Dissertation timelines are typically very long, often taking years to complete. This dissertation guide presents constructive advice on how to move through all phases of a dissertation project as quickly and headache-free as possible. While the time frame suggested by the title -two semesters or less--is unrealistic, following Ogden's advice will certainly lead to an earlier completion date.
Although every chapter in the book is helpful, I found chapters covering committee choice and topic selection of particular interest. Ogden presents a variety of different professor-profiles as potential advisor (mentor) candidates. She succinctly elaborates on the factors that a PhD candidate should consider when choosing an advisor, including his or her availability, career position, commitments, interests, capability, and personality type. As I read this chapter, I began to reevaluate my own assumptions about what a good advisor is in terms of the bottom line--completing the dissertation.
The chapter on choosing a dissertation topic was full of useful information, although the author certainly guts any idealism or excitement when she says, "Make your objective a topic that is `tolerably non-boring,' a topic that has a high potential for success (finishing)" (p. 38). True to the title of the book, the chapter (as is with every chapter) is all about being practical. Topic choice is dictated by such considerations as access to the data, feasibility of data collection, and short-cut means-to-an-end topic mining (rather than interest).
The emphasis on efficiency and practicality, coupled with the brevity of the text, leads to some problems, however. In the chapter on research design, Ogden champions the experimental method over every other type, attempting to keep things as simple as possible. Not only does she leave out other types of quantitative approaches, such as observational studies, but she seems completely ignore any qualitative method. Speaking of case study research, she erroneously claims that "it is difficult to draw conclusions from the data and justify them with what amounts to a small sample" (p. 42). While it may be hard, if not impossible to make statistical generalizations with small case study samples, analytic generalizations and generalizations using case-comparison strategies are often made (see Yin's Case Study Research: Design and Method). Rather than arguing for a particular method, perhaps the author could have argued for using a structured method and provided more design options. Further, because design and topic choice are interdependent, the student may find an experimental design does not fit the topic of choice.
A final caveat I have with the book is, despite its realistic approach, ironically, her claim that a dissertation can be completed in two semesters or less is more fiction than reality. No wonder the author glosses over the revision process, typically a painstaking one that requires time. In Chapter 6, covering the writing phase, she states that after only three weeks of writing, "Figure another week for revision and voila--the end is in sight" (p. 85). She makes the revision process sound as quick and pain-free as painting the living room. Devoting a few pages to the revision process and how to speed up that particular end of things would have been helpful to the reader and in keeping with the practical nature of the book although might have conflicted with the book's slant. Despite such issues, the book provides a wealth of practical information when read with caution.