Sticking Points and Big Pitfalls to Watch Out For

Dr. Russell Strickland is the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, a company that helps doctoral students create actionable plans in order to complete their dissertations in a timely and effective manner.

Before becoming a renowned teacher, coach, and mentor, Dr. Strickland received his master’s degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics from the University of Chicago and his doctoral in Organization and Management from Capella University. Over the past 20 years, he has mentored thousands of students, and his process has been proven to vastly reduce times to graduation and significantly improve graduation rates.

Available_Black copy
Available_Black copy

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Dr. Russell Strickland shares the common sticking points and pitfalls that students encounter during their dissertation journey
  • Why you should put your passion projects aside when working on your dissertation
  • How to overcome the lack of structure that comes with completing a dissertation
  • The importance of tailoring your dissertation to fit your committee
  • Stop being vague and start creating a research plan with clear, specific questions
  • The skill sets you can outsource to help you finish your dissertation

In this episode…

What is holding you back from completing your dissertation? Is it the lack of structure that is provided with the project? Are your research questions too vague? Perhaps your passion for your topic is stopping you from making the changes that your committee desires.

When working on your dissertation, there are a number of common sticking points and pitfalls that you will undoubtedly experience. Luckily, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done, has a few tips to help you overcome any obstacle. He explains that by understanding your challenges from the start, you can better prepare a plan of action that will help you save time, energy, and money in the long run.

Join Dr. Russell Strickland of Dissertation Done in this episode of An Unconventional Life as he talks with Dr. Jeremy Weisz of Rise25 Media about the common hurdles that students face during the dissertation process. Dr. Strickland gives his advice on how to confront these obstacles head on—and even how to avoid them entirely. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done!
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.

Intro  0:03

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy 1% out there, who earned their doctoral degrees and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique and unconventional ways. Here’s your host astrophysicist and teacher, author, dissertation coach and more, Dr. Russell Strickland.

Dr. Russell Strickland  0:28

Hi, this is Dr. Russell Strickland here host of An Unconventional Life Podcast where I feature stories from the unconventional 1% who not only earned their doctoral degrees, but went on to use those doctoral degrees in all sorts of strange, unusual, unconventional ways throughout their life in their career. I have with me today, Dr. Jeremy Weisz, who has interviewed literally thousands of successful entrepreneurs, investors and CEOs. And today we’re flipping the script a little bit and he’s going to be interviewing me so I want to thank you for Joining me today Dr. Weisz Good to have you here.

Jeremy Weisz  1:02

Thank you Dr. Strickland. I appreciate it. I’m really excited because one of my favorite topics is really sticking points in the process, and pitfalls we should avoid, because that advice can save so much time and energy and money. So we’re going to talk about sticking points and pitfalls. But people just episode’s brought to you by Dissertation Done. If you don’t know Dissertation Done, check it out. When I first learned about Dr. Strickland’s expertise, you know, he started his Dissertation Done after the huge pain point he dealt with after studying Astronomy and Astrophysics at University of Chicago. So picture rocket scientist meets management consultant. That’s a Dissertation Done as he helps and mentors he’s mentored thousands and thousands of students over the past 20 years and helps them with this process. Anywhere from business students, nurses, education, psychology, anyone who studies data, you know People in a data driven way, check out And you know, Dr. Strickland, we are we’re talking before we hit record about some of the sticking points and check out previous episodes because you mentioned it and you talk to you on some great topics. And then you mentioned sticking points or like we have to have to do a whole episode on this. So I figured you’d walk people through some of the things they should be looking out for on this journey. What should we start with with a sticking point?

Dr. Russell Strickland  2:27

Absolutely. Well, so we talked about in another episode, this idea of beginning with the end in mind, and I’m sure people have heard that in a variety of contexts all over the place. But you really do have to make sure that you’re paying attention to what it is you are trying to accomplish in order to be effective at getting at accomplishing that goal of getting it done. And for our doctoral degree students that I work with, what they’re trying to accomplish is to get their dissertation done. Not to create their legacy solve world hunger, in cancer, any of those things, those are all awesome things. And maybe some of you will do them. But do them after you graduate. Don’t use don’t hold yourself back from graduating in order to do that. So when we talk about this idea of beginning with the end in mind, and the endpoint is all about graduation, that tells you right away, that you’re not going to do the number one thing that universities will tell you to do, which is pick a topic you’re passionate about. Now, you start off by saying, well, gosh, I’m studying this is my final degree that I’m ever going to.

Jeremy Weisz  3:38

I’m sure we’ll push back against you with that, right.

Dr. Russell Strickland  3:41

Yeah. I mean, this is this is the reason why I’m doing this. There’s this problem on my community. My Church is having this problem. I have this problem that I’ve noticed in my family when my loved ones I want to solve that problem for them. Awesome. Do it after you graduate. Okay. Don’t let that hold you back because Think about it this way, when you look to when you have a problem in your own life and you want someone to help you through that problem, do you go and immediately look for a doctoral student to help you through that crisis? Or do you look for a doctor, right? I’ve never looked for a doctor to help me with anything in my life. And I’ve worked with a lot of doctoral students, and some of them are very, very helpful. But when I don’t know what I’m going to do, and I want to find someone to help me with something, I go find a doctor or an expert, not someone that still labels themselves as a student. So when you think about that, when you are a student, your job is to is to get done being a student as soon as possible not to try to help people as a student. Does that make sense?

Jeremy Weisz  4:41

Totally. Yeah. So passion project,

Dr. Russell Strickland  4:46

passion projects, right. So when you here’s one of the things that the university tells you to pick a topic you’re passionate about, because in some sense, it’s really this kind of, you know, infantilizing patronizing way of viewing students that you can’t get something done, unless it’s, you know, bright and shiny or sugar coated. And that’s just not true. I’m sure that throughout your adult lives, you’ve had to do a number of things that you didn’t really want to do, but you did them because they needed to be done. And you can certainly accomplish your dissertation in the same way. Now, you might think that doesn’t sound like as much fun. Well, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with your doctoral journey. Do you want it to be fun and possibly never ending? Or you want to get it done, and then move on to the other things that are going to be fun, while not paying tuition, not having someone else, check over your work, look over your shoulder and have that first name of doctor so that you can earn more money, more prestige, and all those sorts of things. Most of the students I work with say, Yeah, you’re right. Let me get out of school so I can can do the things I’m really passionate about. And another thing about passion projects, we’re going to talk a little bit about this a little bit further down. But when you’re working on a passion project, you want to do it your way, right? You want to do it your way. And you can’t do your dissertation your way, you’ve got people who have to approve that work. And until they approve it, it doesn’t get done. So if you’re picking something you’re passionate about, you’re just setting yourself up to butt heads with your committee and your university, about your way versus their way. And who’s going to win. If you do your passion project after you graduate, you don’t have anybody checking behind you and overseeing your work. In fact, I was I’m working with some doctoral students right now not doctoral students, sorry, former doctoral students, folks who have graduated, who are now writing their own books, the things that they are passionate about. And I’m helping them through that process of getting published. And they’re sitting here saying, Well, what do I do here? What do I do there? I’m saying, what do you want to do? We don’t have to worry about someone else coming behind you and saying you have to do it this way. So we’ll give them advice and we’ll help them move. Forward, but, but now they have this ideal situation of being able to really follow their passions and know that whatever they want to put out for their message they can do. And that’s the right that they earned by first being a little bit professionally detached in their dissertation getting it done.

Jeremy Weisz  7:17

So passion project number one another sticking point pitfalls is no structure.

Dr. Russell Strickland  7:23

Absolutely no structure. What students don’t realize is that you kind of school, you have more in common with your doctoral classes have more in common with what you did in certainly seventh grade than they do with your dissertation. And that sounds strange to a lot of people. But in seventh grade, your teacher told you read this, write a paper about that. I’m going to grade it in eighth grade in ninth grade 10th grade, college graduate school. In your doctoral degree program, they were telling you You read this, this chapter or these chapters or this book or these books, write a paper with answers to this question, and I’m going to grade it. When you get to your dissertation, it’s all gone. No more structure. Okay? They tell you to work on your dissertation. Some schools will have a detailed outline of what they want the dissertation to look like. There’s no timetables, there’s no homework, it’s just gone. And so you have to be very proactive. You have to make sure that you are setting timetables and setting goals and creating structure. Because without that, nothing’s ever going to get done. And that’s one of the reasons why I tell students to find something that you that is not a passion. We’re all when we when we get to a doctoral degree program. It’s because we’re geeks and I say that with a greatest affection and I’ll raise my hand and and and admit to the same thing. All that means being a geek. All that means is that you will take something that that you want to learn about and you will dive deeper than anybody else. You know, we’ll dive on that you’ll learn more about it, you’ll go down the rabbit hole. And you’ll take all the little twists and turns that you just really understand everything. And that’s cool as curiosity is great. It’s what moves this world forward. It’s what science is all about. It’s not what we want to be doing. If we want to get something done that if you want to get your dissertation done, you’ve got to map out some structure. You can’t geek out on it, you’ve got to just get it done. So structure that

Jeremy Weisz  9:27

structure. And then a third one is people say off into it’s their dissertation.

Dr. Russell Strickland  9:34

Yeah, yeah. So that and that’s easy enough, right? You’re the author, your your people call it your dissertation all the time you You’re the one who puts your name on the title page. It seems like it’s your dissertation. The problem with that is is that when you own something, you feel like you have control over it. And in fact, it’s better to think about this as being your commission. his dissertation rather than your dissertation, what you should do is you should think about your dissertation as being like a suit of clothes for a man or a dress for a woman, something that you can create yourself and you can be proud of. But then you ultimately if we’re going to tailor this, you ultimately have to get the person who is going to wear those clothes and put it on them. And we’ve got to adjust it so that it fits them just right. Even if that person has one, one arms a little bit longer than the other will then your sleeve you have to have that sleeve a little bit longer than the other. You might look at that dress or that suits. I can’t believe it’s messed up now. No, it’s not. It’s the person that was designed to fit now. And it’s perfect for them now. And so even if it’s not the way you would want it to be, once that person is happy with it, then if you were you know a designer dress designer or clothes designer, they would buy it from you, they would take it they would be happy. Same thing. If you were like building a house, maybe you don’t want the kitchen to be yellow, you want it to be green, but that’s what The person who’s going to buy the house once. So even though it’s yours, you’re the designer you put the thing together, ultimately is going to someone else. Think about your committees being kind of your customer, and you’re building a custom project just for that customer. And they’re going to pay you when you’re done. And you might think, Well, wait, wait a minute, wait a minute, here. I’m paying all this tuition. I don’t think we’re this analogy works. Yeah, they’re gonna pay you with a degree when they’re happy with the dissertation that you’ve provided them. So yes, it is your dissertation. But think about it as your committees dissertation. And that’ll help a whole lot with with issues about being too passionate about it. You being able to stay professionally detach from your dissertation, and give them what they want so that you can graduate. So huge, huge sticking point that a lot of people struggle to deal with because there again, it goes back to them being passionate about their dissertation. Try to be professionally detached from your dissertation and things will go a lot

Jeremy Weisz  12:01

That’s great. I love that that mind frame. The fourth one is being too vague. What do you mean by that? Yeah.

1 2 Next

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

Let's Talk About Your Dissertation
Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply: