Earlier this year I wrote a newsletter about things you can do when you don’t feel like writing and when you have very little time to work on writing your dissertation. To read that article read Happy New: 20 tasks for PhD Candidates
When writing a dissertation you will have good days and bad days. Unfortunately when you are ABD (All But Dissertation) sometimes referred to as (All But Dead) you might have more bad days than good. Nonetheless, you do not have the luxury to wait until you feel better. Taking a long break or vacation from your dissertation is not a good idea. When writing a dissertation, it’s important to make daily forward progress.
When you are struggling with getting through the day each hour needs to be planned otherwise you will return to the bed and the television. I am not suggesting that you turn off the TV; you will know when you are ready to turn off the television set. Instead, I am suggesting that you get something done during the commercials. Below are some more 15 minute items that you can work on during the 15 minute commercials on TV.
- Work on raw drafting…keep typing without stopping to correct your mistakes…wait for another commercial to do that.
- Write 1 sentence…because sometimes that all you can do. You can always wait for another commercial to write another.
- Write a paragraph /s as if you were never going to show it to anyone (edit it later or drag it to the recycle bin)
- Download your university’s template to format the dissertation. Your school doesn’t have one ….check out UMBC’s . Scroll down to the middle of the page where it say FULL TEMPLATE DISSERTATIONS…after downloading wait for the next commercial to get started.
- Cut and paste your proposal that you defended into sections of the dissertation template.
- Moving from proposal to dissertation begin by changing the tense of your proposal from future tense to present and or past tense
- Search for the word “been” an indicator of passive voice and change all of those sentences to active voice. For example “it has been estimated” should be changed to “researchers estimated that…”
- Search “there is” and “there are” eliminate these vague terms by being more specific.
- Search for the word “this” or “it” make sure the word “this” is followed by a specific noun to help you be more specific in your writing.
- Create an outline for your chapter
- Create a to-do list for each chapter. Evaluate each chapter separately, What would it take to get each chapter to 100%?
- Break down your daily goals into 15 min increments.
- Deal with some of the easier edits from your committee or advisor
- Write a memo to yourself about ideas of where to go next in the next section, paragraph or chapter
- Look at the Table of Content to write the Overview of the Dissertation Section
- You can define one concept, one variable, one site selection, describe 1 sample, 1 species,
- Look up 5 citations
- Download 5 journal article in 15 minutes
- Scan and look for the relevant information in a journal article during the next commercial summarize what you found.
While this idea might sound absurd to some, I know of 2 graduate students who were thinking about quitting their PhD program before I shared this approach with them. It’s important to work through your depression, and or dissatisfaction with the dissertation writing process. Focus on progress not perfection because a good dissertation is a done dissertation. If you are struggling let me know if this approach worked for you. Comment below.