There is a conceptual gap there that is hard to bridge. I hasten to add that I am not saying that one way or another is better, they are different.
The real advantage in the sciences is that grad students tend to be funded better and finish more quickly, but they lose independence. I put in 15 hour days, 6 days a week the last few months before I finished, because the very good job offer I had earned was only open for six months and was contingent on having finished my dissertation. While this is very motivating, it is probably more applicable to PhDs in sciences and engineering. I had been working on a Masters and my notebook was mostly digital.
When that computer died, my notes were gone. Even though I had dropped out of the program due to money problems, I regret losing such things. No matter how small, come in, and do something that advances your cause. This helps immensely in identifying holes in your argument, experiments that must be done to make the claims you want to make, and gives you words on a page to work with, when the crunch time comes.
There is a lot of advisor to advisor variation, but a significant shift in direction every 12 months or so would be a fair average, based on what I saw. Additionally, at least in the Humanities there is the temptation to try to read everything first.
Write as you go. Turn your editor off for a while and just produce a lot of quantity that you can then go back and edit. Blogs are the death of politically interested grad students….
I like its self-referential nature. This suggests a new strategy, if you can get your advisors to sign off on it: Well yes, in the sense that a not-done dissertation, no matter how good it is, is not actually a dissertation.
What are you doing? What are you writing? My dissertation, All the Reason in the World. Nothing could be a dissertation unless it was a dissertation. You are neither a liar nor a madman. If it is a not-done dissertation, there is not something you are writing. You are not yet either. Thus, what sits before you is a dissertation. My advice to the dissertation writer.
This line of reasoning is available at each stage in the writing process. My dissertation would have been longer, but I had too many TV shows to watch.
So I say unto thee, avoid TV. Seriously, though, having a set schedule is essential — you have to dedicate three or four days at least when you do nothing but write all day, with minimal or no distractions. If not, the writing can take an eternity. Also, think about one chapter at a time; if you worry about the entire thing, the anxiety will paralyze you. And Chris is right: The difference I used to tell my students between those with PhDs and those still ABDs is not that the former are necessarily smarter.
They kept at it; the others did not. Backing up your work is not enough by itself, you also need to keep back ups in a number of different places! Find a friend who is also writing a dissertation, and who you can count on to enforce penalties. Make a bet with this person, according to which you must either a have a given chapter or whatever grow by five pages per week or whatever , or b buy that person any book he or she wants.
Stipulate that quality is irrelevant; that if need be you can turn in five pages of needless gibberish and win the bet. But you have to give it to the other person. Another Damned Medievalist Alternatively, work very slowly for too long while trying to balance work, research, and family. Write the bulk of the bloody thing in three months. He or she may let you get through the program quicker, but that may not be in your best interest if you do not have quality work to show for your years spent in the program.
Yes, you have read lots of material that is related in one way or another, but only cover the works that are directly relevant, and cover them briefly. Take the writing one step at a time, page by page, section by section, chapter by chapter. These things are never perfect. Strive for high quality, but be realistic. There is too much negativity in academia. It is possible to demonstrate the importance of your project without dismissing every piece of work that has ever come before it.
An advisor who does nothing but praise your work without any suggestions for improvements is not doing you any favors.
If you are not getting critical feedback, seek out some additional people for comments. If you realize that an initial idea is not going to be suitable for the dissertation then abandon it.
If you have done enough work on it for a publication then it can be very beneficial to get at least a journal article out of it. Taking breaks is not only okay, it is often essential in order to maintain high quality work. NGO is absolutely right and it is worth spelling out: Until eventually I came to see myself as qualified to teach the subject to people like me, without embarrassment.
Then finishing the writing was a matter of scheduling. Way too much of life is about pretending or imagining to feel confident in order to get something done.
Somehow I have to re-learn this about twice a year. Sure wish someone had told me, regularly, early on. My choice is points: Having a bad advisor is always a bad idea, but in the sciences, there is a high correlation between advisors with students that finish on time and good advisors.
It is almost always a bad sign to have an advisor with students who take forever to finish. You are there to get the requisite training and get out.
Almost anything you failed to learn you can learn later while getting paid more and being happier. This is much clearer when you compare the expected time to a science Ph.
But both people have effectively the same credentials. You might as well get a Ph. Choose your dissertation committee carefully. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether it might be a good strategy to seek out exactly the professors I assiduously avoided: The professors who have a large volume of solo-authored work may be too occupied with their own research agenda to contribute much to your dissertation.
Here is a real-life painfully-learned fortunately, not by me lesson: To Mary at Establish a routine of daily writing—actual writing time, and pre-writing time prepping for the next day of writing , and stick to it religiously.
So much about writing a dissertation is establishing the habit of writing the dissertation. If you feel the need to procrastinate, use the time to do something useful, like organize your citations, preparing a CV or cover letter, laying the groundwork for the project after the dissertation. This point is most critical before you are even in grad school: For scientists this can mean knowing the facilites available, what projects are currently underway by the lead researchers, and such; for the liberal arts, this means travel grants, library holdings, and a reasonable amount of flat out funding to do research instead of teaching, bar tending, etc.
In the event that you go forward without this commitment, recognize that the dissertation is going to take a lot longer to become successful. The affair was common knowledge and quite visible. Luckily, both women were constructive readers, and ultimately, quite polite during the defense. In a way, worrying about their behavior prevented me from being nervous about my performance at the defense. We have a brilliant team of writers with qualifications that allow them to compose outstanding dissertations.
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