Congratulations on getting to this page – Winter 2021 Challenge!

Welcome to Dissertation House online. If you are here, you are in the right place. This is your page to make the most of your experience here. You can get your dissertation finished in 2021 with daily progress.

First of all, Congratulations to all of our new PhDs! (Check our “Alumni” page for regular updates)

You can participate in the online Dissertation House from any part of the world. Students join the Dissertation House (DH) from various states in the US and many countries in the world. The “DHers” who participate come from universities throughout Maryland, with sponsorship from the National Science Foundation’s PROMISE: Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), and funding from the graduate schools at UMBC, the University of Maryland College Park, and the University of Maryland Baltimore – The Founding Campus. Through the PROMISE Pathways initiative, and the PROMISE AGEP: Maryland Transformation project, we invite and encourage all doctoral students within the University System of Maryland to join us online.

Dr. Wendy Carter-Veale is your “Head Coach.”

Our pre-registered participants are required to blog daily during their time in the Dissertation House and are encouraged to continue blogging until they finish their dissertations.

To join us online:

  1. Go to the comment section below and introduce yourself (name, school, department.) Note: You may use your full name or an alias. If you have a blog, you may use your blogger ID, however, you do not need a username or password to participate.
  2. Tell us what you are working on and what you plan to accomplish today or over the next few days.
  3. Blog daily, preferably twice a day (morning and afternoon/evening) to report your goals for the day, your daily accomplishments, and your goals for the next day.

We will repeat something that we said before, because it is both important and true: Our graduates and participants pushed (and we do mean that they pushed through adversities, complications, and issues) to finish sections, get chapter approval from advisors, complete drafts, pass proposals, pass defenses, and turn in their final documents. These grads are now professors, working in non-profits, industry, and have had postdocs throughout the global academic community (e.g., France, South Africa, Egypt.)

If you have joined us in the past, come back again if you are still working on your document. We are still here, and we will still be part of the community that will cheer you on! Post your goals for the next six months on this page. You are not alone, this is your online community. Focus on completion. As coach Dr. CV says “A good dissertation is a done dissertation.”

54 responses to “Winter 2021 Challenge”

  1. Hi Everyone. I’m Siobhan Quinn, a doctoral student in Language, Literacy and Culture at UMBC I’m looking forward to finishing my dissertation proposal this week and starting on the rough draft of my powerpoint presentation. See you tomorrow online at Dissertation House.

    1. Siobhan it was a pleasure speaking with you today. Your research is quite interesting and brings a fresh look on the topic. I look forward to reading some more tomorrow.

  2. Good morning everyone, welcome to Dissertation House January 2021!!! We barely made it; 2020 was brutal but look at us all ready to keep advancing in our programs and get our degrees in the middle of a pandemic. Yay us! Thanks for joining us. Let’s do it. A good dissertation is a DONE dissertation. Stay safe and healthy. Love, The PROMISE Team.

  3. Good morning everyone,
    I am preparing for my Prelim. Exam/Proposal Defense this week (Thursday). Hence, I will be participating by providing updates occasionally vs. joining virtually. Today I am reviewing my slides again, after rehearsing them last night. I am also reaching out to a couple of colleagues to try to do a dry-run to get their critique. Yesterday I also went through some notes from prior D.H. with Dr. CV. (Glad I did, as a found a couple of reminders.) Today I also plan to re-read a couple of papers that my advisor asked about about last week as we were preparing for the Prelim this week. (…If he is asking in advance, then I surely should be up-to-date on them)

    Siobhan, best wishes on your upcoming Proposal Defense. (Best wishes to others who are preparing also.)
    …wishing you all a nice day.

    Part-time Ph.D, Electrical Engineering
    CSEE Dept.

    1. Hello William
      Welcome to Day 1 of the DH. Glad to hear that you are getting your slides together. Be sure to number your slides and keep in mind the time that you will have to present is related to the number of slides…. i.e. # of slides = 1/2 the amount of presentation time. Good luck

    2. Hey William
      Thank you for spending the day with us online. Where is your post about what you were able to accomplish today? You know how the DH works even when you are online. What’s on tap for tomorrow?

  4. Jenn K., UMBC/UMB, Doctoral candidate in the Gerontology Doctoral Program.
    I am working on my pre-proposal revisions and Chapter 1 of my dissertation.

    Today, I plan to write the first draft of my dissertation’s table of contents and finish revisions to my pre-proposal.

    1. Hello Jen

      Welcome to day 1 are you planning on doing all of that today? Can you be more specific about your daily goals so that you can cross items off of a list?
      Good luck on your DH journey.

      1. Dr. Carter,

        Here is a day by day plan of what I am to accomplish.
        Day 1: Chapter 1 worked on Introductory statement, problem statement, purpose statement, Need for study, Research questions, hypothesis/aims, nature of overall study/methods.

        Day 2 plan: definitions of terms used in the study,
        Day 3: assumptions delimitations and limitations of study,
        Day 4: summary/transition to introduce the content of each of the three papers in the dissertation.

        Overall each of these components combined will be a very rough draft of my chapter 1 which is also considered the proposal.
        Today I downloaded my mentor’s dissertation, outlined ch. 1, and revised content listed under day one.

        1. Good job on putting more meat on your plan well done.

  5. Good morning everyone! I am PhD candidate at the GES department. Today, I will be working on my chapter 4, my first results chapter. I will revise section 4.2 ( 4.2.1 and 4.2.2 in total 4 pages). I will also read 4 policy documents and take notes.

    1. Hello Mel

      This seems ambitious but if each section = 1 paragraph, it might work. You might have leave the policy documents for this evening or tonight. We’ll check back with you later this evening.

  6. Hi All, I am Avani Dave, Ph.D. student from computer engineering . my goals for DH this time are to finish the journal draft which I am currently working. Specifically, I will working on background and evaluation sections.

    1. Hello Avan

      How many paragraphs do you have planned for the background 3? 5? Are you starting from an outline? If you plan ahead of time then you have some measure of how close or not close you are to being done and it can also help set the pace at which you work.

      1. Yes Dr. Carter, I had planned for 3 paragraphs for background. for background, I had fair outline, but it will be challenging when I move to evaluation section. surely I will try to have outline for work for next few days

        1. Avani, thanks for sharing your literature review diagram in the DH today. It was very helpful. Looking forward to day 3 in the DH.

  7. Welcome everyone to Day 1 of the DH. We have a small manageable group in the Winter DH. I look forward to meeting with each of you. Those of you who cannot join us on Webex please continue to work with us for the next 4 days. We will check back on your progress in the evening.
    Be sure to take time for lunch 12-1. We are about to start the afternoon session. Good luck. A good dissertation is a done dissertation.

  8. Hi. I am David Sears, MPP 17 and a PHD student in public policy. Today’s goal is to read the proposal cookbook, read and summarize two articles and complete a statement of the problem.

    1. Dave, I am so looking forward to reading your statement of the problem 3 paragraphs . It can be done.

  9. Hi All, I am Abdullah, PhD candidate from Information Systems. My goal in the Winter DH to complete the re-design of the follow-up interview instrument ( which will be used for the result evaluation). Also, i aims to edit chapter 5 (single case results) and chapter 6 (cross-case results).

  10. Today I was able to review half of the proposal cookbook and work on the worksheets. Tonight I am reading and summarizing two articles and finishing my problem statement.

    Tomorrow I will finish my review and worksheets with the proposal cookbook. I will also map out a reasonable timeframe for completion. I will also review the sections of my current dissertation proposal and see where I need to focus based on the proposal cookbook.

    Overall a good day and appreciate the honesty on all aspects of the process.

    1. Amen…Glad that you came back to the DH. Welcome back you will be done in Dec 2021.

  11. First thing today I created a countdown calendar to complete my dissertation by December 21, 2021. The bulk of my work was to address comments from my co-advisors. and to start on edits of the overall dissertation proposal. I made it through 4 pages (of 25). I’m revisiting the writing of Herbert Gans right now and will work on my problem statement tonight (per the cookbook!).

    Tomorrow I will work on cutting back two sections— focusing my introduction and how public history has addressed ethnicity.

    It was a good day. I realize I have to work faster and leave my ego on the other side of the door if I am to meet my Friday goals.

  12. Today I accomplished my primary goal of reviewing and revising my Prelim Exam slides and conducting a dry-run with a colleague. The dry-run was very helpful in that my colleague asked questions. I definitely have to move just a few slides to backup since questions consume time. (Dr. C.V. you are right; I think need to prepare for two min. per slide–and then some.) …am awaiting my advisor’s feedback on the slides also, in terms of content. Then tomorrow I will rehearse once or twice more. I should be fine. Goal for tonight is to read one of those two papers I had planned to read today.

    1. Best of luck on your defense tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to do a practice run with me today; you are doing important work. Please share the good news when you finish tomorrow. Our thoughts and best wishes are with you.

  13. Today, I accomplished about 50% of my goal about re-designing the follow-up interview (member check) instrument. I wrote a draft of the questions and their illustrations.
    Tomorrow, I plan to further revise and organize them in an online form. Then, update some IRB documents, sending them to my advisor by the end of the day.
    It was a great and productive day! I learned some new aspects in the dissertation process such as the checking with committee members if they are still onboard, and the role of the designated readers.

    1. Glad you joined us Abdullah and glad to hear that it was helpful. We are looking forward to day 2 of the DH.

  14. Hello all we are all looking forward to Day 2 of the Dissertation House at UMBC. If you’re looking for an accountability partner you should consider using this blog to keep you honest about doing what you say you are going to do and also posting your daily goals. Because a dream is not a plan and without goals and deadline it is just a dream.

  15. Today, Wednesday, I am updating my Prelim. Exam slides based on my advisors recommendations from yesterday. I also plan to re-read my research proposal in preparation for the Exam/Proposal defense tomorrow.


  16. The proposal cookbook is perhaps the best guide yet for a dissertation proposal. Reading it has helped guide my focus, truly understand conceptual framework, and add more poignant elements to my dissertation proposal. Thank you Dr. Carter-Veale for providing this critical resource.

    1. Siobhan M Quinn Avatar
      Siobhan M Quinn

      Yes, I agree!

    2. Glad that you share my enthusiasm for this gem of a book. It provided so much clarity for me that I am happy to share it with others. Too bad it is out of print; it would be worth every penny.

  17. Today (Wednesday), I will complete the follow-up interview instrument with its related IRB doc and send them to my advisor. Also, I will start kicking off the official dissertation templet. For today, I will organize and put together the formal elements (approval sheet, abstract, table of content, etc.).

    1. Hey, Abdullah glad to be part of that kick-off. What was the name of that website I asked you to share was it

      1. Thanks Dr. Carter! The website is

        1. Thanks for correcting me and providing the correct website link.

  18. Siobhan M Quinn Avatar
    Siobhan M Quinn

    Last night I revisited my problem statement. This morning I went through the “cookbook” answering questions and it has been really helpful. This afternoon I’m editing and using the answers I found in the cookbook exercises to guide and rearrange the overall order of the proposal. I have realized that I can’t include all that I had intended as the proposal is too dense and muddy. I’m having to make some hard editing decisions. Tomorrow I will work on editing methodology and chapters section.

    1. Hello Siobhan

      Yes, yes, slash and burn it down to the required pages. I agree, check your ego at the door. I always say if your advisor wants it in purple ink your question should be “What shade; deep, deep purple or the light, light lavender?” You can put some stuff back into the dissertation when and after you pass your proposal. Good luck.

  19. Today’s thoughts…
    When you are consistently told that writing/research is a reiterative process it can feel frustrating, but I have been enjoying (only slightly) the process this week. In addition, hearing about a structure to approaching communication with committee members and your main advisor was exceedingly helpful. The information wasn’t new, but it was a frank reminder that I am in charge of my timeline and progress in many ways (even when it doesn’t feel that way). I was also reminded that clear, consistent communication with these individuals will make me feel empowered and will allow me to remind/establish my expectations with my committee. To be honest this is something I have struggled with throughout college. Before I transition to reviewing my goals/progress from today, I wanted to share four things that I feel I need to be reminded of daily during this process…
    1. Plans change
    2. Nothing is set in stone
    3. Communication is the linchpin of the dissertation process
    4. It’s okay if I don’t accomplish as much as I thought I could in a day/week/month

    In keeping with those four items especially my last item, I am sharing what I thought I was going to accomplish today, what I honestly was able to accomplish and tonight I will revise what I think I can accomplish tomorrow by attempting to break up my tasks even further.

    My original plans from Day 1-2:
    Day 1: Chapter 1 worked on Introductory statement, problem statement, purpose statement, Need for study, Research questions, hypothesis/aims, nature of overall study/methods.
    Day 2 plan: definitions of terms used in the study,

    What I actually was able to accomplish Day 2:
    Revised my outline; research questions, hypothesis, and aims
    Planned out what literature I need for my literature review (i.e. clearly defined my study variables from my RQ)
    Added to my list of terms I need to define that will be used in my study
    Started to write up what I expect of each committee member

    1. Good for you Jenn great insight. Shortly I will send you via email a copy of the proposal cookbook to help speed up this process. See you in the morning.

  20. We had a good day today. Today we talking about Managing your Advisor and your expectations of your advisor. We also talked about “Preparing your most Productive Writing Environment. I have met with everyone in the DH at least once. Tomorrow is Day 3 of the DH. Tomorrow’s presentation will be Preparing for your Defense at 9am sharp don’t miss it. Work hard and don’t be afraid of writing the ugly draft and getting that out of your system. What would you write if you were not afraid of being wrong? Write that and decide later if you will share it with anyone else.

  21. If you are struggling with your writing. Here is video that explains the PIE paragraph structure method Dave mentioned in the DH.
    • P = Point
    • I = Information
    • E = Explanation

  22. Today, we learned two good lessons. 1) the roles of students and advisors in the dissertation process. 2) how to plan and prepare the literature review. Dr. Carter-Veale gave a good example to manage the literature in a spreadsheet.
    Tomorrow, my goal is to migrate my chapter 1 (introduction) to the template, and perform all styling, paraphrasing, editing needed. I will also search for new literature within the past 2 years, skim and read them, and plan where to fit them in my existing literature review. So that the last day of DH can be more focus on updating chapter 2 and move it to the template.

  23. Today I have my Prelim. Exam in the afternoon. I am reviewing my slides again some and also re-reading some additional parts of my Research Proposal document. Other than that, I am taking it easy so as to be refreshed for the presentation.

    (Looks like there was some good info. and links at D.H yesterday, so after my Prelim. I look forward to checking it out, i.e., the links.)


    1. So William how did things go this afternoon? Are you now a PhD candidate?

  24. Today I will read my chapter one time, and work on including transitions. I will also read another 4 policy documents. I decided to create another document where I am moving extra writing that I will not be including in the chapter as I originally thought I will. I know these texts might be helpful for other sections in the dissertation later on.

    1. Mel I am glad to see that you are not trying to include everything into 1 chapter and that you have a plan when other ideas come in your head.

  25. Today, I am continuing to work on chapter 1 by defining all the terms used in my study. This afternoon I will begin organizing my current background literature so I can better establish in my chapter 1 the gaps in the literature and context of my research. This will be helpful because my mentor has stated several time she is not certain if my RQ is addressing a current gap.

    1. Jenn
      The gap seems clear to me this afternoon. Please try Point Information Explanation (PIE) approach to writing that might tighten up the writing.

  26. This afternoon I am continuing to work on the functional parts of my proposal, specifically fleshing out the chapter ideas as I go. This is a short but crucial section of this proposal and I expect to finish this tonight.

    1. Great Dr. Quinn to be. Thanks for sharing your research on the show this afternoon. It helped to clarify some things. We see now that you are studying ethnic organizations. I hope you are make progress tonight.

  27. We go into the last day of the DH. Today, we focused on the Preparing for the Defense and on being able to present our research to a lay audience in 3 minutes i.e. the Elevator Pitch. Could you talk about your research without a lot of jargon if you had to convince someone to support/fund your research. Can you sell yourself and your research effectively?

    Tomorrow we continue with the 3 min presentations and work on “How to overcome Writer’s Block”
    We will also focus on how to plan for “After the DH”. Welcome to Day 4 of the DH.

  28. My Prelim. Exam/Research Proposal Defense went well yesterday.
    My adviser emailed me afterwards and said that the committee agreed that I am on track.
    What a relief. …now on to continuing my research. I have a meeting this evening with my advisor.

    D.H. House does indeed help. I factored in materials from some prior D.H. sessions and feedback from Dr. C.V. (even this week) in preparing for my Prelim. Working with one’s advisor is key though. It was good hearing my committee members perspectives on my research also (both the positive and otherwise).

    1. Congratulations! Thanks for sharing your progress.

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What is dissertation house?

The Dissertation House program is an intensive writing retreat designed to help graduate students overcome the barriers that often impede progress on their dissertations. Developed by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, the program provides a supportive and structured environment where students can focus on their writing, receive feedback, and learn effective time management and goal-setting strategies. Over several days, students work in groups, participate in workshops, and receive coaching from experienced facilitators. The Dissertation House program has been highly successful in helping students make significant progress on their dissertations. It is widely regarded as a valuable resource for graduate students seeking to complete their degrees.