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ABD - Should Doctoral Candidates Use This Common Designation?

By Dani Babb, PhD

Many doctoral candidates use ABD on social media or a curriculum vitae. ABD meana for "All But Dissertation," which indicates that a student has completed all the coursework and requirements for a doctoral degree, except for the dissertation. Some students use the ABD designation to indicate that they have completed all the requirements of their doctoral program except for the dissertation.

Whether or not a student should use the ABD designation is a matter of personal choice and career goals. Some people feel that it is an appropriate designation to use because it accurately reflects their progress in their doctoral program. Others argue that it is not appropriate to use ABD because it implies that the student has completed the program when, in fact, they have not completed the most significant aspect of the requirements.

If you are considering using the ABD designation, it is essential to understand how it may be perceived by others in your field. Some employers, colleagues, and academic institutions may view ABD as a negative or incomplete designation. Therefore, it is essential to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of using the ABD designation before deciding whether or not to use it.

If a person who has completed all the requirements for a doctoral degree except for the dissertation does not want to use the ABD designation, they may consider using alternative language to describe their status. Here are a few options:

  1. "Doctoral Candidate": This term is commonly used to describe a student who has completed all of their coursework and comprehensive exams and is working on their dissertation.

  2. "Doctoral Candidate, Dissertation in Progress": This designation can indicate that a student has completed all the requirements for their doctoral degree except for the dissertation and is currently working on that final requirement.

  3. "Doctoral Candidate, Defending Soon": This option can be used when a student is close to completing their dissertation and is preparing to defend it.

While these may be popular on social media, a better way to reflect it on a cv is to put “expected completion date ABC. Completed…” and then indicate how many chapters you have finished or where you are in the process.

It's essential to consider the norms in your field and the context in which you will be using your designation. Some fields or academic institutions may have specific terms or conventions that are expected and usually ABD is not among them. Ultimately, the most important thing is to accurately and transparently convey your status and progress towards your degree! Finish that dissertation! We are here to help!

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