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Grad school survival tips: You can earn your degree (and enjoy the process, too.)

Thursday January 23, 2014
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Going back to school can result in exponential payback. But getting your DNP or PhD can be a grueling, arduous process that will leave you in pieces, right? It doesn’t have to be. These expert tips, gathered from nurses who have reached their higher learning destination or are on that path, may make the acquisition of your next degree a little easier (and maybe even enjoyable).

Keep your master’s degree work handy

The work you completed while finishing your master’s degree is a great resource as you decide on a potential area of study for your dissertation or capstone project. Take some time to look over the resources you’ve acquired and file the items you think you may refer to later on.

Start your literature search early

A jumpstart on your literature search will help you pinpoint the direction of your final project or dissertation. You may have an idea of what kind of research you’ll conduct, but a literature search might lead you to discover a completely different angle that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

Use citation software right off the bat

Invest in a good citation software program, like EndNote, that will keep tabs on everything you may read and reference in your later work. Citation software keeps track of your references in the format you desire and makes in-text citation more manageable.

Be realistic with your data collection timeline

With uncontrollable variables, such as finding patients who meet the established criteria, data collection often takes longer than you might envision. Make a timeline for the data collection you would achieve in a perfect world, and then add at least a few months extra for good measure. Setting realistic expectations will keep you from getting overwhelmed when you’re knee deep in the process.

Form a study group

Having a group of peers to meet with regularly has multiple benefits. Your colleagues will bring a variety of experiences and sources of their own to the table that may be invaluable to your work. Having a level of informal accountability will keep you on the right track if you find yourself floundering. And sometimes you might just need to vent. Getting your frustrations out there to sympathetic ears can do wonders for your own morale and productivity level.

Avoid detours

While you conduct your literature review and gather a plethora of research, take care to avoid going down a road that doesn’t directly relate to your project initiative or thesis. Continually check in to see if the research you’re using helps to tell the “story” of your overall work.

Heed your committee’s recommendations

It’s natural to become focused on certain details of your research while losing sight of the final picture. That’s why it’s essential to listen to your committee’s recommendations with open ears and follow through with the feedback you receive. Ultimately, you want to succeed. Following your committee’s advice will make it easier in the long run to do just that.

To see what else is trending in advanced education, visit www.Nurse.com/Advanced-Education.

Resources

MinorityNurse.com/Article/Dnps-And-Phds-Your-Questions-Answered

AANnet.org/assets/docs/2013%20pre-application%20self-assessment.pdf

“Anatomy of Writing for Publication for Nurses”
— By Cynthia Saver, RN, MS, and Sigma Theta Tau
International Staff — Available at BarnesandNoble.com



Meaghan O’Keeffe, RN, BSN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email specialty@Nurse.com.