Gramlee Blog

Dissertation writing tips

Writing a dissertation may be your final step to a long academic career. The process is seldom looked upon with great anticipation and excitement. In many ways it is comparable to writing a book. It is a self-directed process without weekly deadlines, meetings, discussion groups, or assignments. It is the longest writing task you have undertaken, and you are on your own. A sigh of relief is expelled once you send it to a dissertation editing service but it is a long journey to that point.

How to write a dissertation

How do you write a successful dissertation? A better question to ask is how to be successful in writing your dissertation. The first question is directed toward content while the second is directed toward the process. You will be spending a lot of time with your topic so that should be your starting point. Choose a topic that moves you. You will rely on this push for the days when you don’t want to work on the paper. Your enthusiasm for the topic will offset your lack of motivation on those days.

There is no right and wrong method to writing your paper. Most students start at the beginning with an introduction and write each section sequentially. Others who have spent the time to outline and organization their research can start with the research findings and work backwards to the introduction. Your approach will depend on your own organization skills and writing preferences. For example, key points you wish to include in your introduction will depend upon what your results are. These points are commonly unknown at an early stage.

The dissertation broken into percentages

How to do Your Research Project by Gary Thomas (London: Sage, 2009) breaks down the amount of work to devote to each dissertation section as: Introduction 5%, Literature Review 30%, Design and Methodology 15%, Findings 15%, Analysis and Discussion 30% and the Conclusion 5%. The key is to outline your paper and fill in each section with a general purpose or focal point. You will be able to refine and add more detail later. By starting with an initial plan and adding detail as you progress, you are able to maintain an overall perspective of how an individual section fits into the entire puzzle.

Whether you call it time management, designated block of time, or occupational flow, set yourself deadlines and stick to them.  The best way for planning long-range goals, like writing your dissertation, is to work backwards. Start by noting the deadline. List steps needed to achieve a completed dissertation by this deadline date. Be specific; when do you need to defend your paper; when do you need to have met interviewee 1, 2, and 3; when must you present to your advisory board; etc. Next, take each milestone in the previous step and list the actions you need to undertake to achieve the milestone. Next, use a monthly planner or calendar to plot dates for each action item.

Time management and priorities must go hand in hand. With no immediate deadlines, your dissertation may sit on the shelf for something with a more pressing deadlines such as grading papers, family requirements, or second job. Time becomes a problem for some with fellowships or grants because there is no daily structure. Without self-imposed time management, days become weeks. Time slips away. The key is to be able to create urgency on demand so your mind feels you need to keep striving to accomplish the next step.

Learn to say no. You made your academic commitment with much pre-thought so don’t dismiss it so quickly for every invitation to guest lecture or attend a conference. The same applies to your social network. When you are writing, researching, or planning your dissertation, turn off phone alerts and email to cut down on the number of distractions. You must view your dissertation work as “work”. Pretend you are being paid to work for someone else, on their dime.

Jerry Seinfeld’s maintain the chain secret

Getting in the habit of working on your dissertation on a daily basis is perhaps the biggest tip you can act on. Jerry Seinfield’s secret was to never break the chain; don’t miss a single day.  Daily work on your dissertation also keeps it fresh in your mind, enabling your subsconcious to create ideas when you are not actively thinking about your research. Make a detailed list of all the little things that need to get done for each section of your dissertation. If you find today that you are just not in the writing mood, you can attack this to-do list and take are of photocopying specific articles or checking citations.

Finally, find time for relaxation techniques like yoga, walks, or meditation to recharge. Dissertation, research, and interviews can be mentally draining. Reward yourself for meeting goals and deadlines. It could be something simple as coffee with a friend or renting a movie. Daily rewards are also motivating. Remember being able to go out to play after your homework was done in elementary school?

Writing your dissertation is a time-consuming commitment. The famous proverb is that no one plans to fail; they just fail to plan. Don’t fall victim to this during your most important academic hour.

Good luck! And please reach out to us for any advice or help, even if it’s not related to services we offer. We built Gramlee to help people.