For those working on your thesis or dissertation, "social" is probably a word that you haven't heard in a while, unless it was prefaced by "anti-." I wanted to show you some ways to connect with others that are going through some of the same struggles and frustrations you are. Here is a short list of some sites that may help you connect with others and get some great insight on the process of research and writing.
Thesis Whisperer: This site states that it's "just like the horse whisperer, but with more pages." It's a great mix of writing helps, navigating the process as a doctoral student, and career advice. There's also the occasional "airing of the grievances" that can be healthy to explore.
Literature Review HQ: For me, the literature review is one of the easier pieces to write. However, I've known plenty of clever folk that have had real difficulty with this section. No doubt much of it depends on your overall subject matter. For those that are having trouble you can check out this site. This is a bit commercialized, as the author sells a number of products, but there are some helpful posts on the blog and the products themselves might be worth it if you're getting stuck with your writing process.
The Three Month Thesis: Particularly helpful for those of us in UK-style doctoral programs, this blog is also out to sell you some products that will no doubt help your writing process. There are some great posts for free, though, on the blog portion of the website too.
The Grad Cafe: This website is a great forum that has sub-forums based on area of study as well as sub-forums that deal with finances, the application process, and other important aspects of graduate school. While not specifically for doctoral students, it will be very helpful. It's also a very active forum, which is what you always like to see.
PhinisheD: This forum is also active and can be really helpful for those needing encouragement or to talk an idea out with people that actually know what they're talking about. This is one of my favorite stops when I need to discuss something with others. Since my dissertation deals with theology, literature, history, and archaeology it really helps to get input from people that are experts (or at least more so than I) in each of those fields.
Popular Social Media Sites: Twitter is great at connecting you with those that share similar interests. I have never found Facebook to be as helpful with professional associations and interactions. However, if you just want to jump off into the deep end of the pool of academic social media, check out Academia.edu. I've connected with some great international scholars through that and can read papers from organizations and individuals that I follow. It's also interesting to see who follows you and where they're from. Currently, I'm like the David Hasselhoff of Croatia.
While social media is very convenient and can be very encouraging, it can also be very time consuming. If you're going to delve into some of these sites, set a time limit or limit yourself to only check it once or twice a day. The only other caution I have is to not let social media replace actual, face-to-face social interaction. You're not helping yourself if you spend three to five years of your life having mostly online interactions with colleagues. Being socially awkward isn't a trait employers search for. Go to symposiums, scholarly forums, and professional meetings of academic societies that you're a member of. More than all of this, though, don't neglect your friends and family. Obtaining an advanced degree will cost you time, money, and some freedom, but it shouldn't cost you relationships - especially with your spouse and kids.
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.