Sliced Bread and Dissertations
On this day, July 7th, in 1928, the Chillicothe Baking Company sold the first loaf of sliced bread. “Kleen Maid Sliced Bread” was marketed as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.” Sliced bread has since become the metric against greatness is measured, in everything from food to inventions to dissertations…
Fun fact about sliced bread: the concept was so foreign to customers at first that each loaf of bread included instructions culminating in “remove as many slices as desired” from the wrapper. Less than 15 years later, a temporary ban on sliced bread to support the war effort (and save the tons of steel each year that went into bread slicing machines) was met with as much resistance as gasoline rationing. Now, when you want express how great something – anything – is you say that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
And, this is exactly what some students think about their dissertations. Students in doctoral programs with near-perfect GPAs don’t think about just getting by, they think about changing the world! They don’t want to write just any dissertation, they want to to produce the best.
And, that’s where they get into trouble. You see, there are two major reasons why doctoral students don’t graduate. The first type of student never really starts on their dissertation. They may work really hard, and put in a lot of effort, but they never make any actual progress. It’s kind of like the dissertation is a mountain to be climbed and these students are stuck at the bottom, figuratively looking up at the summit with their jaws dropped to their chests.
The second type of student never gives themselves permission to finish their dissertations. They are passionate about their topics. They want to change the world. They want their dissertations to be the best thing since sliced bread!
Don’t fall into this trap.
You’re not writing your dissertation to get a gold star on your forehead.
You’re not writing your dissertation to change the world.
You are writing your dissertation to graduate.
Now, maybe you do want to change the world. In fact, the number one reason that most of our students enroll in their doctoral programs in the first place is to make a bigger impact. But, you must be committed to graduating first.
You have your whole life to do your life’s work. For now, just focus on getting your dissertation done.