Prepping for the dissertation

Prepping for the Dissertation Writing Experience – Tips from a Mentor & Scholar

By Nicole Dhanraj, PhD

The dissertation or doctoral study experience is unlike any other academic experience. Perhaps you are a rockstar student, aced your projects and assignments, and finished your previous degrees satisfactorily. Maybe you spent some sleepless nights, missed some life events, and had some stress, but overall, you got your degree done.

When it comes to the doctoral coursework, especially dissertation writing, this writing experience tests every philosophy of education (and perhaps life!) you have. It is truly the turning point of moving from a student to a scholar. It can be described as a subconscious hazing process to some.

Often students lose their momentum and get stuck in the all but dissertation phase because not only does the dissertation create and cause stress for so many students, but the overall process can be confusing and frustrating.

The expectation versus reality of writing a dissertation is often the polar opposite. After all, you know how to write and conduct research…but there is something different about this process that is challenging. You have different expectations, a different level of scholarly work, and an entire committee to please.

Dissertation Writing Help

The following are some tips to prepare you for this life-changing doctoral writing experience to reduce your stress and frustration.

Evaluate your life.
It would help if you examined your responsibilities as a working professional, parent, son/daughter, and so forth before starting your dissertation. Research and writing consume significant time. If you want to finish promptly, your dissertation should be a priority. If you have multiple areas competing for your time, you are more than likely to sacrifice your dissertation time for life events. This suffocating feeling of having no time for your dissertation adds further stress, especially when financing your degree and paying tuition every quarter, whether you made progress or not.

Prepare your family.
Your family may feel left out when you are nose-deep in research or need quiet writing space. This feeling can cause familial conflict. You will need to prepare them for life as a doctoral student. This preparation may include passing off responsibilities or soliciting help to maintain your household. Don’t pinch on paying for help as well. You may end up paying tuition instead. Discussing your needs and this new phase of your life and getting their buy-in is crucial to your success.

Write your purpose.
When your proposal gets rejected, your mentor asks for another edit, or you struggle to refine your topic, you will question why you in pursuing this doctoral degree. You may think about giving up. You may be ready to throw the towel in at the 99th mile in the proverbial 100-mile race. Sometimes, though the end is within, students give up. However, you will have the motivation and strength to continue when your purpose is in full view. Returning to your personal “why” will keep you going and energize you when needed. Also, remember that there is no guilt and shame in deciding not to finish the degree. Nothing is ever wasted. You are not any less intelligent, a quitter, or not motivated. We all have to reevaluate our choices from time to time, and sometimes we recognize what we thought was a good idea and benefits may not be the most optimal choice. Wherever you leave off, you will have gained knowledge and lessons and can leverage that. However, persevering will bring incredible rewards – both obvious and not so apparent.

Find cheerleaders.
You will have your Chair, committee members, and other help from the University you are attending. However, you will need to have a support team. These people you can confide in and share your feelings with. Your tank is likely to be emptied now and again throughout this doctoral journey. Therefore, your support team is critical for navigating the swirl of emotions the dissertation process will take you through. Your support team can lend a listening ear, be someone to vent your frustrations to, or help you brainstorm ideas. Get dissertation help to support you mentally and emotionally as well. Joining a free support group like ours also help you to be amongst like-minded folks willing to cheer you on!

Continue learning outside of your doctoral program
Start using various resources to learn more about writing and research as you work on your class requirements. Dissect the dissertation process and learn about each part and what is needed to be successful in these areas. Use university resources to learn how to perform a literature review. Watch videos to learn more about your methodology. Join free groups to connect with other students so you can learn, share ideas, and ask questions.

Choose your research topic early
Clarifying your topic early in the game will save you some frustration and a complete do-over in the worst-case scenario! That can be defeating and make you want to quit, so do your best to understand what you want to study early-- and ensure there is a gap in the literature! Do not wait till you are ready to write.

Time management.
Be prepared for a lesson in time management. Whether you are already stellar at managing your time or not so efficient, you will take those skills a couple of notches up! You will learn to prioritize significantly, especially as deadlines and the tuition invoice are due. One primary practice you can implement is committing to some work each day. Set aside a time that works for you. This period could be 15 minutes, an hour, or just any block of time. Do not schedule something else on top of this time – it is valuable and important! If you work great under pressure, you may not need to do this, but sticking to a schedule forces you to keep your momentum.

Select an optimal environment.
It will help if you maximize the time spent when working. Ensuring you have a suitable desk, chair, lighting, computer, and other tools will make the process easier and more enjoyable. I mean, even plants need an optimal environment to thrive, right? You are no different! You can consider changing your environment. Try the coffee shop, the library, office, or campus. Avoid spaces where you may get too comfortable, like the bedroom. Nothing is more enticing than a warm comfy bed to keep you from writing!

Timing is key!
Do you know when you are most productive? Are you an early bird or a night owl? Knowing the times and the space where you are most productive will help you maximize time.

Must have tools. Have the right tools. Invest in a good computer, software, chair, and desk. You will be using these items a lot. Have bookmarks ready for the library and school resources. You want to avoid being frustrated with manual processes, slow systems, and furniture that make your body ache. You will be at this for a while, so invest in the items that will make the process easier. You will have a return on your health and your sanity!

These recommendations will help you get started on this wild doctoral journey. We would love to help you move from ABD to Doctor!

Check us out at Dissertation Prep if you need help to make writing that dissertation easier!

Nicole Dhanraj, PhD | Motivational Octopus in Chief

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