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Looking toward the dissertation phase, how do I keep motivated?

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When I started writing my MA thesis, I was also teaching for the first time, and the overall experience of balancing both was really stressful. For my MA essay, there's an option of revising a seminar paper, so I went with this option and made an earnest mistake of writing a theoretically argumentative paper without opting for data collection and analysis. The main reason was that I didn't want to spend too much time and wanted to move on to the PhD program a bit faster. But writing the essay made me realize that a theoretical paper is a lot harder than a paper that has some data to be grounded and analyzed. In short, I think my thesis could be better, and my initial idea of submitting it to a journal is even starting to dissipate because I'm not that confident with the quality of my paper. I'm also afraid if this is any indication of how my dissertation writing would be like. How should I get my confidence back up again? And how do you know if a paper is good enough to try submitting it to a journal?

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  • 5 months later...

First of all, congrats on finishing your thesis! That is a major milestone, so celebrate that victory. Second, you have to view them separately. The purpose of the thesis is to introduce you to managing your own independent project and to start becoming an independent thinker and scholar, you succeeded there. I don't think anyone is ever truly happy with their "finished" theses or dissertations--after all, we are always trained to be critical and to view things through a critical lens. 

You pointed out that you realized that writing a theoretical paper was a lot more challenging than you originally planned--that information right there demonstrates that you have already grown because you are able to recognize and learn from the process. And now that you recognize this--you can move into your dissertation knowing that you are even more informed and prepared than you were before. 

I would talk to your advisor or a trusted faculty member and ask for their input. Generally, since they are in the field, they have knowledge and experience in applying to journals that are related to your topic(s) of interest and can point you in the right direction. And, even if you do submit and your paper is rejected, the worst thing that happens is you get feedback from reviewers and you can evaluate it and either resubmit, or submit to another journal. In the meantime, I am unsure of how it works in your field, but generally conference proceedings are less pressure in my field. You could submit some of your work to a conference for initial feedback and then use that to help scaffold a longer, more detailed journal article. 

Unfortunately that iterative process is just part of life as a researcher, and while it can be disheartening to get negative feedback, it's always a chance to learn and improve the process for next time.

Hope this helps, even just a little. 

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