Beginning the task of writing between 50 and 100 thousand words for your doctoral dissertation can be incredibly daunting. There is no real “easy” way to push out so much volume and content quickly. By this point you should have already finished all of your paperwork, found your committee, obtained your signatures, and completed your research. Now it is time to embark on probably one of the largest and most important writing adventures in your life.
The first thing you want to do is figure out when you are going to defend your dissertation. Most schools usually do this three times a year, so now is a good time to pick which one you are going to set your goal for. The next thing you need to do is either buy a calendar or print one off the computer. This calendar will chart your progress and goals over the next few months as you write and prepare your dissertation. Time management and meeting goals is pivotal in achieving your Doctoral degree status. Plan out what goals you have. You need to have dates for each section’s drafts, and probably 3 drafts of each section. It is easiest to write the body of the work first, then the conclusion, then the introduction, then the abstract, then any other written pages, then the cover page, and finally the table of contents. Space your goals out throughout time and set reasonable goals. You know how much time you have in a day or a week to work on your dissertation. Be reasonable and be realistic. I like to set up rewards too so that I have something to work for (you know, because the satisfaction of meeting a goal isn’t enough) so I might schedule a fancy dinner, or ice cream trip after I finish a goal. I write those on the calendar too. Make sure you meet your time goals, slipping and missing your deadlines will be of great detriment to your work and your nicely laid out schedule.
When you are writing something for many weeks or even months it is easy to get sidetracked and lose interest. So many people come this far and get lost in the papers. Don’t be a part of that statistic. You worked all these years up to this point to go out and make a difference in the world, you can’t get there with 90% of a degree. Push through, set realistic goals, and relax. It will all be over before you know it.
There are so many other important things to keep in mind throughout this process. You are writing an academic work, so use words that are appropriate for your audience, which is in fact a panel of your professors who have years of experience in the field, so weak words have no place in your work. Avoid humor and puns as well. Even if they do make your writing easier to read, this work is about the quality of the content, and unfortunately humor does not equate to quality. Explain everything well, sound professional, act professional, be professional, your professors can tell. Chances are this is not their first defense.
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