Tips For Planning your Doctoral Dissertation
Even if you’re the most talented and productive writer in the world, you cannot write a dissertation in a single session. The size and scope of writing a PhD dissertation can be overwhelming for even the best academics, and it is easy for even the most conscientious graduate student to get mired down with the data and confused about how best to organize the paper.
The best way to beat dissertation disorganization is to prevent it entirely. Planning for your dissertation should begin early in your graduate school career, while you are still taking classes and preparing for comprehensive exams. While the extent of work required may be daunting or demotivating, it will make the process of writing much easier and quicker in the long run. Here is some advice for planning out your dissertation.
Begin Your Lit Review Early
You should read thousands of pages of academic research before forming your hypotheses. In fact, you should be an expert in a sub field of study long before you even decide on what you would like to research in your dissertation project. Of course, reading upwards of ten thousand pages of academic work can take a year or more if you wait till the last minute. Instead, read about a subject that interests you while preparing for your comprehensive exams. When you have projects in class, base them on the same subject area. Use the same subject for your dissertation that you did for your thesis. This will allow you to get a head start many years in advance.
Make a Timeline and Adhere to It
As you begin forming your dissertation proposal ideas, you should look at an academic calendar and take serious stock of your situation. Ask yourself what your funding situation is like, what your remaining degree requirements are, and how long you would like to take to finish. Next, realistically ask yourself how like it might actually take to complete your dissertation. Now form a plan for the next two years of your academic life, with numerous milestones at various points in time. Example milestones include selecting your dissertation committee, writing your literature review, defending your proposal, collecting your data, and writing your first draft.
Once you have a broad idea of your schedule for the next two years, get more specific. Plan out each semester in terms of funding, coursework, research work, and dissertation writing. Schedule time to write every week, no matter how busy you are with other duties. Adhere to this schedule and increase your work load if you miss a milestone. This will ensure you meet your goals.