Graduate students interested in applying should submit the following: (1) a completed application form available here; (2) a cover letter; (3) curriculum vitae; (4) a graduate transcript; (5) a one-page abstract of the dissertation; (6) a technical summary of the dissertation not to exceed 2,500 words in length (not including the bibliography); (7) a letter from the department chair or other university official certifying the student’s doctoral candidacy; and (8) two letters of recommendation from faculty members on the student’s dissertation committee. The technical summary should describe clearly the aim of the dissertation, its significance in relation to the existing literature, and the research methods and data to be used. RFF cannot provide evaluations or other feedback on proposals.
A sociologist and advisor to many graduate students, Sternberg focuses on moving the student from ABD to . His chapters explore topic selection, filing systems, proposal-writing, research, writing, committee relations, “the Dissertation Dumps,” the defense, and the post-defense uses of the dissertation. Sternberg does strike somewhat of a balance between the “buck up” school that says “Just write the thing and quite whining” and the sympathetic school that is inclined to tell you “it’s okay,” hold your hand, and validate your feelings. On the whole, his suggestions tend to center around developing a plan for completion and adhering to it despite doubts, rather than exploring the doubts themselves in great depth. Some of his advice may seem dated. For example, in discussing sexism, he writes “deep-rooted sexism is still a fact of graduate university structure and hierarchy” that can be “exploited by a woman.” He concludes that the “feminist ABD has to suspend her struggle for that ongoing cause during the two years of the dissertation struggle.” (p. 150)