowning the students who do not graduate. Whatever inconvenience a jilted adviser suffers from an ABD is nothing compared with the ABD’s fractured life and career. The least an adviser can do is write a letter. And, finally, along with the current drive to require programs to publicize their real (i.e., full-time) job placement rates , so should they be compelled to list attrition.
Finally, here’s what ABDs can do to help themselves. Dare to stop reading and start writing, and revel in an early draft that is an unabashed hot mess. Realize that the greatest misconception of dissertation writers is that the project must be perfect. In fact, for a career academic, the dissertation should actually be the worst thing you ever write.
Sure, the best way to avoid the psychic wounds of not completing the dissertation is to squeeze that bad boy out any way you can. But we must also remember that students leave Ph.D. programs for innumerable reasons, usually complex combinations of things in and out of their control. Terminal ABDs will work for much of their lives to overcome what is at best a sense of lingering incompleteness, and at worst lasting anguish and damage. But it is the academic establishment’s treatment of those who fail initiation—disowning, shame, refusal to reveal attrition—that is one of its dirtiest secrets.
Stack Exchange Network
Stack Exchange network consists of 181 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow , the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.
Academia Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for academics and those enrolled in higher education. It only takes a minute to sign up.
Q&A for work
Connect and share knowledge within a single location that is structured and easy to search.
When can a person be called a PhD ABD?
Can one call oneself a PhD ABD (All But Dissertation) after completing all of the course work and working on the dissertation?
- 11 and student who has just enrolled in PhD without coursework? are you a PhD ABD immediately? The PhDs I am considering are "assessed solely on the basis of a thesis", which is not at all unusual here in Australia (to my knowledge). – Frames Catherine White Sep 20, 2014 at 12:39
- 45 You can call yourself whatever you like, whenever you like. But I wouldn't recommend using "ABD" in any official capacity, ever. – JeffE Mar 4, 2015 at 10:11
- 3 Just remember, ABD means Almost Became Doctor. – Bob Brown Feb 1, 2016 at 12:42
- 10 @JeffE I once commented that ABD is like saying you climbed Everest (All But Summit) because you made it to base camp. – Fomite Aug 30, 2016 at 19:18
- 7 Any natural born US citizen over the age of 35 who has resided in the US for at least 14 years can call themselves "President of the United States ABE" -- all but elected. PhD ABD is similarly ridiculous; the dissertation is the requirement of the PhD and everything else is meaningless. – Thomas Aug 3, 2017 at 17:16
8 Answers 8
Some people think it's ok to call yourself PhD ABD when in the Canadian or US system, you pass the qualifying exams and coursework, but haven't yet, or fail to ever, deliver the thesis.
But simply do not call yourself PhD ABD.
It's not attractive to advertise failure.
You're either a PhD candidate, or you're a PhD, or there's nothing to say on the subject (bar a line on the CV filling in the black hole on your timeline with discreet mention of an aborted doctorate). PhD ABD is a ludicrous pseudo-title.
A PhD that's All But Dissertation is like an espresso that is All But Coffee. It's hot water with a bit of sugar, thus defeating the entire purpose of the exercise.
- 25 @TobiasKildetoft: because hot water on its own would just be a masters? – Steve Jessop Sep 19, 2014 at 9:53
- 8 The question seems to be about current PhD candidates using the term to indicate a stage in their candidacy. The distinction being made is useful, the term ABD is commonly used to make that distinction, and completing the non-thesis requirements for a PhD before the thesis is the ordinary process, and not any kind of failure. – Henry Sep 19, 2014 at 18:08
- 7 @Henry I haven't heard of someone calling themselves ABD if they've left the program, but EnergyNumbers (apparently) has: "or fail to ever, deliver the thesis." If the term connotes that possibility in some places, I'd hesitate to use it there too. But even where I would use it, it's more of an "in-group" term for others in a PhD program. E.g., "So how far along are you?" "Oh, I've been ABD for about 8 months now." I wouldn't expect to hear it in wider usage. – Joshua Taylor Sep 20, 2014 at 13:02
- 24 I once said that ABD is like saying you "Climbed Everest, except for that tricky part above base camp with all the rocks and snow". – Fomite Mar 2, 2015 at 2:45
- 6 @Henry, in the vast majority of times I have heard someone refer to themselves as "ABD", it was because they had essentially washed out after comps/quals. Very few current students call themselves "ABD" ... as EnergyNumbers states, once you've completed the coursework and defended your prospectus, you're a "candidate". – Yasha Mar 2, 2015 at 15:40
At many schools there's an official step of "advancing to candidacy" or something similar which is the last official hurdle before the dissertation. Although ABD is an informal term, I would expect somone who described themself as ABD to have passed that step.
- 4 There is a huge level of variation in what "advancing to candidacy" means . In many programs, one can advance to candidacy well before reaching ABD status. – ff524 Sep 19, 2014 at 0:34
- 2 @ff524: Fair enough, I'd still expect someone who said ABD to have advanced to candidacy or done something similar. – Noah Snyder Sep 19, 2014 at 2:58
- No. If you have advanced to candidacy, you refer to yourself as a "PhD Candidate," which is an official title, and which is superior to ABD status. "ABD" is only used by people who have not yet or have failed to advance to candidacy. – SigmaX Jan 27, 2016 at 20:23
- 1 @SigmaX: That simply isn't true. First, ABD literally means that every requirement for the degree has been met except the dissertation (and dissertation defense). If the requirements are (coursework, teaching practicum, candidacy, dissertation), then an ABD must have completed the coursework, teaching, and candidacy. Whereas a Candidate might not have completed the teaching requirement yet. On the other hand, the title PhD Candidate requires candidacy in the present, while ABD only requires it in the past (possibly now expired), so Candidate is more promising of a future degree. – Ben Voigt Mar 4, 2018 at 2:59
- @Ben Voigt: i suppose I always thought of the dissertation proposal as being included in the 'D' of ABD. In programs where the proposal is the final step before candidacy (and the only step left before diasertation), then perhaps we're both right :). You're right that programs that have additional requirements that may be contemporaneous with the dissertation would yield a more complicated picture. – SigmaX Mar 5, 2018 at 4:12
ABD is not an actual title but rather just a little construction people use to describe a state that many graduate students find themselves in. I think that you can honestly call yourself ABD if you have completed all of the requirements of your PhD with the exception of an approved dissertation and/or dissertation defense.
Here is a very incomplete lists requirements that PhD programs might include and which an ABD candidate would be assumed to have finished:
- Successfully completing required course work and/or resident semesters/quarters
- Passing general examinations and/or qualifying examinations
- Fulfilling language and/or fieldwork requirements
- Having written and/or defended a dissertation prospectus or proposal
- Maintained a grade point average over some threshold.
Of course, there are many other requirements like this that programs require and that an ABD student would have to have fulfilled. If you have done all of them, except the dissertation, you can call yourself ABD. If you failed to complete any of the non-dissertation requirements, you are not yet ABD.
- In most programs, defending the proposal/prospectus advances you to candidacy. At that point, you're beyond ABD—you are now a "PhD candidate," which is a genuine title. If you tell me you are ABD, I will assume that you have not advanced to candidacy. – SigmaX Jan 27, 2016 at 20:25
- (edits elsewhere recently bumped this question to the front page, which is why this comment is nearly 1.5 years after your answer) For what it's worth, where I work (not academic) we often get applications to job postings that include ABD. These are typically people 10+ years out of graduate school with no intention of returning to academics, and their use of "ABD" serves (correctly) to distinguish them from Masters only applicants (e.g. MFA degree is common here). Often, these are people in humanities disciplines who spent several years working on a Dissertation and finally left academics. – Dave L Renfro Aug 30, 2016 at 14:39
If I saw this, I would read it as someone that had passed a PhD in a subject of ABD then after I found out; discount them for any jobs for misleading me.
“PhD candidate with publications” or “Withdraw from PhD but published” would be more meaningful.
- You're not a "PhD candidate" until you advance to candidacy. An ABD student is typically someone who has not advanced to candidacy. – SigmaX Jan 27, 2016 at 20:24
In Germany and Belgium they use the (informal) title Doctorandus (abbreviated Drs.) which means something like "He who will become Doctor". In Belgium it means PhD candidate and in Germany it means the dissertation has been approved but the candidate needs to defend it in public (generally a formality). In the Netherlands they used to give the official title Drs. as an equivalent to a Master degree. In Italy, anyone with a university degree is Dottore (which means "Doctor" according to the dictionary but is not at all that level).
There are large differences in what a school diploma means. I have read (American but also some Southern European) PhD dissertations that would not be good enough for a Master. An acceptable dissertation is either a book that is published by a respectable publisher or a collection of 4-6 articles accepted by peer reviewed journals (at least one article in a journal with a high impact factor). ABD is ridiculous, to me it means that you did not finish it and you are not about to.
- By you are not about to , do you mean an ABD will never finish it? – Nobody Feb 1, 2016 at 11:56
- 3 Maybe it's used in some fields that I haven't come in touch with, but I've never heard about the title Drs. in Germany. – O. R. Mapper Aug 30, 2016 at 7:18
I have struggled tremendously over the use of the term ABD. Unfortunately, due to illness and institutional failure to process IRB application appropriately, I aged out of the program. However, course works and comps were completed on first round and when I look at the money I spent I feel that I am entitled to something. Therefore, I use the term ABD with pride instead of shame and have continued my PHD studies at another institution. So, if you have eaten up your student loans pursuing a PHD that you aged out of and passed your comps regardless of what others say it is time that we stand with our PHD ABD with pride because we have paid for it.
- I am so disgusted by people downvoting those comments. – Albert James Teddy May 21, 2020 at 21:54
In the USA, PhD ABD is ludicrous only to the arrogant academic. PhD ABD gives very important information to non-academic employers. Namely, it signals rigorous training in the production of knowledge process, as attested by passing qualifying exams necessary for Candidacy. By definition Candidacy attests one has the tools to endeavor in that process; i.e., dissertation project. A Master's degrees' objective is different: it is training in specialized analysis. A distinction in title to reflect the distinction in training is therefore appropriate.
PhD ABD also signals that one has chosen to work in the productive sector v. in Academia. Plenty of reasons to make that choice!
Whether someone left the PhD program due to their inability to complete the dissertation/coursework successfully or their free choice is very easy to tease out (e.g., in an interview process, via transcripts showing performance, etc.).
So to the orthodox I say: be more open-minded. Show nuanced discernment. Note that your fundamentalism is against Academia's core mission!
In the end, a PhD ABD who knew he/she was in the wrong place and cut their losses is much better off (economically, and arguably socially and psychologically) than a 7-year frustrated post-doc that can sign PhD after their name! Due to structural problems in higher-ed that is where most PhDs land. The people vilifying the PhD ABD in pejorative terms here and elsewhere sound like the latter trying to prove that although they are unhappy, at least "they did not fail" like the PhD ABD.
As a PhD ABD I can attest that could not be further than the truth! I am much happier with my lot! One, by the way, which most people call remarkably successful!
Yours truly, M.M., PhD ABD
- 1 I like the humor, but how's " PhD ABD " different from just having a Master's, outside of the implication that a PhD was attempted-but-not-achieved? Or was this intended as tongue-in-cheek? – Nat Nov 13, 2017 at 12:33
For academic jobs it's important on your application to indicate that you are post-comps or "ABD". Many institutions will not consider your application without the accompanying ABD if you are still working towards completing the PhD (usually in the Spring following your Fall applications).
- 8 The usual way to do this that I have seen (in the US, in philosophy) is to have a line in the cv like: "Ph.D. (expected 2015, defense scheduled for 5/1)" I wouldn't ever use the phrase "ABD" officially. and if one doesn't at least have a defense scheduled, I can't imagine one is a serious contender for any academic position. – user10636 Aug 25, 2015 at 15:52
- 3 I agree. There are other ways to indicate your status in the program, as jakebeal has suggested. And putting ABD after your name is often seen as just plain foolish. I know someone who kept it attached to his name for his 30+ year academic career (he was never on the tenure track), and it was thought to be silly. – ewormuth Aug 25, 2015 at 22:10
- 1 Officially, you are either a "PhD student" or a "PhD candidate," and there is no in between. I, however, do like to tell potential employers that I have "finished my coursework." That makes clear that I am advanced PhD student, although I am not yet a candidate, and avoids the connotations of failure that come with "ABD." – SigmaX Jan 27, 2016 at 20:28
You must log in to answer this question.
Not the answer you're looking for browse other questions tagged phd titles all-but-dissertation ..
- Featured on Meta
- We've added a "Necessary cookies only" option to the cookie consent popup
- Planned Maintenance scheduled March 2nd, 2023 at 01:00 AM UTC (March 1st,...
Hot Network Questions
- Does Cast a Spell make you a spellcaster?
- Dealing with hard questions during a software developer interview
- PTIJ Should we be afraid of Artificial Intelligence?
- How to increase the number of CPUs in my computer?
- Why do we kill some animals but not others?
- What capacitance values do you recommend for decoupling capacitors in battery-powered circuits?
- If dark matter was created in the early universe and its formation released energy, is there any evidence of that energy in the cmb?
- At what point of what we watch as the MCU movies the branching started?
- is there a chinese version of ex. as in example?
- Is the Dragonborn's Breath Weapon from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons an attack?
- Easiest way to remove 3/16" drive rivets from a lower screen door hinge?
- Checking system vs. SEPA and the like
- How to handle multi-collinearity when all the variables are highly correlated?
- Jordan's line about intimate parties in The Great Gatsby?
- Ackermann Function without Recursion or Stack
- How can I change a sentence based upon input to a command?
- How to digitize the vector figure?
- Applications of super-mathematics to non-super mathematics
- How can I explain to my manager that a project he wishes to undertake cannot be performed by the team?
- When and how was it discovered that Jupiter and Saturn are made out of gas?
- Acceleration without force in rotational motion?
- Condensed vs pyknotic vs consequential
- Can the Spiritual Weapon spell be used as cover?
- Suspicious referee report, are "suggested citations" from a paper mill?
ABD: All But Dissertation
You may already have an ABD degree without realizing it! You are ABD when you have completed A ll B ut the D issertation.
What is all but the dissertation? All but the dissertation means you have taken all the courses you need to take to earn a Ph.D. It means you have taken your Ph.D. qualifying exam. It means you have defended your dissertation proposal . At this point, you might feel you almost deserve a degree already, so someone invented the term All But Dissertation degree. Unfortunately, ABD is not a real degree offered by any university, and getting this far will do you no good if you don’t finish your dissertation.
Discover How We Assist to Edit Your Dissertation Chapters
Aligning theoretical framework, gathering articles, synthesizing gaps, articulating a clear methodology and data plan, and writing about the theoretical and practical implications of your research are part of our comprehensive dissertation editing services.
- Bring dissertation editing expertise to chapters 1-5 in timely manner.
- Track all changes, then work with you to bring about scholarly writing.
- Ongoing support to address committee feedback, reducing revisions.
When you are ABD, all that is left for you to do is your original research and then write your dissertation with the assistance of your advisors and dissertation committee members.
However, many doctoral students become stuck at this ABD point. This is when the quest for a degree can become very lonely and unstructured at the very moment it becomes most difficult. For many students, this stage is challenging emotionally, personally, socially, and practically as well as intellectually, and unfortunately only about 56% of doctoral students earn their PhD status within 10 years . An ABD doctoral student has to figure out how to organize personal life, keep motivated, manage time, fight fatigue and discouragement, and overcome the remaining academic obstacles.
One reason many ABD students do not finish their dissertation is that they lack the support and guidance needed to navigate the dissertation process. Our seasoned team of mentors are able to move you from ABD to Ph.D. by helping you finish your dissertation, assisting with everything from topic development to defense.
Take control of your future and use the resources available to you to complete your dissertation. If you are ABD or feel like you are on that track, schedule your complimentary consultation . During the call we will develop a plan to complete your dissertation and avoid that dreaded All But Dissertation status.
- Thesis & Dissertation Editing
- Books and Journal Articles
- Coaching and Consultation
- Research Assistance
- Document Review Service
- Meet The Team
- Client Testimonials
- Join Our Team
- Get In Touch
- Make Payment
What does it mean to “Advance to Candidacy” or to be “ABD”?
25th August 2022
ABD = All But Dissertation
Advancing to candidacy, applying for academic jobs while abd, endless abd status.
Tagged under: Uncategorized
Thesis Editor are experts with a heart of gold.
I received impressive service from Thesis Editor. I found them to be a bunch of professional experts with a heart of gold.
I'm a Doctorate student that is studying online. I needed assistance with data analysis and my internet search brought up Thesis Editor. Straight away I could tell that they were a high standard credible service and that I could trust them. They provided me a service that was beyond my expectations. They gave me knowledgeable experts to assist me with my data analysis. Not only did they provide me this incredible service, but they also took time to provide me the emotional support that I needed, because, online Doctorate studies is a very lonely journey. Sometimes you find yourself alone with your laptop.
Commonly, people with such high standards of service and skills are so proud of themselves and will not bother to care about the emotional well being of their customers. They will just be cutthroat, clinical and be no nonsense about their issues and yours.
That was not the case with Thesis Editor, they were not just about the money, but actually cared about the client. I'll be forever thankful to the staff of Thesis Editor
Read More Client Testimonials
+44 20 3992 8489 firstname.lastname@example.org Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London, WC1H 9BB
© 2023 Thesis Editor Ltd , all rights reserved.
- Dissertation Editing
- Dissertation Coaching
- Free Consultation
ABD: All But Dissertation
There are many milestones throughout the process of earning a Ph.D. One of the most significant is becoming “ABD” which is academic shorthand for “all but dissertation.” This stage is also sometimes referred to as PhD.abd.
This designation, earned after completion of coursework, represents a significant achievement on the road to earning a doctorate. Moving on from being a graduate student to being classified as ABD marks a significant transition in your education, one that brings with it challenges as well as opportunities.
While becoming All But Dissertation is an accomplishment in itself, keep in mind that there is a lot of work ahead of you. Once a doctoral student is distinguished as being ABD, the realities of graduate education gain clarity and also greater urgency. Before embarking on the dissertation stage of your doctoral career, it’s a good idea to be well-informed about the sometimes-treacherous terrain ahead.
These are some commonly asked questions about becoming ABD, or All But Dissertation:
- Why is being All But Dissertation significant?
- How long are you All But Dissertation?
- What are the challenges of being All But Dissertation?
- What happens next?
Significance of ABD
Earning the designation PhD.abd is no mean feat. Becoming a All But Dissertation means successfully completing qualifying exams, comprehensive exams, and all coursework in your plan of study. Beyond checking all of the necessary boxes, being cleared by your department to start your dissertation is a major vote of confidence in your ability to meet the challenges of the work ahead.
Being All But Dissertation will also earn you a degree of recognition within academia. While not yet a peer, a grad student who is ABD will be given more opportunities in professional forums like conferences and journals . In some fields, students who are All But Dissertation can even find success on the job market, though their employment will be contingent on degree completion.
You have been judged and found equal to the task–well done! Now, the real work–making your own contribution to the body of knowledge in the form of your dissertation–can begin. I vividly remember when my dissertation advisor compared getting a Ph.D. to scaling Mount Everest. Being designated PhD.abd is like making it to base camp–you’ve gotten closer to a doctorate than most people ever will, but there’s still a ways to go.
How Long Does the All But Dissertation Phase Last?
So how long does a graduate student remain ABD? Eighteen months to three years is standard, though the data on this are skewed by attrition rates. Most programs require completion of the dissertation within a set amount of time , usually six years. As with so many aspects of graduate education, completion depends on a number of mitigating factors that are not limited to, but include:
- Your Advisor. Some dissertation advisors set a firm schedule with a strict timeline, while others believe that slow and steady wins the race. Neither of these is better than the other, but make sure that your advisor is aware of your graduation goals and you’re on the same page.
- University Resources. Issues with travel and research funding, lab space, and institutional review board (IRB) or research ethics board (REB) approval can all cause delays in starting your research, and, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to speed things up. Sit tight and be patient.
- You. In many ways, the All But Dissertation student is the deciding factor in the length of time a doctoral program takes.
No matter how well supported you are, a dissertation is arduous, solitary work. It’s hours and days and months of writing and research, trial and error, failure and success. It’s a journey, and a singular opportunity–try to enjoy it.
Challenges of Being All But Dissertation
For a graduate student, “ABD” is a fraught state of being, and understandably so. With all of your coursework (and close scrutiny by a battalion of faculty members) completed, you’re now the captain of a ship heading into uncharted waters–and sometimes your boat can feel like a very leaky vessel.
There is a perception that graduate students who have completed their coursework are “almost done,” and that could not be further from the truth. It’s more accurate to see starting your dissertation as the halfway mark to earning a Ph.D., though it’s a significant milestone.
Though statistics are not publicly available, attrition rates are high in doctoral programs. Completing all of your coursework moves the needle and shifts the odds of completing the degree in your favor. It also pays to choose a faculty advisor you work well with and to consider your dissertation topic carefully. At this point, every decision you make matters.
Additional challenges of being All But Dissertation are external. The world outside of academia tends to encroach on your time more once your coursework is done because you’re not “in class.” Do everything you can to safeguard your time and give yourself time and space to devote to your research–you’ll need every moment of it.
What Happens Next?
Let the dissertation commence! Once you have been declared ABD, there is much to be done. It’s a good idea to hash out a plan for this phase of your graduate program. Before you dive into the dissertation, you’ll need to formalize your choice of dissertation advisor and set up a regular meeting schedule that fits into their faculty workload. While you may have an inkling of what you want your dissertation research to entail, you’ll need to do some academic legwork to make sure your topic is feasible and bring your working knowledge of the subject up to speed.
After that, you’ll set off from base camp and begin climbing Everest in earnest. Consult your advisor and other faculty members to marshal the resources you’ll need. Begin acquiring books, articles, and all the other materials pertaining to your topic. Prepare yourself to be in the thick of it; having a sound strategy for tackling such a monumental task can make all the difference.
Being ABD is both an accomplishment and a challenge. It’s not easy, but you’re not alone. This is a well-traveled path; seek advice and learn from the triumphs and pitfalls of those who came before you. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but rest assured that making it this far means you have what it takes to go the distance.
Courtney Watson, Ph.D.
Courtney Watson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at Radford University Carilion, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her areas of expertise include undergraduate and graduate curriculum development for writing courses in the health sciences and American literature with a focus on literary travel, tourism, and heritage economies. Her writing and academic scholarship has been widely published in places that include Studies in American Culture , Dialogue , and The Virginia Quarterly Review . Her research on the integration of humanities into STEM education will be published by Routledge in an upcoming collection. Dr. Watson has also been nominated by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Rising Star Award, and she is a past winner of the National Society of Arts & Letters Regional Short Story Prize, as well as institutional awards for scholarly research and excellence in teaching. Throughout her career in higher education, Dr. Watson has served in faculty governance and administration as a frequent committee chair and program chair. As a higher education consultant, she has served as a subject matter expert, an evaluator, and a contributor to white papers exploring program development, enrollment research, and educational mergers and acquisitions.
Comments are closed.
Free Dissertation Evaluation
How Can We Help?*
Please subscribe me to your newsletter.
Dr. Courtney Watson In the News
“ See It for Yourself ” in With Good Reason: Beyond the Book July 22, 2022
“ I Thought You’d Never Ask: Consent in Contemporary Romance ” in New Frontiers in Popular Romance (McFarland) June 13, 2022
- Common Errors
- Dissertation Success
- Quantitative Analysis
- Surviving Grad School
“How to Finish Your Dissertation in Half the Time”
Learn how to avoid the pitfalls preventing you from finishing your dissertation faster.
Subscribe to get the free eBook!
This page has been archived and is no longer being updated regularly.
Turn ABD into a done degree
Recent doctorates and dissertation experts share strategies for finishing the dissertation.
By JAMIE CHAMBERLIN
Can't get motivated to work on your dissertation? Feeling like the PhD or PsyD you've been dreaming about may become "ABD"-all-but-dissertation-instead? You're not alone. Thousands of graduate students struggle with the dissertation process-evidenced by hundreds of dissertation support groups held on campuses nationwide and the fact that business for "dissertation coaches" is booming.
Top reasons students wrestle with the task include the demands of the internship, an ineffective work schedule, an unfocused topic and frustration with adviser feedback (see Eyeing the finish line ). But tackling small tasks every day and better communicating with advisers, among other strategies, can give students the boost they need to finish, say recent doctorates and faculty advisers.
"See roadblocks as a normal part of your dissertation," advises Alison Miller, PhD, a clinical psychologist turned dissertation coach who has helped more than 50 students complete their dissertations. She and others share these tips on how to make a smooth journey from ABD to degree.
PICK A TOPIC YOU LOVE
To stay motivated, find a dissertation topic you're passionate and curious about instead of one you think will impress your adviser or revolutionize the field, says Marcus Patterson, a doctoral student and former APAGS chair who recently co-wrote a chapter on writing the dissertation in "The Pocket Mentor: An Expert Guide to a Career in Psychology" (Plenum/Kluwer, 2003). In it, he and his co-authors cite research showing that students who search for the perfect topic endanger their chances of completing the degree. "If you try to get grandiose, you're setting your sights too high to even get started," Patterson says.
Develop a clear, focused topic by bouncing ideas off faculty and other students and reading completed dissertations, suggest Miller and other recent graduates.
SEEK AN ADVISER MATCH
Find the right adviser so that you receive good feedback instead of frustration, says Laura Wright, PhD, who earned her doctorate in 2000 from Florida State University. She advises students to find out how much time potential advisers spend mentoring and advising.
In choosing her own adviser, Wright even sat in on a defense a candidate was chairing.
"For me, the personality of an adviser was almost more important than the perfect match interest-wise," she says. "I wanted an adviser that I could look to as a mentor...not as an adversary that wanted to make my process filled with obstacles."
Already picked an adviser and not connecting? Improve the relationship by scheduling weekly meetings, following through on deadlines and simply asking for support, says Miller. Attaching a cover letter to drafts that includes specific questions and concerns can improve the quality and relevance of the feedback students receive and ultimately help them develop better working relationships with their advisors, she says.
THINK BITE-SIZE PIECES
Collapse the dissertation into small tasks that have a beginning and an end, such as "Read Jones and Smith article on social support," not open-ended tasks, such as "Read about social support theories," suggests Miller. Such a system worked for adviser Melanie Domenech-Rodriguez, PhD, an assistant professor at Utah State University who defended in 1999. "Sometimes the list got so detailed that, in making it, I'd actually write whatever it was that I needed to write," she says.
Even working on the dissertation for just two minutes each day-e-mailing a question to a committee member or updating the reference list-"results in having what you need to be productive in a bigger chunk of time later on," says Shane Lopez, PhD, an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas.
He also advises students to pad their dissertation timelines. "Everything takes longer than you think," says Lopez. "Plan for what you think [a task] is going to take and then add half of that on top-if you think a task will take 10 hours, plan for 15."
FINISH BEFORE INTERNSHIP
Plan to finish your dissertation, or at least your proposal, before going on to internship, say many students. A 2000 study on interns' dissertation status and progress, published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice (PPRP) (Vol. 31, No. 3), found that 61 percent of students who started their internship without a formal dissertation proposal meeting still hadn't scheduled that meeting by the year's end, and only 7 percent had actually finished their dissertations. Why the lack of progress? Many students log up to 60 hours of intense clinical work each week-not the ideal time to tackle intense writing and research.
"I wish someone had told me to stay an extra year to finish the dissertation before going on to internship-that would have been much better for my mental health," says Domenech-Rodriguez. "Internship and dissertation can both be very intense, and having them at the same time increases the probability of doing both things badly."
Lopez, one of the PPRP study's researchers, advises his students to at least propose before internship, because students who did so fared the best in his study. Can't finish in time? Take advantage of writing time many internship sites offer students for their dissertation-varying from a few hours to a day each week depending on the site, says Lopez, who adds, "Don't schedule that time for Friday afternoon."
LEAN ON OTHERS
Tap support from family, friends and fellow students and create accountability, advise recent doctorates. "More than any other single factor, having a 'study-buddy' enabled me to complete the dissertation," says recent doctorate Ben Weinstein, PhD, of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Bedford, Mass. "It is different to make a commitment to yourself and someone else than to make the same commitment only to yourself."
Wright sought support from fellow interns at the University of California, Davis, who met once a week to set goals, share frustrations and celebrate milestones, such as finished chapters. "As psychologists, we know that having support going through a difficult time is helpful, and dissertations are no different," she says. Students can also find support and advice online at sites such as www.Phinished.org , an online dissertation discussion and support group, and the "All-But-Dissertation Survival Guide" at www.ecoach.com , a free, monthly online newsletter on dissertation strategies edited by psychologist Ben Dean, PhD.
Finally, reward yourself when you clear major hurdles, says Domenech Rodriguez, who passes along a professor's advice that she now shares with students: "The best dissertation is a done dissertation," she says.
No. High-quality doctorate programs require the completion of a dissertation to earn your doctoral degree (with the exception of professional and clinical
"All but dissertation" (ABD) is a term identifying a stage in the process of obtaining a research doctorate, most commonly used in the United States.
The term “ABD” stands for All But Dissertation. This means that you have finished everything in a PhD program except for the dissertation.
If you've begun researching the process of earning a doctoral degree, then you've likely come across this acronym and are wondering what an ABD
Eventually, I figured it out: ABD stands for “all but dissertation,” a description of a student who has finished coursework and passed
No. If you have advanced to candidacy, you refer to yourself as a "PhD Candidate," which is an official title, and which is superior to ABD
D. It means you have taken your Ph.D. qualifying exam. It means you have defended your dissertation proposal. At this point, you might feel you
Perhaps you've heard other PhD students talk about “advancing to ... completed your degree, but you do need to be at the dissertation stage.
Earning the designation PhD.abd is no mean feat. Becoming a All But Dissertation means successfully completing qualifying exams, comprehensive
"See roadblocks as a normal part of your dissertation," advises Alison Miller, PhD, a clinical psychologist turned dissertation coach who has helped more than