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  • mboettc

The Doctoral Experience and Loneliness

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

Lonely. Isolated. Alone. Solitude.

Once upon a time, I did my dissertation study about a teaching and learning conference. I interviewed founders and attendees of the conference and asked why they attended. There were lots of different reasons. One thing that stuck with me though was that when faculty talked about their work they used similar but distinct descriptors:

"Being a faculty member is lonely."

"As a faculty member, I am isolated a lot of the time."

"I do my work - course prep and research - alone."

"In my job, I work a lot of the time in solitude."

This wasn't really the focus of my study, but I found it interesting and have remembered it. In many ways this aspect of the doctoral experience mirrors being a faculty member. You likely do your homework on your own (even group work often ends up being different pieces of individual work pulled together for a project). And when you get to the dissertation stage you are definitely doing al to of writing alone.

For me, it is a good fit. In fact, on my first grade report card I remember Mrs. Martin wrote, "Prefers to work alone."

True. I still prefer to work alone. I often prefer to engage in recreation alone (for example, driving around and taking photos like the one below).

But if that isn't your experience, you are not alone. (see what I did there?). I encourage you to consider this article:

Janta, H., Lugosi, P., & Brown, L. (2014). Coping with loneliness: A netnographic study of doctoral students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 38(4), 553-571.

And if you don't like that one, there are other resources out there.

Keep at it. You can do it. Ask for help or a bit of encouragement when you need it. You will get where you're headed.

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