Sometimes graduate school can seem like an never ending road. The course work seems familiar but afterwards, that is where the road starts to bend and and turn and lead to parts unknown. When starting graduate school it’s important to keep in mind the education is a process and the process is similar across disciplines. As a dissertation coach I read several dissertation proposals and dissertations in many different fields. Some people wonder I am able to help so many people? I am able to help so many students because I focus on the broad picture, i.e. that is the process of completing a thesis or dissertation. I focus on issues that graduate student face when they encounter a large unstructured comprehensive writing project. I focus on goal setting, time management, writing to an intellectual audience, synthesizing information and managing people.
As you begin to work on a thesis or dissertation, it is important that you set daily goals and manage your time effectively. In setting your goals, it’s important to write down your goals and make them small enough that they can be crossed of your daily to-do list. Just seeing a list of goals that have been crossed off builds confidence to do more. Even something as simple as creating the cover page moves you toward the end goal. The cover page might seem insignificant when you have not written a chapter but in order to get a PhD you have to create a cover page. If getting a PhD was easy everyone would have one; no one say it was going to be easy so stop expecting it to be easy. Stop wondering why it is so difficult and challenging. Start writing. Expect the first draft to be crappy and get that version out of your system.
Time management is another important aspect of completing a large writing project. Without keeping track of time the minutes, hours, days, months, and year can pass you by. Without even thinking about it you might have missed your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s. You might not remember why you started graduate school in the first place. You might even think of giving up but then what? How do you turn that defeat into something positive without the fear that you might abandon this new venture too, or without wonder what if. If you learn to manage your time when no one is watching you will be able to accomplish whatever your heart desires even if it is not a PhD. When writing a thesis or dissertation it is important go get your life organized.
Recently Dr. J. “JAY” Lavelle Ingram, told her story about writing her dissertation. She said he had a roommate who was sort of a neat freak. The roommate always had to have a certain place for everything. She had a place for the keys in the house. She had a place for the sunglasses and the hats and coats. Anytime Dr. Ingram put them someplace else the roommate would put them back. Finally Dr. Ingram gave in and put the keys on the hook, the sunglasses on the fireplace and the coat in the closet. When she was ready to leave the house she would get the keys off the hook, the sunglasses off the fireplace and the coat out of the closet. The process of leaving the house became a “no brainer”.
Because writing your dissertation can be difficult and challenging the rest of your life needs to be like a “no-brainer”. You can’t be disorganized in your life and in your dissertation as well. You need to figure out how can I simplify this dissertation process and my life at the same time. What is it that I do over and over again that I can make systematic? Does each chapter have a introduction and conclusion? How similar or different is each chapter or paragraph even. How should I structure the paragraphs? Does it paragraph begin with a thesis statement/sentences?
What can I do to make my mornings run more smoothly or my evenings end so that I can be more productive the next day? What in my life can I make more systematic?