My sessions with Keith O'Regan in the Thesis Writing Cafe were highly effective in equipping me with valuable knowledge and skills specific to the challenges of producing a doctoral dissertation and fostering a supportive community of peers. Keith was always prepared for each session with a relevant and engaging topic for discussion, while also being open-minded to any topics that group members hoped to discuss. He was an excellent moderator of the discussions by always leaving space for people to first parse out their own ideas and concerns, before offering insightful and empathetic input of his own.
The pomodoro work sessions were designed in accordance with the stated preferences of the group (25 minutes of work, followed by 5 minutes of break) and flawlessly guided by Keith, who left his camera on during the work sessions to maintain a sense of camaraderie. Additionally, the one-to-one appointments offered through the cafe were an excellent supplement to the group sessions, allowing for discussions more directly personalized to my own situation. Most notably, Keith provided extremely helpful feedback to me about an excerpt of my dissertation draft where I was striving to develop an original concept/framework. Keith spent considerable time prior to the appointment reading through my lengthy document (he even indicated that he had read it over multiple times) which allowed him to offer extremely valuable and specific advice about how to further improve my work (such as how to solidify my ideas in existing literature and attempt to locate potential critiques of my concept).
He also gave clear and useful advice about how to present my original idea to my supervisor; I am not sure how else I could have otherwise accessed such valuable guidance. This made me feel much less anxious about talking to my supervisor; I ended up meeting with my supervisor about my original concept a couple of weeks later and the discussion was extremely positive, no doubt largely thanks to the advice I received from Keith. Overall, the Thesis Writing Cafe has been an incredible opportunity that has greatly benefited my doctoral degree progress. When starting the cafe in January 2021, I had only written about 500 words on my dissertation draft; I was experiencing significant procrastination and felt quite overwhelmed at the prospect of completing such a large project.
Now, (less than three months later) I can proudly say I have written over 7,000 words for my dissertation - including a complete chapter draft. More importantly, I have gained invaluable knowledge and skills that I can continually apply throughout the summer and into the 2021-22 academic year to ensure that I maintain this momentum of dissertation progress. I am extremely happy and grateful to have completed this program in my third-year of doctoral studies, since I have been able to proactively address my insecurities about writing/research early on to ensure that I complete my degree on time. I would highly recommend the Thesis Writing Cafe to any doctoral student working on their dissertation, regardless of age, year of study, or professional/academic experience. While the virtual format certainly differs from an in-person setting, Keith made all of the necessary efforts to uphold the authenticity and effectiveness of the program. In fact, the reality of remote study ushered by the pandemic made the Thesis Writing Cafe all the more important and beneficial.