As every doctoral student knows, writing and completing a dissertation is a major challenge. It is common to struggle throughout the process and question whether you are making enough progress. The undertaking can be much easier if a few principles are followed, no matter which stage of the dissertation process you’re in. This will ensure that you will reach your goal of successfully defending your dissertation and getting that hard-earned PhD.
Here are some tips to help you write a dissertation:
Eliminate any hint of self-doubt
Everyone struggles with self-doubt at some point in their lives. As a doctoral student, when you are struggling to complete your dissertation you may start to think you are bad at research, writing, gathering data, presentations, statistical analysis, or public speaking. You may also start comparing yourself to other doctoral students, especially if they are further along in the process. The key to changing your mindset is to remind yourself that you are at the post-graduate level and have already achieved so much. Take things one day at a time, focus on your abilities, and tell yourself you have what it takes to acquire that PhD.
Set goals and deadlines
As a doctoral student, you are already familiar with working toward deadlines for your professors. Setting deadlines for yourself at the outset of the dissertation writing process will keep you focused and motivated. The process is long and involved, but having tangible goals to strive toward will help break down the project into manageable sections and give you a sense of completion along the way. Having set deadlines will also allow you to identify any problem areas and give you ample time to have these resolved.
Your goals and deadlines must be flexible
Setting deadlines and goals is key to completing your dissertation. However, things don’t always go as planned; life may throw some unexpected obstacles at you. When this happens, you will be required to make adjustments to your schedule and deadlines. Be prepared and open to changes in the progress you are making in your dissertation and adjust your timelines as needed.
Request feedback often
An important part of the dissertation writing process involves obtaining feedback. Getting feedback about your writing will save you valuable time as it will ensure you are on the right track and that you are doing the proper research. It will also alleviate feelings of isolation and keep you motivated.
At the beginning, approach faculty members to determine how much feedback they are able and willing to provide. As they are often busy with a wide variety of tasks, a clear understanding of how they will manage the feedback process is essential. Some may be willing to read several drafts of each chapter, others may only want to read the entire dissertation at the end. There are no rules with how faculty provide feedback so ensure that you negotiate what you need at the outset.
Understand what your committee expects from you
The most relevant audience for your dissertation is your committee. Requesting feedback from committee members will give you an idea of the type of writing they want and are expecting from you. Keeping the lines of communication open will help you throughout the process.
Request to review dissertations written by students who have worked with the same committee. Ask the students the types of things that were expected for their chapters, how footnotes and endnotes should be utilized, the types of sources that need to be used, how to structure chapters, and other relevant details. This will give you a clearer understanding of what is expected of you.
Rest whenever you need
Give yourself short breaks or take time off from writing when you need it. Spend time with family, watch a movie, or have coffee with friends without feeling guilty. Getting enough rest is important if you want to succeed in completing your dissertation. Taking a break can also refresh your mind and provide new objectivity, especially if you are experiencing writer’s block. Once the break is over, get back to writing again. Extending the break may lead to writing that is rushed; this will affect the quality of the dissertation. It may be challenging to balance your academic responsibilities with other obligations, but finding that balance is key. Make time to write but take breaks when you need them.
Saying “No” Saves Time
One of the obstacles you face while writing your dissertation is a lack of free time. Friends and family often don’t understand what is involved in the process and may unintentionally try to distract you from your work. Keeping to your schedule and staying focused on your writing often means saying no to invitations. Decline gracefully and remind people that the demand on your time is temporary until you complete your dissertation.
Divide your writing into small batches
You’ve most likely heard that dissertation writing is a marathon, not a sprint. The writing happens in small pieces over a long period of time. No matter how busy you are during the day, always set a specific amount of time to write. This will provide a daily routine and will ensure that you stay focused and on track. Writing a specific amount per day will also make it easier for you to complete the journey in a timely fashion.
Do not make excuses
Writing a dissertation is difficult. There are many excuses not to write, including:
- “I don’t have time.”
- “I have a migraine.”
- I have more important work to do.
- “I have people to see, TV shows to watch, and meetings to attend.”
There will always be reasons not to write; that is the challenge. Force yourself to disregard these excuses and focus on the task at hand. Stick to your schedule as this is the only way to get anything done.
Celebrate small accomplishments
Rewarding yourself for small accomplishments while writing your dissertation will make you happier and allow you to better enjoy the process. Did you just finish a page? Did you overcome a difficult section? Treat yourself to something you enjoy. Go for a walk, have a special snack, or chat with a friend. Make yourself feel good about the progress you’ve made so far.
Writing a dissertation is a long and involved process. All that had work will eventually pay off. If you need help along the way, Masters Essay can assist with every aspect including research, proofreading, and editing. Contact us today at 1-800-573-0840.