Tips for thesis writers
Below are some pointers Kim pinched off the interweb (and some tips from your friendly PhD students and alumni…) These good tips were written by Tara Kuther, Ph.D1
In terms of completing your list of dissertation tasks, it is not necessary to start at the beginning. In fact, believing that one starts the dissertation proposal by writing his or her introduction and thesis and ends with the plan for analyses will detain progress. Begin where you feel comfortable and fill in the gaps. You will find that you gain momentum with the completion of each small task.Feeling overwhelmed by any particular task is a sign that you have not broken it down into small enough pieces.
Make consistent progress writing every day, even if only for a short period.
Set aside periods of time to write on a regular basis. Establish a firm schedule. Train yourself to write in short blocks, for at least an hour a day. All too often we insist that we need large blocks of time to write. Blocks of time certainly help the writing process, but how often does this come along uninterrupted? Aside from pragmatics, writing at least a little every day keeps the thesis topic fresh in your mind, leaving you open to new ideas and interpretations. You may even find yourself thinking about it and making conceptual progress as you complete mundane tasks such as driving to and from school and work.
Use incentives to assist you in overcoming procrastination.
Writing requires consistent, well-organized effort and a system of self-imposed incentives to overcome procrastination. What kind of incentives work? Although it depends on the individual, a safe bet is time off from working. I found that time such as time spent playing computer games to be helpful as an incentive to reinforce progress.
Methodically break through writer’s block.
When it is difficult to write, talk through your ideas to anyone who will listen, or just talk out loud to yourself. Write out your thoughts without criticizing them. (Or write in a stream of consciousness about why you can’t write – kim) Take time to warm up, by writing to clear your thoughts. Get the ideas out without scrutinizing each sentence; it is often easier to edit than it is to write.
Work through your ideas by writing, THEN edit extensively.
You will write many drafts of each section of the dissertation; a first (second, or even third) draft need not approach perfection. In addition, it is acceptable to use dashes to mark when you cannot find the appropriate word to express your idea, but want to go on; just remember to fill in the dashes later. (Kim suggests systematically using € or ## signs to mark unfinished thoughts – pick a sign that is both quick to find on your keyboard but that you don’t use in the usual course of your work. Then you can easily use the search function to pick up where you need to edit or add later on). The important thing is that you develop a pattern of producing some output regularly that output can be edited or even thrown out, but it is important to produce something
Recognize and accept the fact that writing is a time consuming process.
Don’t rush yourself.
No draft will be perfect that first time around. Expect to go through several drafts of each section of your dissertation. Once you feel comfortable with a particular section, take time away from it. Ask others to read your writing and consider their comments and criticisms with an open mind. After a few days or a week, reread the section and edit again; you may be quite surprised by the impact of a fresh perspective.
Writing the dissertation is much like running a marathon.
The seemingly impossible may be attained through a series of small goals and deadlines. Accomplishing each small goal helps provide additional momentum. Make consistent progress each day, use incentives to assist you in attaining your goals, and acknowledge that the dissertation will require time, hard work, and patience. Finally, consider the words of Dag Hammarskjold: “Never measure the height of a mountain, until you have reached the top. Then you will see how low it was.”
(1) Source: http://gradschool.about.com/cs/thesiswriting/a/diss_2.htm
(2) comics from http:// www.phdcomics.com