Pareto Principle: Your Dissertation Is No Exception
September 11, 2014
The Pareto Principle (AKA the 80-20 rule): if you’re writing your dissertation, you’re probably accustomed to this magical ratio whether you know it or not. The Pareto Principle states that in many instances, approximately 80% of the effects result from 20% of the causes.
This handy little rule of thumb has applications in everything from land ownership to business to health care. For example, in the U.S., 80% of health care resources are used by 20% of patients. Similarly, 80% of customer service complaints are likely to come from 20% of your clients. Luckily, this principle can work in your favor, too, with 80% of your sales coming from 20% of your clients (though probably a different 20%!).
The Figment of the Finished House
The 80-20 rule is also relevant when it comes to the time and effort spent on a particular project, perhaps something like… a dissertation. (Starting to sound eerily familiar?) Let’s not go there just yet, though! Think instead of building a house. You can probably imagine that the first few phases are going to seem like they are taking forever. You feel like you’ll never make any progress as you clear the land, dig the foundation, lay the plumbing; it seems like it’s all going down, down, down—and you’ve only just started!
Then, a miracle happens. The foundation is poured, and you start laying the floor joints and framing the walls. Suddenly, the house isn’t just a hole in the ground anymore. The dimensions start to take shape, and you’re climbing vertically. You can see the boundaries of each room. You can imagine walking through it! You’re almost there! This is usually the point when a false sense of completion takes hold. You look at the building and you think to yourself, “It’s basically done!”
If only. Any skilled builder will tell you that this is where the real push begins. Yes, once the foundation, the floors, and the walls are done, it seems like 80% of the work is complete, but that remaining 20% is going to take you 80% of the total time for the project. You have to hook up all the electrical wires, delicately install all the fine molding and baseboards, trim out the windows, paint the walls, finish and buff the floors. You have to install the sinks, the bathtubs, the tiles, the light fixtures, the cabinets, the railings. Starting to get the idea? As protracted as that initial hurdle may have felt, nothing compares to that feeling that by now, it should be done already!
Crossing the Dissertation Finish Line
Now we’re ready to take a look at that dissertation you’re working on. Hopefully it gives you a little solace to know that you’re not alone when it comes to the uphill climb at the end of a long process. If you’re like most people, once you’ve completed your prospectus, the bulk of your research, and you’ve submitted the first draft, it feels like you’ve built the foundation, the floors, and the walls of the house. You’re almost done, right?
Alas, not so. You’re now just beginning the process of making revisions, incorporating comments from multiple readers, and possibly even rewriting, rethinking, and reanalyzing sections that you thought were done. As much effort as that first draft takes to complete, you have to make sure you save enough gas in the tank to make it through the editing phase of your dissertation. This is the point in the process when many Ph.D. candidates get bogged down, draw things out, put things on hold—all because they felt like they were basically done, only to realize that the work was just beginning. If you feel like you’re standing in a house that should be move-in ready, only to realize that 80% of the time and effort is still needed to finish, then don’t try to go it alone. If this is the case for you, then now is the crucial time for you to call a dissertation editor and consultant.
At Dissertation Editor, we can give you the boost you need to make it across the finish line. We’ll discuss comments from your advisors with you, edit your revisions, and ensure that all of the painstaking formatting requirements are fulfilled—and save you from spending your precious time and energy on formalities.