[The Hansen Writing Ball, which Nietzsche reportedly did not like using]
Dr. Smart, who has been arranging Virtual Dissertation Groups (VDGs) for several years, explains what they are, how they work, why they’re good, and how to join:
What it is: VDG is a free service for those currently working on their doctoral dissertations in philosophy departments. Since 2014, we’ve connected students from over 30 countries to provide peer feedback on dissertation work with a minimal time commitment.
How it works: Each dissertator is placed in a group of three on the basis of a short survey about their project/area of work. About once a month, one member sends some work to the others—3,000 – 6,000 words—who then return feedback and comments in a week or so. (While this has typically been in the form of written comments, the survey now includes an option to indicate a preference for holding video discussions.)
Joshua Smart (Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville) is once again organizing virtual dissertation writing groups.
Why it’s good: While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach, outlook, or focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that even just thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can promote creative insights. With students at a variety of programs and from many states, countries, and every continent (well, except Antarctica), Virtual Dissertation Groups is a great way to capture some of these benefits!