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Writing a Dissertation or Thesis


A Survival Guide for Graduate Students Seeking a Ph.D. or MA

Yes, students complete dissertations and master’s theses without years worth of suffering. You can too. Here are some survival tips to make your writing easier.

A MA thesis or Ph.D. dissertation is not big deal, right? We’re only talking 100 pages, or 200 pages, or 300 pages, and a good semester or year or decade of your life. No problem, huh?

If you have a dissertation or thesis in your near future, you’re probably nervous or outright anxious. Your degree is contingent upon this long and time-consuming document, after all. To make things easier just like an essay writer free, here are some dissertation and thesis survival tips that every graduate student should know.

Time Management

You’ve been in school for a long time, so presumably, you know something about time management. (Tip: if your time management skills feel inadequate, observe your undergraduate students for a while, and you’ll feel like a pro.) Now is the time to manage your time as efficiently as possible, especially if you’re also teaching, working, raising a family, or otherwise trying to have a life.

Different time management strategies work for different students, and hopefully, you have a good idea by now about what works for you. Here are some common strategies that are helpful for graduate students in writing a thesis or dissertation.

  • Set deadlines for yourself– or ask your advisor to do so, if he or she is willing. Stick to the deadlines like your life depended on it. Or alternately, give yourself a little bit of wiggle room in your deadlines so that if you miss one, you’ve got plenty of extra time built into your schedule.
  • Map out your whole schedule in as detailed a manner as possible. Block out time for all your daily obligations, and include plenty of time for your dissertation or thesis.
  • If possible, set a regular schedule. Work on your dissertation every weekday between noon and 6:00 p.m., or whatever works for you.
  • Be realistic about how much time you will need. This is a huge project, and it has to be good– so don’t underestimate the time you’ll need to devote to this. And if you know you’re a slow writer or researcher, keep this in mind as you put together your schedule.

Creating a Manageable Project

Before you begin, figure out exactly what you’re going to accomplish with this project– and what you’re not going to accomplish. Many graduate students spend unnecessary semesters or even years completing dissertations and theses that are much longer than necessary. You don’t have to write about everything related to your topic!

Before you begin, sit down with your graduate advisor and talk about the scope of your project. A good advisor will be able to tell you if your project is an appropriate size.

Of course, it’s very important to choose the right topic for your project. Here are some tips for choosing a dissertation or thesis topic that you find meaningful and manageable.

Working Conditions

In some ways, writing a thesis or dissertation is just like writing any other paper– except for the endurance factor! This project is going to become a major part of your life, and you’ll be a much happier person if you write in ways that work best for you. When choosing the best environment for you to work on your project, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • During which time of day are you most productive?
  • Do you work better in a quiet environment like a library, or a noisy environment like a coffee shop?
  • Do you work well at home, or are you too distracted by the TV, video game console, cats, kids, or whatever else you’ve got going on that’s more interesting than your project?
  • What kinds of foods fuel you best when you’re reading and writing?

In addition, be sure to schedule things that you need to function at your best, including sleep, nutritious food, moderate exercise, and enough social interaction to keep your life in perspective. And don’t forget about study breaks! While procrastination is not your friend, you’re going to work much more efficiently if you don’t try to do it for hours straight without a break

Random Advice for Graduate Students

  • There’s always one more book you can read! Know when to stop reading and start writing or you’ll never finish.
  • Know how to use a style guide! If you’re not fully adept at APA, Chicago, or whatever style you’re using to write this thesis or dissertation, it’s time to learn now.
  • Form a support group for fellow dissertation and thesis writers. Your peers will help you stay on track and answer questions, and hey, misery loves company.
  • Schedule days off for yourself!
  • If humanly possible, finish your project before you leave school and get a job. You probably know plenty of people who left and didn’t finish, right? Don’t become one of them.

Remember, try to keep your project in perspective. Yes, this is a major project and a major commitment, and you need to be willing to make this one of the most important things in your life. On the other hand, it’s not your whole life, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Do your best and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible. Good luck!

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