Dissertation Writing Tips
Writing a dissertation is a marathon rather than a sprint and it’s important to remember that slow and steady wins the race. While frenzied, all-night writing sessions might have worked in college, they will likely be detrimental to getting your dissertation approved. Formulating sophisticated arguments and meaningful prose takes time and many, many…many revisions. Here are four tips that will not only help you write your dissertation in a timely manner but also improve the end result and your chances of getting it approved.
Dissertation Tip #1: Create a Writing Routine—and Start Early!
One of the attractions of academia is that it isn’t a 9-to-5 grind. However, this can also become the perfect breeding ground for procrastination. In general, doctoral candidates greatly improve their performance when sticking to a routine with set hours and rituals. If you treat the dissertation writing and editing process like the professional endeavor that it is, you are more likely to produce quality work.
Only you know the routine and writing hours that will work best for you. Perhaps you are most productive for an hour at a time, after which you need a 10-minute break. Maybe you write best at night when the rest of the world is asleep, or early in the morning before the distractions of the day creep in. Regardless of what time or timing works best for writing your dissertation, the important thing is that you set apart that time in your schedule and stick to it. Zealously guard those hours in your schedule and try to write or research a little bit every day. Set a timer if you have to. Turn off your phone, don’t check Twitter or Facebook, and avoid multitasking. Our brains function much better if we focus on one thing at a time (see this article on the myth of multitasking). Your dissertation deserves your undivided attention—not every minute of every day, but when you are writing or editing your dissertation, you must block all distractions.
Dissertation Tip #2: Accountability Works
Dissertation writing is by its very nature a solitary task. Furthermore, most doctoral candidates are working on obscure topics that very few others understand. This can lead to isolation and loneliness—especially once you finish your doctoral coursework and enter the dissertation writing phase. For this reason, it can be very helpful to set up specific timelines and milestone markers to strive toward. Ask your advisor to keep you accountable to a specific schedule that will give you plenty of time for revisions if major changes become necessary later in the dissertation writing or editing process. If you don’t have that type of relationship with your advisor, find another professor who is willing to be the taskmaster in your academic life.
Another way to create accountability is to join or form a dissertation writer’s workshop with your peers. These groups enable you to bounce your ideas off others in or outside of your field, but most importantly, they can help keep you motivated and on schedule with the dissertation writing process. Structured interactions can be very helpful and even bring insights to your research that you weren’t expecting.
Dissertation Tip #3: Find a Healthy Balance Between Perfection and Apathy
Many academics fall prey to perfectionism, a tendency that can hinder their ability to successfully complete their dissertations. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “I can’t possibly write anything yet—I don’t know enough,” you may fall on this side of the spectrum. Perfectionism can become particularly debilitating during the editing and formatting stages of your dissertation.
Other academics might be guilty of cutting corners or not devoting their full intellectual abilities to the task at hand. For some doctoral candidates, the final stages of a PhD program can be so exhausting that they care only about finishing the dissertation, even if it means undermining what should be a rigorous process. A dissertation is meant to contribute to a growing body of scholarship and should not be approached with apathy.
While some doctoral candidates struggle with one of these extremes, most find themselves struggling between them. It’s important to find a balance.
Dissertation Tip #4: Engage in Non-Dissertation Activity, Too
For a months-long (sometimes years-long) project like writing a dissertation, it is extremely important to maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle. Your mental health depends on it, as does the health of your dissertation. In order to avoid burn out, you should carve out time to focus on aspect other than your dissertation. Hobbies, exercise, and interactions with others help clear the mind and actually make you more productive. Don’t become the long-suffering graduate who brags about how he or she spent the last 12 hours in the library working. This is not only unhealthy, but it is also not going to make your dissertation any better.
Even if you heed these four tips, writing your dissertation will still be a long and difficult endeavor. But structure, focus, balance, and accountability are key to ensuring the dissertation process is both efficient and effective.
Need More Help with Dissertation Writing? Hire a Professional Dissertation Editor or Consultant
Sometimes free advice just isn’t enough. Hiring a dissertation editor or consultant can help make the dissertation writing process more efficient and save you a lot of time and frustration—especially in the editing and formatting stages.
Our dissertation editors and consultants specialize in all aspects of the dissertation planning, writing, and formatting process, and we are more than happy to help you through every step of the way. We can connect you with your very own personal dissertation guide who will keep you accountable, give you expert advice throughout the process, and do all the heavy lifting with editing and formatting. Why spend hours of your life mastering APA style or adjusting your references’ punctuation per MLA when you can hire a dissertation expert to take care of it for you?
Feel free to call or e-mail us at any time for a free, no-obligation consultation and price quote. We are happy to listen to you, determine your needs, and develop a plan to help you complete your dissertation.
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Hedge, Stephanie. “Surviving the Dissertation: Tips from Someone Who Mostly Has.” Inside Higher Ed. Accessed March 24, 2014. http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/gradhacker/surviving-dissertation-tips-someone-who-mostly-has
Single, Peg Boyle. Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamline Process from Choice of Topic to Final Text. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing LLC, 2010.