Below are five simple tips to help you finish your dissertation. These pointers are best considered at the beginning stages of the dissertation process but can be used at any point, to get things back on track or provide a bit of motivation during your darkest dissertation hour!
1. Have a sense of proportion.
Almost all doctoral students want their dissertation to be a great scholarship-changing work which causes committee members to be amazed by what they have read – a true magnum opus.
The danger with this kind of grandiose thinking? Your writing becomes trapped in perfectionist limbo-land or a never-ending “history of the world” with an infinite number of pages, points, ideas and intellectual triumphs with no end in sight. Unless you’re Heidegger or Nils Bohr, forget it. Don’t bite off more than you chew, “literarily-speaking”.
Accept the fact that after your committee has read and approved your dissertation, your magnificent work will likely end up on the institution’s online library with all those other duly completed dissertations. Your next academic project (after graduation) is more likely to change the world…or at least your subject area.
2. Get a project management app – pronto!
These apps serve as virtual taskmasters, almost like a dissertation coach (but not nearly as good), breaking down this massive project into bite-sized pieces and keeping you on task.
These types of apps are often free, so it’s a no-brainer, really. Just research them first. (Like finding the right dissertation coach, choose an app that works best for you!)
3. Go old school with a printer.
People use printers a lot less these days, but they have their place, especially in the dissertation process. Proofing and editing on paper is easier and more effective than on screen.
It also gets you away from your computer, which is critical when you’re feeling like you’ve been trapped at your screen for months on end. You also want to minimize the risk of digital eye strain. Besides, it feels good to sit down on a couch, your your dissertation in hand, and edit the old-fashioned way. (If you’re still struggling with the editing process, reach out to us.)
4. Check boring stuff when overwhelmed.
All writers have days when they feel like they are accomplishing little and their writing is lifeless. Cast your writing aside for a time: instead check sentence structure, update citations or work on your bibliography. You will still feel the satisfaction of moving forward and getting something necessary done.
5. Save the final revision of your introductory chapter to the end.
You will have a much sharper idea of a powerful opening after you’ve completed your body chapters.
Think of your intro and concluding chapters as bookends. Finalizing them at the same time will help tie the whole thing together.
Stay tuned for Part Two!