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3 Pieces of Advice from a Dissertation Boot Camp Expert!

This January, I embraced a number of key professional development opportunities important for my Ph.D. research and future career. As a result, I found that my focus shifted, and my regular routine all but disappeared. I am thankful and excited that I will be returning home to Kingston in time for Dissertation Boot Camp which I hope will help me to shift gears. 

Writing can be a lonely process, one of the most inspiring things about Dissertation Boot Camp is being in a room with other participants from countless departments all who have all felt this way. Everyone at bootcamp is there to support one other, make friends and write, write, write.

From the moment you walk in the door, you know you are in the right place. Colette Steer (School of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Affairs), who runs the boot camp is exceptionally supportive, encouraging and fun. She genuinely wants us all to succeed and takes the time to make everyone feel valued and welcome. 

My goal for the week is to develop a focused, productive writing routine that I can continue to practice after the camp is over and also to make significant progress in my writing. The first step is showing up at 9am ready to write! As more of an evening person, the early morning will be challenging for me. Each day, I am going to create a daily goal broken into micro goals. I’m planning to bring along my shiny animal themed stickers to encourage myself and others around me as we write. Come say hi, meet a new friend and find me for your sticker. I have learnt that it is important to be gentle with myself about my goals. For example, sometimes writing one really good sentence in half an hour is ok and is worth celebrating. 

To make the most out of your experience and make significant progress in your writing, I have three pieces of advice for you. One: accept that everyone is in different writing situations. Some may feel productive and energized, while others may feel isolated and burnt out. Regardless, all feelings are valid. Two: at the end of the day write down two things that made today great and one thing that could make tomorrow even better. Three: sit in a different spot in the room every day and challenge yourself to talk to different people. One of the best things about attending a writing bootcamp is the exposure to different departments, opinions and connections. The friendships I made at Dissertation on the Lake were invaluable and we still support, collaborate and inspire each other. I reached out to a few friends I formed there to share their experiences with us: 

“Writing Boot Camp has been the most meaningful use of my time and writing together in groups enhances productivity. Moreover, I met wonderful people and made good friends” 
- Ph.D. Candidate, School of Rehabilitation Therapy.

“I think one of the biggest takeaways for me personally from the camp was the sense of camaraderie I got from being there. Writing a thesis and graduate learning is an isolating process. But when I would arrive every morning to the classroom and start my day with other grad students who I know were also working on their isolating dissertation, it helped a lot. We all have vastly different topics and research, but there was a sense of belongingness that I really enjoyed, and I am sure everyone else felt as well. And it helped my work too”. 
- Ph.D. Candidate, Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies.

“Dissertation boot camps (both online and in-person) are great opportunities to meet and talk to other students writing their dissertations. I very much appreciated group discussion moments during online camps. It showed me that we have similar worries. The camps, in general, help to overcome the isolation of writing. I want to thank Colette (Grad office) and Lindsay and Alyssa from SASS for supporting us as we move towards completing our Ph.Ds.”
- Ph.D. Candidate School of Sociology 

The boot camp this year will take place over Reading Week, from February 21st – 24th, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM. The magic takes in the ‘Harry Potter Reading Room’ (1932 Reading Room in Douglas Library) pictured above. If you want to sign up, fill out the form and either bring it to Colette at Gordon Hall 425 or email it to  steerc@queensu.ca

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