A sociologist and advisor to many graduate students, Sternberg focuses on moving the student from ABD to . His chapters explore topic selection, filing systems, proposal-writing, research, writing, committee relations, “the Dissertation Dumps,” the defense, and the post-defense uses of the dissertation. Sternberg does strike somewhat of a balance between the “buck up” school that says “Just write the thing and quite whining” and the sympathetic school that is inclined to tell you “it’s okay,” hold your hand, and validate your feelings. On the whole, his suggestions tend to center around developing a plan for completion and adhering to it despite doubts, rather than exploring the doubts themselves in great depth. Some of his advice may seem dated. For example, in discussing sexism, he writes “deep-rooted sexism is still a fact of graduate university structure and hierarchy” that can be “exploited by a woman.” He concludes that the “feminist ABD has to suspend her struggle for that ongoing cause during the two years of the dissertation struggle.” (p. 150)
1 ) If your dissertation supervisor isn't right, change. Mine was brilliant. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else – providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it. In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success.