Music creates memories and marks turning points in our lives. Music is a companion and friend when you need it. It’s also a reminder to “lively up yourself” in the words of Bob Marley when you need a motivating push.
When you’re trying to get through a doctoral program, you are managing your time, staying on top of hard deadlines, and hopefully balancing your life. If your team and chair is behind you, rooting for you, your process may be memorable, mostly smooth, and something you cherish. If you reach some bumps along your journey and feel a bit lost at times, it’s to be expected. That is a hallmark of the doctoral and dissertation process, especially if you don’t have a lot of support behind you. But hopefully, you’ll come out on top like I did, after sticking with it and practicing self-care along the way. I completed my dissertation during quarantine and graduated during this pandemic!
Picture this is was 2020, year of the pandemic and I was in my final year of my doctoral program(in my Sophia Petrillo “Golden Girls” voice). One way I practiced self-care and kept myself inspired during the completion of my dissertation is by listening to favorite songs that carried me through the “battle of the dissertation.” LOL (with a cry emoji).
My favorite artists to listen to while conducting research and writing my dissertation, were soul, hip hop, and reggae artists. I also listened to pop/rock, classical, relaxing lounge music, and nature sounds. Anything to keep myself in the flow of writing and keeping my vibe up with good energy around me.
Here are the top 20 songs that kept me motivated while I wrote my dissertation. By the way, I finished in August 2020 and I graduated with my doctorate degree in Education in December 2020!
20. Jam on It — Newcleus
This song is so upbeat. It makes you want to party and break dance. For me, it kept my brain alert and firing on 100 when I had plenty of writing and editing to do. It helped to create the mood of motivation for me to write my dissertation. I was jamming on it with this one!
19. Set If Off — Strafe
The topic of my dissertation — the academic persistence of ESL students — was not a usual one for my particular program, but I was committed to it. I knew that I had to push myself and learn as much as I could about my topic. I had to show that I was the expert on this topic, therefore I had to set it off right! This song is great because it’s another upbeat classic.
18. Flawless — Beyonce
There are times in your dissertation process where you don’t know which way is up. Those thoughts and feelings are never comfortable. Queen Bey always reminds me that it’s what I say about myself that matters, not what others say. Beyonce is the Queen of female driven anthems. Listening to “Flawless” was great for me during rough days in my dissertation process. It served as a reminder that my dissertation was going to be flawless!
17. 0 to 100 — Drake
During my doctorate, I had to multitask and complete deliverables sometimes within a short amount of time. When it came time to present my research proposal — I was on. This Drake song is one of my favorites. It’s very energetic and it has a theme for me of being goal driven, which is what I was focused on while writing my dissertation. At times it definitely felt like I was going from 0 to 100 — real quick!
16 and 15. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Shine Eye Gal — Black Uhuru
I love reggae. Black Uhuru makes you want to sit amongst wise Rastas, to learn about the wonders of the world. I would play Black Uhuru’s songs on repeat sometimes just to give me that chill vibe I needed to pull all-nighters when writing my dissertation.
14. Love Supreme — John Coltrane
The name Coltrane is synonymous with jazz. I would listen to “Love Supreme” during my all-night writing sessions and really zone out. The music just wrapped around me and kept me going.
13. No Woman, No Cry — Bob Marley
Of course there were days I wanted to cry. My faith and inner strength kept me going but some days were truly a test, as it should have been. Well Bob told me don’t cry, so instead I put on my big girl pants and swayed to his music while revising and adding to my literature review.
12. Marley Lively Up Yourself — Bob Marley
The dissertation process can feel like it will never end. I couldn’t focus on “tomorrow” because I was too busy focusing on the “today” of my hurdles while writing and completing my research. Bob spoke to keeping my spirits up and not letting anyone or anything bring me down, even though they might try.
11. Baby I’m a Star — Prince
Ahh my favorite Prince. The royal songwriting genius. Well this song is self-explanatory. Prince is one of those artists who knew how to manifest and speak what he wanted into existence. He said he was a star, and he was. This song reminded me it was up to me to believe in myself and my abilities to get through my dissertation process. No one else could do it for me. So yes, “baby I am — a STAR.” Say that to yourself and you’ll slay the dissertation dragons like I did.
10. Glamorous Life — Sheila E.
When I was in the dissertation process, it was never ending. I couldn’t count the number of revisions, edits, and things that I had to change but I could sure fantasize about when it would be over — ha! Sheila E.’s song made me fantasize about my life when it was all over. What would I do? Ah so many things if it were not for quarantine. Well I could dream of my version of a glamorous life as I listened to this song during long days and nights of research writing.
9. Stepping it Hotter This Year — Ini Kamoze
Another reggae song that I kept on repeat. Stepping it hotter meant I was leveling up in my education and my skill set. My dissertation would be yet another book that I had written and finalized through many revisions. Ini Kamoze says, “I’m stepping it hotter this year, I hope you don’t mind it…” This song was perfect for my Saturday and Sunday afternoon research reading and writing sessions.
8. Kiss of Life — Sade
Sade’s music is timeless. I will always love and appreciate her music because she puts her whole energy and vibe into it, not just romantically but spiritually. This song is like a slow walk on the beach for me. Very relaxing during days when I really wanted to lay out on the beach. But I truly had to stay focused on my dissertation writing.
7. I Aint No Joke — Eric B. and Rakim
My dissertation process was filled with me doing affirmations to tell myself “I’m going to be successful with this. I’m going to get through it.” The confidence and bravado is on point. Dissertation writing was serious business. I needed this vibe as I completed a sometimes challenging process.
6. Thinking of a Master Plan — Eric B. and Rakim
This song was on repeat, for some of the final days of my dissertation work. That master plan is the key. This classic hip hop song will never go out of style in my opinion. The driving beat really inspired me to keep going as I finished my dissertation.
5. B&t*h From Da Souf — Mulatto
I love some banging, ratchet hip hop from the female perspective. This song is so dope, not so much for the lyrics but the beat. And the remix featuring Saweetie and Trina is crazy! This song is one of those songs that made me bob my head and spurred me on to write my dissertation.
4. Savage — Megan Thee Stallion
When you know you’re about to get to the end, well things get a little ratchet, in a good way. It’s time to kick your own butt and do the savage work of writing a kick a** dissertation that you and your committee will be proud of, but mostly you because if you don’t care about your work no one else will. So I had to turn on my savage and use my fire to polish my dissertation into the best shape possible. Meg’s hit became one of my anthem’s during this process.
3. Butterflies — Michael Jackson
It’s MJ forever for me. His song Butterflies is one I listened to a lot during my dissertation process. It’s a sweet love vibe. But I later realized it had another meaning for me. Approaching both my dissertation defense as well as my last conversation, I was a little nervous but by the end I was probably too tired to let nerves overtake me. So I told the butterflies in my stomach to go and chill out while I took care of business.
2. The Big Payback — James Brown
James Brown’s payback song was on repeat for me during the last week of my doctoral program completion. His words are powerful, filled with pride, and the music is a motivating force. I felt like it was a type of payback to complete my dissertation and doctoral program as a whole. I had worked very hard and I didn’t give up. This song reminded me that everything that came against me to deter me did not work. I reflected back over my life and saw how far I had come. I was proud of myself. I danced to James Brown once my dissertation was approved. And I kept dancing well after. It was CELEBRATION time!
1. Gap Band — Outstanding
The #1 song that got me through my dissertation was The Gap Band’s song “Outstanding!” It was the overall theme for me during my doctoral program and final dissertation process. I played this song often, not only because it reminded me of what it is to be excellent, but it also made me think of my undergraduate experience at Hampton University in Virginia. This song is a song that every Hamptonian knows, no matter when you attended. So the song already had special meaning to me. But then to connect it from my undergraduate college experience to completing my doctorate, carries an even more special meaning for me. We were always told that Hampton gave us a foundation for life-long learning, well I had truly realized that principle. What a journey over the years to reach this crucial point!
I affirmed as I approached my graduation that I was indeed outstanding. I stood on the shoulders of many great people, and received support from my parents, loved ones, fellow academics, previous mentors, and friends who cheered me on (some of whom traveled similar paths in education). I was truly grateful to finally make it to the end, and be able to say yes, I wrote my dissertation. Yes, my dissertation was approved. Yes, I earned my doctorate. Yes, I am now Dr. DuEwa Frazier. And that’s on — Black Girl Magic!
What songs kept you going during your doctoral program? What do you think of my dissertation playlist? Comment below or tweet me your thoughts @duewafrazier1. Visit my website at www.duewaworld.com.