Writing one’s PhD thesis is the culmination of the academic career for most scholars. As such, many students focus mainly on the topics of their research, fantasizing about the finished thesis and the important discoveries they may make in the process. Yet, despite its importance and the many years of preparation which go into writing these theses, the truth of the matter is that many, many students do not finish their PhDs simply because they do not complete the thesis. The reason for this is quite simple: while thinking of the finished result, these students have forgotten the very basics of writing a long, complex paper.
Time management is the most basic requirement for writing a complex thesis paper, and it’s the single largest issue that PhD candidates fail to correctly understand and deliver at. Certainly it becomes an issue they’re aware of—but often not until they are already struggling. Scholars writing their thesis for their PhD should make time management their very first priority from the very beginning.
For every stage, from developing the thesis statement, through research, and through each part of the writing process, students need to develop a timeline for their work. This should include dates as well as hypothetical daily schedules. Obviously it isn’t possible for them to perfectly plan each date or time when they will finish a stage, but they should have a basic idea.
As the thesis progresses, students should revisit their timeline and make adjustments on it. For example, when they begin their research, they will often find that it will require more time than they anticipated. They may also face unavoidable delays. These should be considered and the timeline revised accordingly at each stage.
The most difficult part of their time management often relates to the writing process itself. Students focus so much on the research portion that they assume the writing will handle itself. Instead of overlooking this, they should schedule daily writing schedules for the days or weeks they believe the actual writing will take in practice, instead of simply scheduling for everything else and thinking the writing will “come together” on its own. Writing is often the hardest part of creating a thesis, and planning accordingly will help immensely.
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