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History homework question asked by my small bro

Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:26 am by student2012

Between Germany and japan who was the last to surrender during the second world war

Comments: 0

Need Help in writing a Research proposal

Sun Aug 19, 2012 6:31 am by The Students Forum(TSF)

How Do You Write a Research Proposal for Academic Writing
If you are in college then one of the many questions on your mind may be, how do you write a research proposal for academic writing. To write an academic research proposal is most likened to writing a proposal that addresses a project. The only difference is that the research proposal has either academic or scientific research at the …

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Post by Admin on Mon Jan 07, 2013 8:40 am


What this handout is about

Graduate school pundits often cite 50% or more as the attrition rate for ABD students (those who have completed All the requirements of their programs But the Dissertation).
Why? This handout will not only answer this question, but also give you
good, practical advice on starting, drafting, and completing your

Reasons for ABD inertia—the nature of the beast

Why don’t doctoral candidates manage to get rolling on the
dissertation any sooner, or KEEP rolling once they get started? Partly
because the dissertation is a completely new experience that is much larger and more independent than your previous academic work.

1. Writing a dissertation is a completely new experience.
To this point, being a graduate student has been, more or less, an

      extension of your earlier life as a student. Many people, in fact, go to
      graduate school because they have always been “good at school,” and
      want to continue with something that brings them success and
      self-confidence. The reading assignments, labs, papers, and tests you
      have been assigned as a graduate student may not have been so different
      from your undergraduate course work. The dissertation, on the other
      hand, is a new kind of academic project, unlike anything else you’ve
      done. It is the academic project that marks your transition from student
      to scholar.

2. Writing a dissertation is not only new, it’s also a very large, very independent project.

      Writing a dissertation is a lot like writing a book. It is, by
      definition, a self-directed process. There are usually no weekly
      deadlines from professors, no regular discussions with classmates, no
      reading assignments, no one telling you what to do—you are on your own,
      writing something longer than you’ve ever written, and doing it without a
      net. This independence can make the process seem very intimidating

3. The dissertation marks the transition from student to scholar and is stressful as a result.

      When you embark on this large, independent project, you may begin to ask
      yourself questions about your future in academia. After all, the
      dissertation is the beginning of the end of a graduate career. When you
      finish your dissertation, you have to change your life pretty
      dramatically —you may go on the job market, begin work as an independent
      scholar, develop classes, move out of a community that you have grown
      to love, and so on. You may also feel like your dissertation will begin
      to define your professional identity. You may feel like your research
      interests, your theoretical influences, and your skill as a writer may
      all be evaluated by this first piece of serious scholarship. Whether any
      of these points are true or not, you may find yourself questioning your
      commitment to your chosen profession or topic and unable to begin the

So what can you do if you are questioning your commitments?

If you find yourself questioning your commitment to your dissertation or a career in academia, consider these tactics:

Do some soul-searching.

This may be a time to ask yourself what the Ph.D. means to you and

      whether you really want to continue. Remember that what it means to you
      and what it means to your partner, family, or friends may be very
      different. You might make a list of all the reasons you want to get the
      Ph.D. and all the reasons you would rather not. You might try
      free-writing about your topic and the reasons it inspires you. You might
      plan out your life’s possible courses for the next 2, 5, 10, or 20
      years if you do and if you don’t proceed with the degree. Through all
      this, ask yourself “What will make me happy? And why?”

Seek help from other sources of advice.

      If you are too close to your own graduate school anxieties to think
      critically about them, visit campus resources that can help you sort out
      your thinking on this difficult and important issue. Your advisor or
      colleagues in your department may be able to help you if you have a good
      relationship with them. Other graduate students, especially those who
      are about to finish or have finished, may be particularly helpful.
      University counseling services may prove helpful as well. They regularly
      talk with students about just this issue.

Remember that there is no shame in not pursuing this advanced degree.

      Many, many people lead happy, fulfilling lives, build lucrative and
      rewarding careers, make important contributions to knowledge, share
      interesting ideas with others, and generally get along just fine without
      three letters after their names. Deciding not to continue with a Ph.D.
      does not mean that you have “quit” or that others who remain in the
      program are smarter, more driven, or more virtuous than you are. It also
      does not mean that you have wasted the time and money that you invested
      in the degree up to the ABD stage. It may simply mean that after
      considering your own personal motivations and goals, you decided this
      career choice wasn’t for you—and that you plan to use the skills you
      honed as a graduate student in other ways that are more suited to you.

So what if you decide that the dissertation is for you? The good news!

You will build skills in writing your dissertation that you will use throughout your career.

      The dissertation is not a one-shot deal. Unlike the elaborate study
      strategies you developed in order to pass your comprehensive exams,
      writing the dissertation will enable you to start developing a set of
      valuable research and writing skills. Thinking analytically,
      synthesizing complicated information, writing well, and organizing your
      time will all serve you well regardless of the career you begin. If you
      choose a career in academia, the systems of support, research
      strategies, work schedules, and writing techniques that help you do the
      dissertation will help you write books, articles and lectures for many
      years to come.

The document itself may become an important part of your early career.

      If you take some care in developing your dissertation, the document can
      be transformed, after graduation, into a book or series of articles that
      can help launch your academic career. Unlike earlier course papers that
      just received a grade and were then shuttled off to a filing cabinet or
      trash bin, your dissertation can be used and revised for years to
      come. On the other hand, it can be an end as well as a beginning—you
      don’t have to develop the dissertation beyond the completion of the
      degree if you don’t want to. If you’re sick of the topic, you can focus
      on just finishing it for the degree, and then move on to other projects.

With all that good news, what’s the problem?

Sometimes, even if you appreciate the differences between the
dissertation and previous work and know that you really want to complete
the degree, you may still have trouble. Why? Both external and internal
stresses can cause the dissertation process to be more difficult than
it has to be.

Your topic, your advisor, and your committee: making them work for you

By the time you’ve reached this stage, you have probably already
defended a dissertation proposal, chosen an advisor, and begun working
with a committee. Sometimes, however, those three elements can prove to
be major external sources of frustration. So how can you manage them to
help yourself be as productive as possible?

1. Managing your topic.

  • Remember that your topic is not carved in stone. A lot of people
    change their topics as they work, paring down certain parts of the
    project or adding others. While you want to keep your advisor and
    committee informed about major changes in your focus, in most
    disciplines you do not have to follow strictly the research and writing
    plan that you suggested in your dissertation proposal. In fact, most
    people don’t.
  • Think about variables that could be cut down and how changes would
    affect the length, depth, breadth, and scholarly value of your study.
    Could you cut one or two experiments, case studies, regions, years,
    theorists, or chapters and still make a valuable contribution or, even
    more simply, just finish?
  • Talk to your advisor about any changes you might make. He or she may
    be quite sympathetic to your desire to shorten an unwieldy project and
    may offer suggestions.
  • Look at other dissertations from your department to get a sense of
    what kind of topic produces an acceptable dissertation—you may find that
    it’s not the kind of huge masterpiece you were imagining and that you
    can work on a much smaller, more compact topic instead.

2. Managing your advisor.

  • At this stage in your graduate career, you should expect to assume
    some independence. By the time you finish your project, you will know
    more about your subject than your committee does. The student/teacher
    relationship you have with your advisor will necessarily change as you
    take this big step toward becoming his/her colleague.
  • Talk with your advisor about how the two of you should work during
    the dissertation process. You might ask questions like: How often should
    I be in contact with you about my progress? Do you prefer to see whole
    drafts of chapters, relatively polished drafts, or are you happy to see
    smaller chunks of less-well-formed writing? If I give you a draft of a
    chapter on Monday, what do you think the turn-around time would be? Do
    you want to see the chapters in the order I write them, or in the order
    they’ll wind up?
  • Tell your advisor what kind of feedback would be most helpful to
    you. Sometimes an advisor can be giving unhelpful or discouraging
    feedback without realizing it. Letting him or her know, very
    specifically, what kinds of responses will be helpful to you at
    different stages of the writing process can help your advisor know how
    to help you.
  • Keep your advisor informed. Advisors can be most helpful if they
    know what you are working on, what problems you are experiencing, and
    what progress you have made. A weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meeting or
    progress report can prove helpful.
  • Talk to other students who have the same advisor. You may find that
    they have developed strategies for working with your advisor that could
    help you communicate more effectively with him or her.
  • If you have recurring problems communicating with your advisor, you
    can make a change. You could change advisors completely, but a less
    dramatic option might be to find another committee member who might be
    willing to serve as a “secondary advisor” and give you the kinds of
    feedback and support that you may need.

3. Managing your committee.

      You may assemble your committee for the proposal defense, and then never
      see them until the final dissertation defense. That may work fine for
      you, or you may decide that you would prefer more frequent contact.

  • Talk with your advisor about how committees usually work with doctoral candidates in your department.
  • Ask the members of your committee whether they would prefer to see
    drafts of your chapters individually, or wait to see the final complete
  • Keep in regular contact with your committee, even if they don’t want
    to see your work until it has been approved by your advisor. Let them
    know about fellowships you receive, fruitful research excursions, the
    directions your thinking is taking, and the plans you have for
    completion. In short, keep them aware that you are working hard and
    making progress.
  • It doesn’t hurt to talk to your committee when you’re floundering
    either. Too often, we only talk to our professors when we’re making
    progress and hide from them the rest of the time. If you share your
    frustrations or setbacks with a knowledgeable committee member, he or
    she might offer some very helpful suggestions for overcoming the
    obstacles you face—after all, your committee members have all written
    major research projects before, and have probably solved similar
    problems in their own work.
  • It’s important not to get too hung up on how your committee does (or
    doesn’t) relate to you. Ultimately, you have to go forward no matter
    what they do.

“Too busy to work”: exhaustion, money, and time management

Even when you are dedicated to your dissertation and have no problems
with your topic, advisor or committee, you can have trouble getting
your dissertation written. Simple exhaustion, financial stresses, and
family responsibilities can seem to conspire to keep you from doing the
work that you need to do. While you can’t do anything about many of
these stresses —the rent needs to be paid, and the Grad School still wants you to know two foreign languages,
for examples—you can change the way that you deal with these external
concerns and minimize their impact on your psyche and productivity.

1. Seek help with the exhaustion.

      Often, graduate students juggle many personal and professional
      responsibilities while working on their dissertations. You may be
      teaching an undergraduate course, working a second job to make ends
      meet, seeking child care, writing conference papers, serving on
      committees, and more. All of these activities and worries can leave you
      feeling exhausted. Sometimes, finding time to exercise, meditate, or
      participate in relaxation programs (yoga, stretching, massage therapy,
      and so on) can help you cope with tiredness better, even if those things
      do little to alleviate the work load. The Student Recreation Center and Rams Head gyms
      offer several exercise classes that may prove useful and relaxing. Good
      nutrition can also go a long way toward improving your sense of

2. Seek external sources of funding.

      A fellowship, grant or scholarship can provide enough financial cushion
      that you can quit at least one job, and perhaps even find full funding
      for a year. The Graduate School offers funding workshops and a GrantSource librarythat
      can help you identify potential sources of funding. Full fellowships or
      grants, though, can be a mixed blessing. Often, having one part-time
      job or other commitment while researching or writing can help you
      structure your day, get to campus early in the morning, and so on.
      Without that structure, the day can slip by pretty quickly. With a whole
      year ahead of you with nothing to work on but the dissertation, there’s
      a tendency to feel like you can put off the dissertation for a day, a
      week, or more—there’s no sense of urgency. So while fellowships can be
      tremendously helpful, they also require great discipline to prove

3. Work on time management.

      Effective time management can be another way to alleviate some of the
      external stresses of graduate school. Here are a few strategies:

  • Plan each day. Block out the 30 minutes, hour, 3 hours, or whatever that you want to work on the dissertation.
  • Choose a scheduling strategy that works for you. Some people like to
    schedule their daily dissertation work in terms of hours and minutes
    worked, and others in terms of “problems solved” or “pages written.”
    Figure out which works best for you.
  • Find a calendar, chart or other scheduling device that you like.
    Some dissertation advice books offer elaborate scheduling mechanisms
    that require you to keep calendars of the entire year, of each month, of
    each week, and of each day (broken down by hour). This might be
    overdoing it, but find some sort of daily, weekly or monthly planner
    that makes sense to you and use it. Refer to it each morning to get a
    sense of what you plan to do each day.
  • Stick to your schedule. If you write down that you will work on
    grading exams only until 2 P.M. and then turn to your dissertation, do
    it! Sometimes just setting that schedule can make you more efficient at
    grading (since you know you have only a set amount of time in which to
    get a lot of it done) and also ensure that you leave room in your life
    for the dissertation.
  • When planning your long-range goals, work backwards from
    commencement. When do you need to turn in the dissertation to the
    Graduate School? To do that, when would you need to defend? To do that,
    when would you need to get it to the committee? Get specific—don’t use
    “this semester” as a deadline, use a specific date.
  • Don’t let immediate concerns take over the time you want to devote
    to this important long-term project. It’s easy to let the dissertation
    (with no regular or immediate deadline) sit on the shelf because
    something with a more concrete deadline (a presentation to someone’s
    class on a specific date, for example) seems to be looming large. Plan
    for those events in advance, and don’t let them eat up all of your
    dissertation time.
  • Learn to say “No.” Don’t accept every invitation to give a guest
    lecture, present at a graduate student forum, or attend a conference.
    Similarly, try not to agree to drive every needy friend to the airport,
    watch every neighbor’s cat while they’re away, and meet everyone you
    know at the Daily Grind at their convenience. If you find you can work
    steadily on your dissertation while doing some of these activities, by
    all means do them—but don’t feel guilty if you don’t have time to do a
    lot of favors for others right now.
  • If you are having trouble learning to say no or learning to budget
    time for your dissertation, try dividing your workload into “urgent
    tasks” (things that have impending deadlines) and “important tasks”
    (things that are important to you, but don’t have immediate deadlines).
    Make sure that your important task (writing the dissertation) isn’t
    overwhelmed by things that are unimportant, but urgent. Organize so that
    you save time for what’s important and minimize the possibility of
    urgent items consuming your attention.
  • Finally, when all else fails, try the strategy of working on your
    dissertation for five minutes a day. Surely you can find five minutes in
    between classes, after you brush your teeth, or while you wait for
    dinner to cook, right? Sometimes the biggest hurdle to time management
    isn’t finding big blocks of time in which to work—it’s simply starting
    to work in the available time. Once you work for five minutes (really
    work—no computer solitaire), you may find that another five minutes
    wouldn’t be so bad. Getting in the habit of working on the dissertation
    every day, even for a short period of time, can be an important time
    management strategy. As a side benefit, you may find that daily contact
    with your dissertation keeps it on your mind and enables ideas to
    percolate all day. If you’re keeping in daily touch with the ideas in
    your dissertation, you may discover that while waiting in line at the
    bank or standing at the bus stop, you come up with new ideas and think
    through problems, and make your work go much more smoothly in the long
  • Think about this process as an opportunity to build self-trust. When
    you make a promise to yourself that you will work for five minutes or
    an hour, keep it. Become someone you can count on.

Work smart: planning to work when, where, and how you work best

When scheduling your dissertation time, think about when, where and
how you work best. By giving some thought to these details, you can
ensure that the hours you schedule for dissertation work are productive.

1. Work on your dissertation during times that you are most productive.

      Do you write well in the morning, or are you too sleepy to do academic
      work? Can you work in the evening after a 9-5 day, or do you really need
      a break? Do you like to read/research on the same day that you write
      and, if so, do you prefer to write first and then turn to other sources,
      or the reverse? Once you determine the hours that are most productive
      for you (you may need to experiment at first), try to schedule those
      hours for dissertation work. If at all possible, plan your work
      schedule, errands and chores so that you reserve your productive hours
      for the dissertation. Directors of Graduate Studies and other employers
      may be pretty sympathetic to this desire to schedule your best hours for
      your dissertation—after all, the dissertation is your reason for being
      here and should be your number one priority.

2. Work on your dissertation in a space where you can be productive.

      Figure out where you work well and plan to be there during your
      dissertation work hours. Do you get more done on campus or at home?
      There’s no sense in planning to work at home two days a week if you wind
      up watching television every time you try to work at your kitchen
      table. Similarly, if you do your best work in your home study, try to
      avoid planning your days so that you are stuck on campus all day every
      day, without access to your best work space.

  • Carrels work well for some people because they limit
    distractions—but others find them intolerably quiet and austere. Figure
    out whether or not one might work for you.
  • If your work space is at home, make every effort to remove it from
    your bedroom. Many people don’t sleep well if their work space and their
    sleep space are in the same room—their anxieties about their work can
    prevent them from getting to sleep quickly and having a restful night.
  • Wherever you work, make sure you have good lighting, a comfortable,
    “healthy” chair, a sturdy desk, and whatever wrist-rests, mousepads, and
    so on you need to keep you posture and health in good order. The
    University Health and Safety office offers guidelines for healthy computer work.
  • If you get “stuck,” try a change of scene. Take a book you’ve been
    meaning to read to a coffee house, to one of the campus libraries, to a
    park bench, etc.

3. Figure out how you work best, and try to work that way.

  • Develop rituals of work that might help you get more done. Lighting
    incense, brewing a pot of a particular kind of tea, pulling out a
    favorite pen, and other ritualistic behaviors can signal your brain that
    “it is time to get down to business.”
  • Critically think about your work methods—not only about what you
    like to do, but also what actually helps you be productive. You may LOVE
    to listen to your favorite band while you write, for example, but if
    you wind up playing air guitar half the time instead of writing, it
    isn’t a strategy worth keeping.
  • Decorate your work space for productivity. Some people find that
    having pictures of family and friends on their desk helps—sort of a
    silent “cheering section”—while others find that a photo of Mom and Dad
    just makes them homesick or dredges up fears of inadequacy. Some people
    work well with neutral colors around them, and others prefer bright
    colors that perk up the space. Some people like to put inspirational
    quotations in their workspace or encouraging notes from friends and
    family. You might try reconfiguring your work space to find a décor that
    helps you be productive.
  • The point is, figure out what works and DO THAT. If something seems
    to keep you from working, GET RID OF IT. And once you have the “ritual
    that works,” do it as often as you can when you write. Educational
    theorists have described “state-dependent learning,” which essentially
    means that the conditions under which one learns something are the
    conditions under which the individual is most likely to be able to
    remember and use that information. So working in a consistent setting
    can help you not only get great work done in discrete sessions but also
    pull together ideas from past work and use them constructively.

4. Don’t let the fact that you know when, where and how you work best prevent you from working in other times, places, and ways.

      Of course, while it’s ideal to plan your days to enable you to spend
      your most productive work time in your most productive work space
      working in your most productive method, you can’t always do that. So
      practice working elsewhere, and at other times. Being away from your
      favorite fountain pen is not an excuse not to write! Neither is losing
      your lucky rabbit’s foot, having to work on campus, or having to
      schedule something during your “work time.” Try to be flexible, and
      don’t use your rituals as excuses.

Graduate school regulations

Graduate students sometimes report that they feel bogged down by
departmental requirements, graduate school regulations, and other bits
of bureaucracy. Here are a few tips to keep you sane:

  • Investigate graduation requirements early and plan a meeting with
    your department’s graduate secretary or Director of Graduate Studies
    (DGS) to make sure you are making appropriate progress toward the
  • Keep a list or calendar of all the departmental and graduate school regulations and requirements and dates. Check things off as you complete them, and write down upcoming deadlines.
  • Keep good records. If you are granted any exceptions to departmental
    or University rules or if you do anything unusual to fulfill a
    particular requirement, make sure that you get a letter stating that you
    have fulfilled the given requirement in writing and keep a copy of it.
    You never know when your current DGS might leave the position or retire.
    The next person to hold the job may not know about your exception and
    may not be willing to uphold it without written proof.
  • Make sure, if you are using human subjects in your dissertation
    research, that you have followed all of the Graduate School regulations
    for your work. The human subjects paperwork can be quite time consuming
    and it is, of course, very important that it be done correctly.
  • A final tip: follow the rules for margins, fonts, table formats, and
    so on in early drafts. It is much easier to write your dissertation
    with all the formatting correct than to have to reformat several
    computer files at the last minute.

Internal stresses that cause problems for dissertation writers

Some sources of graduate student stress are not external—instead,
they come from within. Competition with other students, feelings of
inadequacy, and plain ol’ procrastination can all slow you down.


      Competition is rampant among graduate students. Departments often hold
      meetings in which graduate students are ranked in order to determine who
      should be given funding or teaching appointments. Scholarships pick and
      choose the “best and the brightest,” and seminars can turn into arenas
      where students vie to make the smartest, most insightful comment in
      front of the professor. This competition can lead to a cut-throat
      atmosphere that encourages hostility and fears of inadequacy and also
      inhibits much-needed personal support. If you’ve reached the ABD stage,
      you’ve probably seen some of this action already. But what can you do if
      you feel that competition within your department is hindering your
      ability to get work done?

  • Remember that you are not in competition with the students in your
    department. Your only competition is more than likely with the graduate
    students at other universities who will be applying for jobs in your
    field at the same time you are. So you have NOTHING to fear from the
    other people in your department. After all, the people you go to grad
    school with will be the people who recommend you for tenure one day,
    review your book favorably, or greet you with a warm smile at your
    field’s annual conference.
  • Realistically, even the grad students at other schools aren’t really
    your “competition”—rather, they are your colleagues. After all, if two
    people are writing dissertations on political theory in the civil rights
    movement, they may be in initial competition for jobs, but once they
    get jobs, they will be far more likely to work in a collegial way. They
    may present papers at the same conferences, be asked to review one
    another’s work, edit journals together, and so on. Thinking of them as
    “the enemy” will do little to foster a positive spirit of academic
  • If you are having problems with competition in your department, you
    can try to transform the sense of competition into one of cooperation.
    Try working on some collaborative projects with students in your
    department (like co-authoring a conference paper with a student doing
    similar research). Or form a writing and support group—the Writing
    Center can help you do that. Sometimes the idea of “we’re all in this
    together” can override the idea of “they’re all out to get me.”
  • Remember, if you ever feel inadequate or like you “don’t measure
    up,” that almost everyone feels that way at some point or another. Many
    graduate students report feeling like a fraud at some time during (or
    through most of!) their graduate careers. Talking with one another may
    help you realize that the anxieties you have are shared by all, so
    there’s no reason to feel threatened by those who seem to be making more
    progress . Deep down, they’re as scared as you are.
  • It may be helpful to find a person who is AHEAD of you in the
    process (maybe a friend who has defended) to serve as support and to
    urge you to keep moving. It may also prove beneficial to help a student
    who is further behind in the program than you are, say, someone who
    hasn’t taken comps. Gathering wisdom from those who have gone before and
    passing it along to those who are coming up can foster a marvelous
    spirit of collegiality in a department and help everyone get more and
    better work done.
  • If all else fails, and the competitive atmosphere among other
    students continues to cause you undue anxiety, don’t hang out in your
    department much. Come by to see your advisor. Stay in close contact with
    your committee. Meet bright, generous people in other departments. Let
    the Writing Center help you start an interdisciplinary writing group. Go
    to conferences and meet interesting supportive people on other campuses
    who will e-mail with you and share your joys, rather than trampling on
    them. Don’t let anyone else, in short, slow you down!

The procrastination monster

People procrastinate for a lot of reasons, some of which you already
know. The key to beating procrastination, though, seems to be figuring
out why you are procrastinating, so that you can develop strategies for
stopping it. Good books and websites on the subject can help (see
bibliography), and UNC resources are available to help with
procrastination, writer’s block and other internal dissertation
problems. The University Counseling and Wellness Services
sometimes sponsors a dissertation support group, for example, that
allows students to meet with a counselor in groups to work through
dissertation problems.

Getting down to business: tips for writing consistently

Things to write when you don’t want to write

      Okay, so you’ve figured out what you can do to manage the external
      stresses in your life, and you’ve done your best to fight your
      procrastination demons and do battle with feeling that you’re not
      worthy. You’ve got your workspace set up and time scheduled and you sit
      down to write and…nothing. Not a word is coming to you. Here’s what to
      write when you don’t feel like writing:

  • Make a list of all the little things you need to do for a given
    section of the dissertation, no matter how small. Write down everything
    that you need to do to get it out the door. Then when you don’t feel
    like tackling something big, like relating a key point in your argument
    to the relevant literature, you can insist that you do something else,
    like photocopying an article you’ve been meaning to consult or checking
    your citations. You don’t have to do everything on the list during the
    time you’ve allotted for dissertation work, but tell yourself that you
    DO have to do SOMETHING. You’ll be surprised that the habit of getting
    something (no matter how small) done on the dissertation every day can
    be addicting.
  • When you don’t feel like writing, do “big picture” stuff that the
    graduate school needs you to do. Reformat margins, work on bibliography,
    and all that.
  • Work on your acknowledgements. Remember all the people who have
    helped you and the great ideas they’ve helped you develop. You may feel
    more like working afterward.
  • Write a part of your dissertation as a letter (or e-mail) to a good
    friend who would care. Sometimes setting aside the academic prose and
    just writing it to a buddy can be liberating and help you get the ideas
    out there. You can make it sound smart later.
  • Free-write about why you’re stuck, and perhaps even about how sick
    and tired you are of your dissertation/advisor/committee/etc. Venting
    can sometimes get you past the emotions of writer’s block and move you
    toward creative solutions.

Boosts to keep you going

      So let’s say you DO feel like writing. How do you go about it in a consistent way?

  • First, leave your work out where you can see it and work on it
    conveniently. If it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. However, if you
    leave the next book you need to read on your desk, it’s much more likely
    that you’ll read it. Similarly, if you leave the chapter you need to
    edit out, and don’t have to dig through the filing cabinet to find it,
    chances are it will get edited more quickly.
  • If you’re really feeling disorganized, clean your workspace. A clear
    desk and an organized set of notes can go a long way toward clearing
    your head and getting you back on track. Don’t make the
    office-cleaning-ritual your number one choice for procrastination,
  • Don’t be afraid to work in “the wrong order.” Some people like to
    work on one chapter at a time—the first chapter first, then the next
    chapter, and then the next until they are done. That’s the model that a
    lot of us have for writing, but not everyone works like that. Some
    people find that they have to write up big ideas first, and then see how
    they fit together. Some people write chapter 5 before they write
    chapter 4. Some people do lots and lots of freewriting. The way to write
    a dissertation is the way that gets pages produced. If that means
    breaking the “rules,” then break them.
  • Give yourself permission to write the junkiest dissertation ever
    floated past an unwitting committee. That can be very liberating and
    help you get pages produced so that you can then edit them later. Get
    something on paper and then worry about making it perfect.
  • Remember, when you feel anxious about the quality of your work, that
    dissertations aren’t master works. They are your FIRST TRY at this, and
    no one’s is really all that good, frankly. (Want proof? Order your
    advisor’s dissertation from interlibrary loan.)
  • Be reasonable. A lot of people beat themselves up with expectations
    to work 10 or 12 hours a day—many people recommend a max. of 4 or 5
    hours. You simply can’t write productively all day long, and trying will
    just burn you out. Schedule in breaks and time for procrastination.
    Your brain needs a rest every now and then—better to schedule one than
    to have your brain mutiny on you and take one anyway.
  • Find the people in your department who are serious workers and
    emulate them. If you don’t know who they are (often, they come to campus
    much earlier and leave much later than the rest of us, making them
    elusive indeed!), ask your advisor. He or she can probably tell you who
    they are. Ask them to share their tips for working consistently with
    you, and try out their advice.
  • Similarly, find the non-workers in your department (they’re easier
    to find—check the nearest coffee shop), and try NOT to emulate them. It
    can be easy to fall into a sort of fraternity/sorority of alleged
    dissertation writers who are bound by the mantra, “I’m not getting any
    work done.” You certainly won’t get any work done if you hang out with
    those folks.
  • Write your dissertation in single-space. When you need a boost,
    double space it and be impressed with how many pages you’ve written!
    Then add the page numbers—it’s even longer!
  • As you print out chapter drafts, bibliographies, and such, put them
    in a notebook with dividers for each section. You’ll see the notebook
    get thicker and thicker as the semester goes along, and it will
    encourage you to keep working.
  • Finally, quit while you’re ahead. Sometimes it helps to STOP for the
    day when you’re on a roll. If you’ve got a great idea that you’re
    developing and you know where you want to go next, write “Next, I want
    to introduce x, y, and z and explain how they’re related—they all have
    the same characteristics of 1 and 2, and that clinches my theory of Q.”
    Then save the file and turn off the computer, or put down the notepad.
    When you come back tomorrow, you will already know what to say
    nextmdash;and all that will be left is to say it. Hopefully, the
    momentum will carry you forward.

Feedback, rewards, and punishments as motivators

      Many people use rewards, feedback, and punishments as motivators in the dissertation process.

  • A writing group, your advisor, trusted friends, and loving family
    members can all give you feedback that can be a motivator. When you are
    looking for motivational feedback, choose people to ask who you know
    will give you the sort of feedback you need to keep you going.
    Grandmothers are great at telling you you’re brilliant, for example.
  • And tell them what kind of feedback you want. It’s okay to tell a
    reader, “I know this is rough, but I just want to make sure that you can
    understand my main argument.” Then when they come back and say, “Yes, I
    understood,” you can feel great!
  • Give yourself rewards along the way. When you meet a deadline, have
    coffee with a friend, rent a movie, buy yourself an ice cream, write a
    letter to a friend, or do something else that will make you feel good
    about your accomplishment. Having a tangible reward, however small, can
    provide some added motivation to get work done.
  • Some people schedule daily motivational rewards. If they really love
    to do the crossword, get a cappuccino, or watch a particular show every
    day, they tell themselves they can’t do that thing until they have done
    the allotted amount of dissertation work.
  • Punishments can also work. Some people find it useful to say, “If I don’t get this done by that date, then I can’t do ________.”

Feeling like a professional

One of the most important parts of becoming a scholar is feeling like
one. The transition from student to scholar is a huge mental step
toward completion. Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Some people find it helpful to think about the dissertation as a regular, full-time job.
  • Attend conferences and read broadly in your field.
  • Deliver papers on your research (if writing up papers for
    conferences helps, rather than hinders, your progress on the
  • Start conversations with scholars at other schools who do similar
    work, and engage in exciting, intellectual conversations. Guest lecture
    in a friend’s classes.
  • Dress the part.
  • Essentially, do things that help you feel like you have a legitimate
    place in academia. Some people find that if they pretend to be
    something they don’t think they are for long enough, that they become it
    without even realizing they have done so.


It may sound silly, but a major part of the dissertation writing a
dissertation is simply having the will to write it—making yourself do
it, even when you don’t want to. The dissertation is a marathon, not a
sprint, and it will take endurance, determination, and perseverance.
Developing and sustaining the will to complete a complicated, long-term
project is a habit that will serve you well in other areas of life.

Get silly

Take time to laugh at the process and at yourself. Make up a Top 10
lists of “rejected” dissertation titles. Figure out who would play whom
in the movie version of your dissertation (or of your dissertation
defense)! Come up with “dissertation proverbs” that will help you
survive. Here is a list of some we’ve heard:

  • “P” stands for Ph.D.
  • A good dissertation is a done dissertation.
  • What do you call a grad student who barely squeaks a lousy dissertation past her committee? Doctor.
  • You ain’t painting a masterpiece.
  • It’s not the last word on the topic; it’s the first word.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing the original version of this
handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s
topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find the latest
publications on this topic. Please do not use this list as a model for
the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation
style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see
the UNC Libraries citation tutorial.

Books on dissertation writing, procrastination, and graduate school:

Becker, Howard S. with a chapter by Pamela Richards. Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1986).

While Becker’s book is geared toward social scientists, writers in
other disciplines will probably find it useful. Becker draws on his
experience as a sociologist and as the leader of a course on writing for
graduate student. He focuses on the process of writing, from developing
a writing persona, to getting started, to editing. His chapter on
“Getting it Out the Door” may prove especially helpful to graduate
students. His tone is generally humorous, but some may tire of the
sociological examples he uses.

Bolker, Joan. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998).

Joan Bolker, a clinical psychologist and writing counselor, does not,
in fact, tell you how to write your dissertation in only fifteen
minutes a day. She does, however, explain how starting with fifteen
minutes of work each day might lead to a habit of work that will lead to
the successful completion of a dissertation. Her psychological training
is particularly beneficial in the sections of the book where she
describes the many underlying reasons behind graduate students’
inability to do consistent work. She offers suggestions for handling all
sorts of roadblocks. Some of her recommendations are long-range,
large-scale changes like cultivating a “writing addiction.” Others are
short-term, quick fix solutions, like making a list of all the things
you want to jump up and do while writing (like cleaning the oven, paying
the bills, edging the lawn, etc.), promising yourself that you can do
them when you have completed your allotted amount of work for the day.
“You’ll be amazed,” she promises “how much less attractive the items on
your list look once you’ve finished your writing that day.” (pg. 90)
Some may find her suggestions to take out additional loans or hire help
with cleaning or child-care unrealistic, given their finances and the
job market, but on the whole she offers useful advice.

Burka, Jane M. and Lenora M. Yuen. Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It, (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1983).

Psychologists Burka and Yuen divide their book into two
parts—”Understanding Procrastination” and “Overcoming Procrastination.”
They describe the different habits of procrastination and the reasons
behind them in the first section, focusing on fear of success, fear of
failure, fear of losing autonomy, fear of separation, and fear of
attachment. They also describe how people become procrastinators. In the
second section, they offer concrete advice for resolving problems with
procrastination and explain how to set goals, schedule, improve timing,
set up support, and so on. The book offers great insight into a very
common problem. For the second section of the book to be useful, you must read the first part of the book. [May not be in UNC Libraries; available on the Writing Center bookshelf]

Fitzpatrick, Jacqueline, Jan Secrist, and Debra J. Wright. Secrets for a Successful Dissertation, (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998).

Written in an inviting, often humorous style, this book deals with
the mechanics of writing a dissertation (how the process works, how to
organize literature reviews, and so on) as well as the more intangible
aspects, such as the development of support groups and personal
organizational strategies. The book includes a number of short and
helpful checklists and “top secrets” set off from the main text for easy
reference. The appendix provides a list of action words to introduce
quotes, a list of suggested items for inclusion in a research proposal, a
statistical decision tree, a list of general action verbs, and an
impressive annotated bibliography of books on writing, research,
confidence, public speaking, computers, and more. The authors’
backgrounds are in education and counseling.

Mauch James E., and Jack W. Birch. Guide to the Successful Thesis and Dissertation: Conception to Publication, (New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1983).

The authors offer a no-nonsense approach to planning your project,
conducting research, writing, working with your committee, defending the
dissertation, and developing it further. The book includes a number of
charts, forms, and checklists to help you along the way. The book seems
geared toward the dissertation writer who knows what he or she wants to
do, and just needs some solid advice on form, planning, and strategy to
move them in the right direction. If you know what you need to do and
how you ought to do it, but just can’t seem to get moving, this book
might not prove as useful as some of the more “touchy feely” titles on
this list.

Peters, Robert L. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning a Master’s or Ph.D., (New York: The Noonday Press, 1997).

Peters covers graduate school from deciding to go in the first place
to completing the degree, offering valuable advice at every step along
the way. (Skip the section on whether or not you should go to graduate
school if you’re feeling down—it includes some depressing, if accurate,
assessments of the job market.) Of particular interest to the
dissertation writer are the chapters entitled The Doctorate: History and
Hurdles, Managing Yourself, Choosing and Managing Your Thesis
Committee, The Thesis Topic: Finding It, The Thesis Proposal, The
Thesis: Writing It, The Thesis Defense, Dealing with Stress and
Depression, The Social Milieu and Swimming with the Mainstream:
Returning Students, Women, Minorities, and Foreign Students. The book is
based on interviews with graduate students, faculty members and
counselors, and the real-life experience of the interviewees is
particularly helpful. Peters offers a friendly and encouraging style,
sound and realistic advice—and a sizable dose of humor.

Sternberg, David. How to Complete and Survive Your Doctoral Dissertation, (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1981).

A sociologist and advisor to many graduate students, Sternberg
focuses on moving the student from ABD to Ph.D. His chapters explore
topic selection, filing systems, proposal-writing, research, writing,
committee relations, “the Dissertation Dumps,” the defense, and the
post-defense uses of the dissertation. Sternberg does strike somewhat of
a balance between the “buck up” school that says “Just write the thing
and quite whining” and the sympathetic school that is inclined to tell
you “it’s okay,” hold your hand, and validate your feelings. On the
whole, his suggestions tend to center around developing a plan for
completion and adhering to it despite doubts, rather than exploring the
doubts themselves in great depth. Some of his advice may seem dated. For
example, in discussing sexism, he writes “deep-rooted sexism is still a
fact of graduate university structure and hierarchy” that can be
“exploited by a woman.” He concludes that the “feminist ABD has to
suspend her struggle for that ongoing cause during the two years of the
dissertation struggle.” (p. 150)

Helpful websites:

Advice on Research and Writing:

Lots of links on writing, public speaking, dissertation management, burnout, and more.

Advice for the Ph.D.-Lorn:

Focused on math and computer science, this web page from Georgia Tech
includes helpful links for all graduate students, including general
links on success in graduate school, links pertaining to women’s success
in computer science (and for women graduate students, generally), “The
Unwritten Milestones for the Ph.D.” and other useful links.

How to be a Good Graduate Student DesJardins, Marie:

This essay talks about several phases of the graduate experience,
including the dissertation. She discusses some helpful hints for staying
motivated and doing consistent work.

Preparing Future Faculty:

This page, a joint project of the American Association of Colleges
and Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools, and the Pew
Charitable Trusts, explains the Preparing Future Faculty Programs and
includes links and suggestions that may help graduate students and their
advisors think constructively about the process of graduate education
as a step toward faculty responsibilities.

Back to Dissertation Basics:

A reprint from ASGS (the Association for the Support of Graduate
Students), this article talks about the skills required for the
completion of a doctoral dissertation. The homepage for ASGS offers other links and an archive of articles and advice.

Dissertation Tips:

Kjell Erik Rudestam, Ph.D. and Rae Newton, Ph.D., authors of Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process.

The ABD Survival Guide Newsletter:

Information about the ABD Survival Guide newsletter (which is free)
and other services from E-Coach (many of which are not free).

Dissertations Somerights20 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.
You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire
handout (just click print) and attribute the source: The Writing
Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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