5 Blog Posts to Help You Write Your Dissertation

Photo:  iStock

Photo: iStock


Before you earn your PhD, you gotta write a dissertation. A dissertation, to put it simply, is a really long research paper, and it typically takes a couple of years to write. First, you gotta conduct original research. Then, you gotta explain your research findings in writing, which is a completely different process. As you might imagine, all of this takes time! And, of course, life continues to happen, so that might also impact how quickly you can finish. I'll be starting mine this summer. So over these past few weeks, I've been trying to do everything I can, from talking to other grad students to reading blog posts, to get some tips about the process. 


Here are five articles that might be helpful for you as you prepare for your dissertation journey.


1. "The Not-So-Secret Guide to Dissertating"

In this article, Dr. Jenny J. Lee talks about many of the things that grad students are afraid to talk about: whether a research topic is good or not, the potential impact of your study, how to track your progress, and more. But this is the passage that stood out to me the most:

"Your dissertation will probably never be read once it is filed. Too much anxiety has gone into perfectionistic writing that might never be seen by more than the few people on your dissertation committee. A professor of mine once said: 'Put $1 in your dissertation on file at the library and check back 10 years later, and the $1 will still be there.' Dissertations are digitized nowadays, but it is still quite likely that your work may never be downloaded, except by your family members."

I'm finna cry.


2. "How to Draft a Dissertation in a Year"

This article was written by Alexandra Gold, a PhD Candidate. I really liked this one not only because it's written by another grad student, but also because she offers practical advice about how to get that first draft done. I appreciated her advice about writing a little bit each day: "The best thing I have done has been committing to writing often, rather than procrastinating or leaving the work aside for too many consecutive days." I know that procrastination is a big challenge for me, so I definitely needed this reminder.


3. "8 Tips for Writing a 210-Page Doctoral Dissertation in 8 Months"

Dr. Omar Abdullah also offers a few tips about how you can finish the dissertation quickly. He even echoes Alexandra's advice about developing a writing habit, suggesting that students aim for 200 words every day. But his third tip was my favorite piece of advice. "Tell yourself that you will finish on a specific date and work backwards." He goes on to explain that although he missed his target date, it was still helpful because it gave him something to shoot for. I'll definitely be doing this in a few weeks!


4. "How to Write a Dissertation"

This post is a little different from the others. It was actually published by the Department of Computer Science at Purdue University. It's targeted at those who are in STEM fields. But I think that everyone can benefit from a lot of the advice in this post. For instance, I really like the list of terms and phrases to avoid while writing the dissertation. It forces you to be intentional about your writing, and to avoid using filler words that are vague or too conversational.


5. "Surviving the Dissertation: Tips from Someone Who Mostly Has"

"Surviving the dissertation" sounds pretty scary, I know. But honestly, I don't mind advice from people who keep it real with me. Finishing a dissertation isn't an easy task; it takes a lot of hard work! Some older grad students even told me that there may be times when I'll want to quit because it's so draining. (Little did they know, I've been about ready to quit since my first year, lol.) But I like this article from Stephanie Hedge because her advice is practical and reasonable. For example, she suggests that you set goals for yourself but not feel guilty if you have to, for whatever reason, move them back. She also recommends that you "take time off when you need it," so long as you remember to start writing again.


Hopefully, the tips in these articles will help you prepare for and actually write your dissertation. But I'll also leave you with something that another PhD student once shared with me. That is, "A done dissertation is better than a perfect dissertation!" At a certain point, you just gotta get the thing done. We tryna' graduate out here!


About the Author

Bennie is a third-year PhD student at Northwestern University, where he is studying African American Studies. He created Just Tryna' Graduate to help Black students get to & through graduate school. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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