Writing your dissertation is certainly not an easy task. It is hard to know where to start when so much depends on this one paper. These 10 tips will help you structure your thoughts and make a compelling argument. So get some coffee or tea, grab a pen and paper, and let’s get started!
1. Do Your Research
Your dissertation will not be successful without solid research. Find scholarly journal articles and books on your topic. Make sure you have a good selection from which to choose your material. Websites like Google Scholar can be particularly helpful.
2. Get Organized
Write down your sources on flashcards as you go. You can color code your sources so each source gets its own color of flashcards. Write the quote or concept you will use on one side of the card and the properly formatted source on the back. Keep these with you as you write to make the process easier.
3. Create an Outline
Once you have a solid idea of where you would like your dissertation to go, create an outline. Write out your main points as their own sections. Then, beneath each point, draft several topics for which you have supporting research. The outline is extremely important because it will give you an idea of what areas still need more research before you start writing. It can also help you to structure your thoughts before you get in too deep.
4. Take Advantage of Writing Tools
As you write, take advantage of the many online resources that can assist you. Once the paper is written, Plag Tracker can make sure that you have not quoted anything without giving proper credit. There are many more, so do your research.
5. Perfect Your Bibliography
Make sure you have a sufficient number of primary and secondary sources. Ask your professor what style to use when referencing them. You can use online tools like Citation Machine to help with this process.
6. Give Proper Credit
This is your dissertation, and many of the ideas are yours alone. But some are not. You certainly learned from others. Be sure to give proper credit when citing ideas that are not originally yours.
7. Manage Your Time
Don’t sit down and expect to brilliantly write your whole thesis at once. Set a solid schedule. Choose when you will research your topic. How many hours will you need? Make sure to build in time to organize your thoughts and create flashcards for your sources. You can use Toggl to help manage your time when working on multiple parts of your dissertation at once.
8. Walk Away
At some point, you will no longer be able to be objective about your dissertation. When you are so close to the material, it is easy to think you’ve explained yourself, when you are actually missing a large piece of explanation. It can also be easy to miss typos or confusing sentences. Walk away for a few days. Give yourself a break. Do something fun and engaging. Read books that have nothing to do with your topic. Then, when you come back to your dissertation, it will feel new again.
9. Structure Your Sentences
Determine your main points, and write each point in its own sentence. Do not diminish them by grouping them together. Avoid passive voice when writing. As you move forward with writing the dissertation, you can incorporate these sentences or rewrite them as necessary. One resource that can help strengthen your sentences is After The Deadline. You just copy and paste your writing into their free platform, and it tells you how to improve the writing.
10. Write the Introduction Last
It is tempting to write out your introduction first. Some people feel that if they have the introduction down, they will be able to use it as an outline for the rest of the paper. But the introduction will be much easier to write once you have completed the paper. Your dissertation might take a different shape than you originally expected. Write the introduction after the rest of the paper is finished.
There will be times when finishing this dissertation seems impossible. Take it in pieces. You can always walk away for a while to get a fresh perspective. Then come back and tackle it like the rock star you are!
Featured photo credit: peter honeyman via flickr.com