Getting through your dissertation text only version

Nine tips for getting it done

  1. Make a plan. Set yourself interim deadlines for each chapter or section, and reward yourself when you meet them (but don’t berate yourself when you don’t). Be realistic about how much time you have.
  2. Don’t get it right – get it written. Your writing does not have to be perfect first time. Getting anything down on the page is half the battle, and it’s a lot easier to edit material than to create it. Just write ANYTHING to start with.
  3. Do something else. If you do get writers’ block, try another task – update your references and/or bibliography, proof-read a completed section, sort out your formatting. Or read something different. Or have a rest!
  4. Don’t write in order. Don’t start at the beginning – introductions are tough and often best left till the end when you know exactly what you are introducing. Starting in the middle can feel less stressful too.
  5. Write an abstract. If you are struggling with your argument, write an abstract of your dissertation – boiling things down to the basics can help. You can also do this for individual chapters (especially data chapters).
  6. If it’s not relevant, don’t use it. You will probably do a lot of reading, and collect a lot of data, that will not appear in your final dissertation. This is fine – it will all have informed your thinking, but keep your writing to what’s relevant.
  7. Get feedback. Share your work – with your supervisor but also with your classmates and friends. A fresh pair of eyes, or having to explain something to a non-expert, can do wonders to help you clarify your ideas.
  8. You will feel awful. At some point, you will probably feel you don’t know anything and want to give up. This is normal! Trust the process – the feeling will pass, and things will become clearer. You’ve got this!
  9. You will feel good. Look for progress, not perfection – and give yourself plenty of breaks and positive talk. Ask for help when you need it. You will be so proud when your dissertation is done.