Most graduate programs require students to write a dissertation on their original research. Graduate students identify an area of interest and ask a professor with expertise in that area to supervise the research. The student then asks other faculty members to form a committee, with the supervising professor as the chair. The student submits a research proposal for approval. The student should then develop a timetable for writing the dissertation and submitting it to the committee.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Select a calendar, chart or planner and enter the deadlines for each step of your dissertation. Review the dissertation requirements from your university's graduate program to determine the deadlines.
Work backwards from the date in which you intend to graduate. List all deadline dates: when you must submit your dissertation to the graduate school; when you must defend your research; when you should give the final draft to the committee; when you should submit the first draft to the committee. You now know how long you have to write the dissertation.
Set up a schedule for writing each section before the first draft needs to go to the committee. Specify each step and determine the approximate time it will take. For example: write research proposal and methodology; collect data; write details of methods; analyse results; write results; write discussion and conclusions. Allow time for revisions.
Set aside a specific time every day to work on your dissertation. Choose your most productive time. For example, if you work best in the morning, set aside morning time to write. Allow enough time to complete each section. Write first the sections that come easiest. Allow more time for more difficult sections.
Setting up a Timetable
Allow time to read dissertations former students have written as models for your work.
Set aside a large block of time to read literature in your research area and write a comprehensive literature review for your dissertation proposal. Set out the research question you will address; determine how it relates to earlier research and how it will advance the field. Allow time for reading and thinking about the question. This dissertation proposal will become the first chapters of your dissertation.
While reviewing the literature, select a supervising professor to direct your research. Select other members of your committee based upon advice from your supervising professor, with an eye toward finding experts to aid in your research. For example, if you are weak in statistics, ask a statistician.
Set aside time to write each section of the dissertation. Your introduction or review of the literature will have been already written for your research proposal.
Write your method section before or during the research-conducting phase. This section should follow directly from your proposal.
Set aside enough time to conduct the statistical analyses and to conduct additional analyses after you review the first results with your supervisor. Don't format tables and graphs until you and your supervising professor decide on what to include.
Give yourself plenty of time to write the discussion and the conclusions. Allow extra time to contemplate on the conclusions and to indicate how they relate to prior research.
Tips and warnings
- Choose your supervising professor and members of your committee on how well they will support you, as well as upon their areas of expertise.
- Relate your discussion to your introduction.
- Allow more time than you think you will need for every step.
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