High quality dissertation writing tips and tricks by Dissertation-Zone: A dissertation or thesis is a long piece of academic writing based on original research, submitted as part of an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. The structure of a dissertation depends on your field, but it is usually divided into at least four or five chapters (including an introduction and conclusion chapter). The most common dissertation structure in the sciences and social sciences includes dissertations in the humanities are often structured more like a long essay, building an argument by analysing primary and secondary sources. Instead of the standard structure outlined here, you might organise your chapters around different themes or case studies.
Take Care of Yourself: Just because you’re dissertating doesn’t mean you should let your health slide. It’s easier to write when you’re in good physical and mental health. Remember to eat well, get enough sleep, and stay active. Even a simple walk around the neighbourhood will get your heart rate up and can help clear your mind. Give Yourself Breaks: Writing will be your full-time job while you’re working on your thesis, but that doesn’t mean you have to be writing all the time. If you continually work beyond your regular hours you will burn yourself out. Read more details at dissertation zone.
Stay on task. Completing a dissertation, in large measure, is not so much a feat of the intellect as it is the result of discipline. If you are able to set aside large chunks of time with which to research and write, make sure that you are not using that time for other tasks. This means that you must strive against multi-tasking. In truth, studies have shown that multi-tasking is a cognitive impossibility. Our brains can only concentrate on one thing at a time. When we think we are multitasking we are actually “switch-tasking;” rather than doing several things at once, our brains are constantly toggling from one task to the other (listening to a song on the radio to reading a book, back to the song, etc.). You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish if you give an undistracted 60-90 minutes to something. Stay on task.
But remember that reading about writing a dissertation isn’t the same as actually writing it. It’s easy to feel like you’re doing work when you read a book about dissertation writing, but reading GradHacker won’t code your data, compile your sources, or write your literature review. Celebrate accomplishments as you go. Take time to appreciate all of the little accomplishments as you write. Working solely for the “reward” of defending or graduating is overwhelming, so find little places to celebrate as you go along. Finish a page? Have a cookie! Finish a chapter? Go get a beer! Work through data you were struggling with? Take the rest of the night off! Find places to feel good about what you’re doing.
Write in order to rewrite. Writing sooner and writing continually can only happen if you aren’t consumed with perfection. Some of us are discouraged from writing because we think our first draft needs to be our final draft. But this is exactly the problem. Get your thoughts on paper and plan to go back and fix awkward sentences, poor word choices, and illogical or unsubstantiated arguments in your subsequent drafts. Knowing that rewriting is part of the writing process will free you to write persistently, make progress, and look forward to fixing things later.
As long as you can handle feedback, anyway. There may be times when you don’t need actual criticism, and instead just need to write, or to have someone say something encouraging. One of my biggest stumbling blocks while drafting came from receiving negative feedback on a chapter. My fragile ego interpreted the critique as a condemnation of my viability as a scholar, and I moped around for several weeks, wasting time assuming I was worthless. At a time when I needed encouragement, hearing any criticism, no matter how constructive, hurt my productivity. Knowing yourself and the kinds of feedback you need as you write is important on a project like this. If you need someone to say “yay, good job!” find someone to say that to you.
Go on walks. It has been said recently that walking promotes creativity. I agree. Whether you like to walk among the trees or besides the small coffee shops along quaint side streets, I recommend that you go on walks and think specifically about your dissertation. You might find that the change of scenery, the stimulus of a bustling community, or the refreshing quiet of a park trail is just the help you need. Make use of a capture journal. In order to make the most of your walks, you will need a place to “capture” your ideas. You may prefer to use the voice memo or notepad feature on your smartphone, or, if you’re like me, a small 2.5”x4” lined journal. Whatever your preference, find a method that allows you to store your ideas as they come to you during your walks or as you fall to sleep at night. I wonder how many useful ideas many of us have lost because we failed to write them down? Don’t let this happen to you. Resolve to be a good steward of your thinking time and seize those thoughts.