A dissertation is a book-length piece of original and substantial research that is submitted as part of a person’s candidacy for a doctoral degree. Writing a dissertation is a long, challenging process. However, if you take the time to prepare physically, mentally, and academically, develop the right topic and strategy, and write in a steady,well-organized manner, you’ll greatly improve your odds of success, both for finishing the dissertation project and completing your degree.
Embrace the purpose behind writing a dissertation.
Writing a dissertation is an enormous task, so it’s important to understand the purpose it is meant to serve. By understanding the larger goals of the exercise, you can more carefully craft your paper to demonstrate that you have achieved these goals.
- A dissertation proves your ability to produce original research with original, substantial ideas and analysis. As a professional, you’ll be expected to contribute to your field by producing new ideas that address existing problems or issues. Your dissertation serves as your first major step.
- A dissertation also demonstrates your mastery of research design. It proves that you can perform research in a way that is acceptable for your discipline.
Hone your time management skills.
Writing such a complex document while still taking classes, working as a teaching or lab assistant, or teaching undergraduate classes is challenging at best. To fit in the time necessary for all the work you need to do, along with essential time for sleep and relaxation, you must learn to make the most of the time you have.
- Create a detailed schedule that includes both your larger research and writing goals and your smaller ones. Try to stick to the schedule as much as possible as you work.
- Set aside time to relax when it is not feasible to do work anyway. For example, listen to audiobooks or podcasts while you drive to school. Catch up on your favorite websites while you eat lunch and dinner. Exercise while waiting for search or test results.
- Sleep on a regular schedule. This will be incredibly challenging at times, but sleeping on a regular schedule will make you feel more energized and focused.
Work on your stress management abilities.
Writing a dissertation is a very stressful process, so good stress management will be critical for you during this time. If you can’t cope well with stress, you will have a very difficult time writing a dissertation. Learn to manage your stress and release it in a healthy and effective manner before starting on a dissertation, and incorporate stress management strategies into your planning process.
- Ease stress by exercising, listening to music, or watching funny videos. Look for activities like these that are easily fit into complex schedules.
- Try meditation, deep breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, or other recommended stress-relief activities as well. If stress is getting the better of you, visit your school’s counseling center (if available) or talk to a licensed therapist about helpful strategies.
Create a space where you can work diligently and without distraction.
You will need to be able to focus while writing your dissertation. This means having a space that’s comfortable, quiet, and free of distractions. It also must provide easy access to everything that you need for writing: books, a computer, internet connection, power sources, etc.
- Some people work best in a closed off room with a desk, while others prefer working in the library or a cafe. Seek out advice from colleagues and friends, but also figure out which type of setup works best for you.
- Having a single dedicated workspace makes it easier to keep everything where you need it. However, some people work better if they move around among different workspaces. Again, this is up to your personal preference.
Search for funding so you can treat the process like a job.
You’ll probably need to support yourself financially while you work, and working an outside job may be barred or at least frowned upon by your program. You’ll also need funds in order to pursue research—for instance, for traveling to collect or view materials.
- Writing a dissertation isn’t just doing a really big and long project—it truly is a job in itself. By securing funding, you’ll be better able to view and treat it that way.
- Ask your department and advisor for guidance for the best sources of funding in your program and discipline.
- Generally, seek grants rather than loans. Fellowships from your university are also extremely helpful.