Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Where Does Dissertation Motivation Come From?

Motivation to do anything can come from many sources.  To simplify, psychologists have come up with two kinds that I believe speak to what I have been thinking about in terms of where dissertation writing motivation is coming from for me: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation.  Ryan and Deci (2000) define intrinsic motivation as "the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequence." They say that an intrinsically motivated person "is moved to act for the fun or challenge entailed rather than because of external prods, pressures, or rewards." Yeah right!  I wish I naturally enjoyed tedious hours of reading and analyzing scholarly articles.  Okay, maybe I do a little once I get started...but getting started is the problem.

Ryan and Deci (2000) then define extrinsic motivation as "a construct that pertains whenever an activity is done in order to attain some separable outcome." I think this one sounds more like me. Here is a link to the article by Ryan and Deci that provides further discussion on the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

To try to sort this out for myself and find out which one pulls at me more, I came up with a list of some of the reasons I want to finish this dissertation to earn the elusive doctorate (these are not in any particular order):
  • I want to finish this goal I set for myself
  • I want my family to be proud
  • I want my name to have the credentials attached
  • I want to position myself to advance in my career
  • I want to get the respect that having a doctorate gets you, especially with faculty and other academics
  • I want to add to the statistics of Latinas with doctoral degrees
  • I want to have a voice for all Latinas
What I discovered when reading this list was that a great deal of my own motivation seems to be mostly extrinsic. This means that I need outside motivators to not only keep me focused, but to give me the continual momentum to prioritize sitting down and doing the work even when other demands pull at me.   
After I made the list I realized that I should have added these to this list of reasons, which would tip my motivation to be more intrinsic:
  • I want to increase my knowledge about the topic I have selected
  • I want my research findings to contribute to the body of knowledge
  • I want to feel accomplished that I can conduct sound research 
Adding these and several others with more intrinsic motivational value might propel my actions.  Oh, if only that were true.  Another thing I learned about myself while making these lists and discovering that most of my motivation seems to be extrinsic - outside of myself - is that I need to use this to my advantage.

So what am I doing?  I am feeding my need for extrinsic motivation by creating things around me that constantly remind me about what I need to do.  I made little signs to post around my desk that post my name with the "Ph.D." at the end with 2 questions meant to be asked in the morning when I get up and at night before I go to sleep:  

AM - What am I going to do TODAY to make this happen? 
PM - What did I do TODAY to make this happen?

I always thought posting these kinds of printed affirmations were somewhat corny, but I can't tell you enough how much this visual reminder focuses me and gets me thinking and obsessing about my dissertation (in a good way of course).
Another thing I did was start this blog.  Since I first contemplated and wrote the words in my first post, which actually came some time before I officially posted, I have really stayed focused and have made some great strides.  I suddenly put out into the universe publicly that I was on this journey and I invited others to join me.  That meant that I had a responsibility to report back my progress and stay on track.

So here is what I did since I wrote my first post:
  1. I rewrote my introduction to be as clear as possible on what my topic is about.
  2. I categorized and organized the articles and books for my literature review into themes.
  3. I entered tons of references into my RefWorks online bibliography database.
  4. I updated my completion timeline to reflect the pace at which I plan on working in order to defend in the spring of 2014 and attend graduation in May 2014 (now the pressure is on!!!)   
I am proud of my progress and will continue to find ways to stay focused and keep my eyes on the "extrinsic" prize.  :)  One great way I want to stay motivated and share the inspiration is to invite some amazing Latinas who have recently (or not so recently) completed doctoral degrees to share their stories.  I will call this the "Galeria de Doctoras Latinas."  That section will be coming soon!

Now feel free to share with us what have you been doing to work on your doctorate and if already finished, please message me on LinkedIn if you want to be featured in the "Galeria."