If you are looking to advance your education by entering a doctoral program, you have probably heard about a dissertation.
You have also likely heard some rumors about the difficulty, time, and expenses involved in working on and completing the dissertation successfully. While it does take some effort and time, there is not much reason to worry.
Your dissertation is essentially the culmination of your scholarly work, and a Ph.D. program will prepare you well for it.
Either way, you will not get your Ph.D. until you complete and defend your dissertation successfully.
Here are some expert tips to help you get through this step and get your PH.D.
1. Write a Winning Dissertation Proposal
A dissertation is aimed at discussing a specific topic comprehensively. Some institutions require scholars to write a dissertation proposal that must be approved before they embark on the actual paper.
Some skip this process.
Whether your institution requires it or not, you should write a proposal or at least discuss it with your supervisor.
The main points you should capture include:
- What problem your dissertation looks to tackle?
- Why is your topic important to the community, be it the academic or research fraternity
- Why are the solutions you are looking for important?
- How will you find the answers you seek?
The theme of the paper should be valuable, reasonable, and unique. This aside, you want a topic that leads you to a testable hypothesis and with solid arguments, not one with a dead end.
2. Create a Plan
Most Ph.D. scholars find themselves handling several things at the same time. These might include a full-time job, a business, a family, and so on.
Once you get down to it, you need to create a plan to complete your paper.
Break down the work into chapters or sections and the number of pages required in each portion. Then figure out the number of pages you need to complete every day or each week to meet deadlines.
Similarly, identify the times when you work best and work on your dissertation then. Get into a writing routine and ensure to stick to the schedule even when you least feel like it.
3. Start Early
The size and significance of this paper can quickly get overwhelming. It will be read zealously by your supervisor and scrutinized by a committee adds to the pressure.
These realities can be daunting enough to make you put off the paper until you feel confident that you have done adequate research.
However, leaving it too long can quickly get overwhelming.
The answer to this paralysis is to begin planning for and start the paper. Are you unsure of your argument? Do you feel your points are not airtight?
While these are possible kinks, you will not have a clear picture of what to work on until you start writing the paper. You can then start identifying problem areas and fixing them. This will bring you closer to the goal.
4. Figure Out a Software
You will need both word processing and editing tools for your paper.
This is something you should figure out sooner rather than later. Often, scholars will begin their papers and work well on whichever platform. They learn of different software and migrate to that one before hearing of the next one.
A better way to go about it is by picking and sticking with one-word processing software.
Pick a spellcheck tool and a plagiarism checker as well. With these figured out, you can focus on reading, researching, and writing an excellent paper.
5. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
The first copy you come up with will be the draft, and you are at liberty to edit it as many times as possible.
When you begin writing, focus on doing good research and noting down points that support your arguments. Get your thoughts on paper without worrying too much about typos, errors, unsubstantiated claims, and awkward sentences.
Focus on following the structure and content to build the paper and correcting other errors later.
Seeing your paper taking shape in itself will serve as motivation to keep going.
6. Take Notes Carefully
Careful notetaking saves time and produces a good quality paper. You will find yourself wondering where you got certain bids of information from drafting your paper without it.
This will often necessitate going through your research sources to track down particular information. With dissertations requiring numerous sources, combing through them again to find the information you had not noted down is not a good way to spend your limited time.
The other thing about taking good notes is to capture references. As you know, references are central to scholarly writing. You have to attribute your points adequately.
You can also consider using reference management software. These help you track all resources and papers you might use. This makes citing much easier.
7. Take Care of Yourself
If you allow it to, your dissertation will become your whole life. While this might seem like the quickest way to get it down, it can be counterproductive.
Going about it in this way can quickly lead to burnout or writing blocks. Depending on how these last, it can slow you down significantly.
Find a balance between completing the paper and other aspects of your life. Taking breaks can help you review your head’s information or see different angles that might be useful in your paper.
This aside, ensure to eat well, work out and get enough hours of sleep. It would help if you were well both physically and mentally to get through the writing process and defend your paper successfully.
This will undoubtedly be one of the longest academic papers you will ever work on. Approach it as a marathon where you have to deliver consistent efforts to finish the race.
If for any reason it becomes untenable to do this, consider getting some help with your dissertation. Read more on that here.