— Mary Heaton Vorse
How long have you been putting off writing your thesis or dissertation? A day? Two days? Two weeks? Two months? Many students suffer from procrastination because they hate writing … or hate the fact that they’re not good writers. Subsequently, they wait around hoping that divine inspiration will strike them and instill a newfound sense of eloquence and expression.
Stop waiting. So what if your writing skills aren’t top notch? The TA-DA system works because it focuses on using the talents and resources you already have … not the ones you would like to have. It doesn’t matter that you’re not the best writer in the world. What matters is just that you write.
So how do you get started? The following tips should help!
Secure a special space in which to write
Claim a place in your home to use for writing, and make sure that it is clutter free. Your writing space might not be in your home; it might be your lab, office, or hotel room. (Be sure to take a few minutes at the end of each writing session to straighten your desk and put items away; that way cleaning never becomes a major task.) Ensure that your special spot has adequate lighting and all of the materials and equipment you need to get the job done; you’ll only waste time and give yourself more reasons to procrastinate if you have to go back and forth to get the things you need. A desk and straight-backed chair are usually the best choice for writing; if you’re too comfortable, you may fall asleep or succumb to daydreaming.
Make whatever modifications you can in your space to eliminate or minimize noise and distraction
Understand, however, that cutting out all distractions is simply not possible. My best friend who was married with children rented a hotel room every weekend to write her dissertation; in this environment she was comforted by being able to find her materials wherever she left them. That’s why it’s much better to plan your thesis around your life, rather than the other way around. Remember, the TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished program was created to help you do exactly that, and to develop a realistic plan to assist you in reaching your goal.
Analyze your writing process
You may not think you have a “writing process”, but you do — everyone does. Get the maximum benefit out of your efforts by incorporating the rituals and routines that result in your most effective writing. For example, if you are more productive in a clean workspace, be sure to dedicate the last 30 minutes of your daily schedule to straightening up. If you work better after you’ve indulged in a good cup of coffee from your favorite mug or in your favorite T-shirt, by all means keep these items handy. Use whatever you can to get yourself into the writing “zone”.
To help identify those items, ask yourself:
- What tools do I always need (or think I need) when I’m writing?
- Am I more productive when I indulge in some of my old familiar comforts (e.g., favorite T-shirt, coffee mug or pencils)?
- Have I been more successful when I used a certain routine to start (e.g., directly after a meal, directly after class, directly after my favorite TV show)?
- Where have I done my best and most productive writing? In my office? Bed? At the coffee shop? In the bookstore or library?
- Do I work best with absolute quiet or with noise/white noise in the background?
- Has my best and most productive writing been done in the early morning before everyone gets up, late at night when everyone is asleep, or during the day, when everyone is running around?
- How should I reward myself for accomplishing my goals?
- I know that responding to emails, phone calls, IMs, throughout the day distracts me from writing, so should I read my emails at the beginning of the day or the end of the day? Should avoid the temptation by not logging in until I am ready to deal with it?
- Based on past experience, how large a block of time did I need to write productively?
- When I’m done writing for the day, will it help my next writing session if I write myself a note to remind myself where my thoughts were when I left off? Is there anything else I can do at the end of my writing session to make the next session begin more smoothly?
- Would I feel better about my work – and about doing additional writing – if I had an editor who could “clean up” my initial drafts?
Remember a good thesis is a done thesis. Similarly, a good dissertation is a done dissertation! What can you do today to move your thesis or dissertation forward?
Question of the Month:
My advisor wants me to focus on inputting my data so that we can do some analysis of the data, but I have not been able to write my introduction yet.
I can see your advisor’s point of view. Generally, advisors think that the writing will fall into place once the results are done. Nonetheless, at TA-DA we like to build confidence along the way before you get to the results. We realize that some people need to make progress along the way in order to be encourage to finish their thesis or dissertation. For people like you who work in a lab, you need to write as you go. Don’t wait until all of the experiments are finished before you begin writing. You can always begin with the Problem Statement.
Begin by formulating your research question then restatating the question in the form of a statement. Be sure to note the adverse consequences of the problem. You can always enter data, create tables, figures etc., when you don’t feel like writing.
TA-DA!™ Graduates —
on Your Success
Dr. Carter, I have appreciated your newsletter during my dissertation journey. Yesterday, I successfully defended and completed the program. My recommendation is that, any graduate student who needs a prospective, and retrospective knowledge source, subscribe to your Finishline newsletter; a great mentor. I wish that I found it earlier in my dissertation journey. Thanks, Nathaniel
Gwen at UMCP who participated in last summer’s Dissertation House on campus and will be defending July 10th! Way to Go!
Congrats to Judy, Rosa, Yonglin, and Woodrow…. who participated in Dissertation House at UMBC; They all graduated in May.
Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.
About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters’ degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. To learn more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at email@example.com. Privacy is our policy. TADA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers’ names or e-mail addresses.