I sympathise with all PhD students out there who have to navigate the current pandemic landscape and finish their dissertations. Some useful words of advice and (possible) encouragement on the process may come in a post from Michael Shanks, arguing for a “pragmatic basis of evaluation.”
Given the current conditions, this seems more relevant than ever – some excerpts from Shanks, with my emphases:
Writing a dissertation is a rite of passage in the academy and it is far too much surrounded in mystery, hype, and misunderstanding. So I am going to cut though to pragmatics, because I think this is the best mindset to adopt in what can be a daunting challenge as a graduate student – when some hold that a dissertation is meant to be a report on research that is to be considered significant in one’s chosen disciplinary field!
It’s best to hold that a dissertation is meant to display competency in the research process, rather than adding somehow to a body of knowledge that might be associated with a disciplinary field.
I hope this helps all of us – because we actually never cease to be graduate students, if we are honest with ourselves. We are always vulnerable, uncertain, learning – and the more you know the more you realize how much there is to learn.