Skip to main content

Print version

Dissertation and Thesis Assistance (DATA) Program [Audio]

{If you are looking for the DATA Enrollment Form, click here.}

Megan: Howdy Ags, welcome to Write Right, the student podcast for the Texas A&M University Writing Center. Today’s episode will highlight a special program for our graduate students who are writing a thesis or dissertation. This program is called the DATA program, which stands for Dissertation And Thesis Assistance program. It provides one-on-one guidance with the same consultant for up to ten sessions. DATA sessions are designed to help students create a personalized appointment calendar and obtain regular feedback about the progress of their writing. Today, we’re talking with two students who previously completed the DATA program. They’ve agreed to share their experiences and discuss how their sessions were structured. Let’s meet Richa and Mallory.

Ricaha: My name is Richa Dhanju, and I study cultural anthropology. I’m a PhD student. I’m studying politics and slums and how it’s changing due to the new liberal governance in Delhi, India.

Mallory: My name’s Mallory Frazier. I’m in the Psychology Department, specifically the BCN Program, Behavioral and Cellular Neuroscience. The topic of my paper was social stress in mice, exacerbates a mouse model of multiple sclerosis called Theiler’s murine and encephalomyelitis virus.

Megan: First, I asked Richa and Mallory about the focus of their DATA sessions and how they used their time. They both worked with a Writing Center consultant named Lara.

Mallory: Mostly we worked on the introduction and the discussion, because those are the parts that are generally the most difficult to write for scientific students. We would read each section and make corrections while we were reading.

Richa: Essentially our sessions were a lot of brainstorming. So I would tell her, “Look I have these three examples from my paper. Do you think they’re fitting here? Do you think this is more emphatic? Do you think this is getting the point across?” And she would just be able to tell me right on. Lara really helped me focus on what I want to say, how many pages it should be, what should be the organization of the chapter. It was a lot of brainstorming, a lot of organizing, a lot of cleaning up the text, including grammatical issues. So, it was a mix of everything.

Megan: Next, Richa described how attending DATA sessions on a regular basis helped her stay on track and meet deadlines.

Richa: I’m sure as you know, graduate students suffer from procrastination. There are times when graduate students feel overwhelmed because their progress has not been regularly spanned over a period of time. And frankly one of the reasons I came to the University Writing Center was to get help with being regular. And that’s exactly what my sessions with Lara did. I knew I had to meet Lara every week or every second week and show her work, so that helped me really sit down every day and think and write about issues. I also knew that there would be somebody looking at my work and asking me questions. That helped me clarify beforehand what I thought the questions could be. The committee essentially does not, more often than not, want to see anything other than a finished product. What do you do in the process? That’s where the University Writing Center and its experts come in.

Megan: I also asked if Richa and Mallory ran into challenges with the DATA program. They worked with Lara to overcome miscommunication about their specialized topics.

Mallory: Some of the words that are very specific jargon to my area, she didn’t really understand. But that helped in itself. Yes, you’re supposed to write and assume that the people who are reading what you’re writing know kind of what you’re talking about. But, you should still try to define everything that you can and make it so that a layman can read and understand at least part of it.

Richa: It was a lot of simplification on my part so that she could understand, and that in turn also helped my writing. I knew eventually there would be a lot of people reading what I write who are not from my field.

Finally, I asked if they have recommendations for other students considering the DATA program. They also shared overall benefits of working with Lara.

Mallory: I do kind of wish I had gone a little bit earlier. I ended up having to make a lot of revisions without her right before my defense, and I think that if I had gone two full months ahead of time, that would have been better. What I did get with her was really solid. I gave it to my mentor and she had very few edits to make from the things I worked with Lara on, whereas the things I didn’t work with Lara on, there was a lot more to do.

Richa: Lara’s amazing. I think the best thing I found in her is that she took interest in my project. There would be times when I was sitting there telling her stories from my fieldwork and what my project is about, and she would listen with keen interest. And that provided both of us a background, a foundation to start from. Knowing that the people you’re talking to are not just students here, but they care about your work and they want to see it going ahead. That’s definitely what I felt with Lara. She was very engaged with my progress, and that gave me a lot of hope.

Megan: We want to thank Richa and Mallory for taking the time to share their feedback with us. If anyone is interested in more information about the DATA program, please go to our website at writingcenter.tamu.edu, and click on the Graduate Student Services link. An application form is also available online for anyone who wants to join the program. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Write Right, and have a great day.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.