Wow, so you made it this far? One more big project to go, and a graduate degree of some sort is within your grasp. Way to go! But you’re not quite there yet. Ahead looms that holy grail of hard work; the dissertation. Here, is some advice; a series of tricks and tips to help you get through it, and to help you successfully write your dissertation.
Keep Calm & Keep Going
It sounds obvious and maybe not even that helpful, but the truth is that with a big project like this, you will more than likely have moments in which you feel lost, overwhelmed, defeated, etc, because that’s part of every big journey with an accomplishment at the end. Plan for it. Know it will happen. And when it does, take a break, take a breath, remind yourself that you can do it, because many others have and they certainly weren’t all leagues ahead of you in terms of smarts or accomplishment. You’re just tired. Drink some water, calm down, and keep going.
Plan, Check, Plan more, Check again
In one way this advice simply means, don’t skip consulting your advisor. Most of all, don’t fail to check in with them when you feel lost or overwhelmed simply because you don’t want to look bad in front of them. They’ve been through it too. When you feel a little stuck in the weeds, that is the perfect time to go for a consultation, and if your advisor is worth anything at all, this will be the time that they can offer you the most. Listen, adjust, work ahead a bit more, then go back and consult again. Successful people know when to ask for advice, and don’t let ego get in the way.
Clarify your ideas
The biggest challenge to your research and your writing will be the degree to which you really know and understand what you want to say and why. If you’ve done your work, and you have these things clearly outlined for yourself, it will make the rest of it a heck of a lot easier. The biggest problem that most people face comes from finding out too far into the process that they didn’t really articulate the problem they want to solve clearly enough for themselves. Or they didn’t look deeply enough into the research the first time to realize that they’ve missed something important, and maybe their hypothesis isn’t as strong as they once thought.
We tend to think of writing a big project the same way we think of having a big pile of dishes to do, and this is a mistake. You probably already know how to wash dishes, so there is nothing to do but just crack on and get it done. This same ethic will not help you finish a challenging sentence, if in truth you aren’t 100% sure where you’re going with it or what you want to say next. Most people get bogged down because they fail to check and cross check their ideas, making sure they know exactly what they are and why they are important.
You don’t have to produce the most mind-bending, earth-changing research conclusions there are. You work with your advisor to find out what bite-sized chunk of academic work you can chew, and then just make sure you chew it well. This means double-checking all your logic, your wording of key questions, and your plans for how to answer them, and make sure they all fit together and make sense. That is the best advice for successfully writing a dissertation that you will likely receive. Cherish it!