During my doctoral work, I read statistics that approximately 85% of doctoral students who have reached the status of ABD never finish their dissertations. ABD stands for "All But Dissertation." These are students who have finished all course requirements and passed their doctoral oral exams. Knowing this statistic, I went to visit one of my own professors after I completed my own doctoral orals. I wanted to ask him a question.
The question I asked was: "What do I need to know to write and finish my dissertation?" I knew that he was a street-smart scholar, in addition to being a prolific author, outstanding teacher, and brilliant scholar. I knew that he would have practical wisdom for me.
His answer was short: "By the time people reach the point of writing a doctoral dissertation, they are smart enough, they know enough, and they work hard enough to finish. But everything they hear is: 'You aren't smart enough, you don't know enough, you don't work hard enough.' And so they never finish because they think they can never do enough."
When I got home, I wrote a simple question on a 3x5 yellow index card: "What Is Enough?" I stuck that card on my wall, behind my desk. Every time I sat at the desk to work on my dissertation, I could see the card and the question.
If I had to choose the single most important reason why I finished my dissertation it would be this question. "What Is Enough?" was the question that allowed me to go from ABD to Ph.D.
As I worked on my dissertation help, the question: "What Is Enough?" kept me on course. Whenever I realized that I had just spent two hours on some interesting bit of information, the question reminded me of my purpose. My purpose was to complete the dissertation, defend the dissertation, and finish my degree. When I asked the question I could evaluate whether the particular topic I was working on was relevant to my purpose. Sometimes it was. Sometimes it wasn't. But simply asking the question reminded me that I was working toward a specific goal.
The enemy of completing a dissertation is the word "more." The word "more" drives scholars. There is always more to read, more to study, more to know. One more article. One more book. One more fact. The question: "What Is Enough?" cuts through this relentless drive to know and do more, to remember that the immediate task is to finish.
Since I completed my own dissertation, I have offered this question to other scholars, and I now offer it to you. The question will keep you on track to finish your dissertation. It is especially valuable whenever you feel overwhelmed, focused, and off-track. If you wonder if you will ever be able to finish, ask yourself: "What Is Enough?" to finish.
When you are writing a doctoral dissertation, "What Is Enough?" means that you write a clear argument to prove a clear thesis. You don't have to write everything you know on a topic. "Enough" means that you write enough to prove your case. You don't have to write more than "enough.