"In my view, students at whatever level need to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
TADA was a really common sense approach to studying.
I wish in retrospect that I had found it online earlier on in my studies. I found the whole process tough. Reading material from those who had been there in their research studies was both motivational and inspiring. "
Dr. Carter, I just
wanted you to know that with the help of TADA, I have completed
my dissertation and it has been approved. All I have to do
now is schedule the conference call. Thank you so much for
all you have done and especially offering such useful materials
to get through this somewhat daunting task. Maryjane,
Dear Dr. Carter,
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions.
You suggestions are most helpful and invaluable. I have picked up so many
good ideas. Had I used this resource earlier, I could have avoided quite a
few mistakes. This is a good resource for people to read while still
taking the courses instead of right before writing the actual thesis or
dissertation. A stitch in time saves nine, here is a case in point.
Eric Z. York, PA
How to Write a Master's Thesis or Dissertation?
From: Dr. Wendy Carter
are a fantastic motivator. I
suggest using deadlines to complete all of
your writing, including the chapters of your master's thesis of dissertation. Those
of you who are using our TA-DA™ program are
already familiar with this foundational strategy … for example,
using a conference submissions deadline as a motivator to get one
of your thesis/dissertation chapters finished.
It’s also important to set a continuum
of deadlines. After clearing a major hurdle – such
as defending a thesis or dissertation proposal – many students want
to take a break from writing. If you find that you need a
break after the completion of a major task, by all means take one – but
only after setting a date for when you plan to begin writing again,
as well as a deadline for when your next task must be completed.
Following are some additional TA-DA tips
to help ensure that your writing gets done (and done well)!
Capture Thesis/Dissertation Ideas with
Keeping a journal is an age-old technique that writers
have used to get their thoughts down on paper and keep track of
what they learn. Many writers use a journal to write down
facts, brainstorm ideas or “free write” a stream of
consciousness to get their creative juices flowing. Others
use it to vent their frustrations, which can help them move past
the emotions of writer's block.
Though you might resist this strategy
because you consider it extra work, I highly recommend using our TA-DA Methods Journal. You can
use our Methods Journal to write down random thoughts and ideas
whenever they strike; it can also serve as a central depository
for data that can be mined in the future. There
is also a “Issues to be Resolved” section, and a half
page of graphing paper to create hand drawings of the elaborate
tables and graphs you plan to include in your thesis/dissertation. You
can run these “rough” drafts by your advisor for approval
before investing a lot of time mapping the final versions.
Keep Keywords or Phrases
Let’s face it, not too many people will read a master's thesis or dissertation. Neither is the type of document that piques the general public’s
interest mainly because of its academic rigor and writing style.
The topic is generally of interest only to the student, experts
in the field, the student’s
advisor and committee members.
Academic writing is quite formal and is
not designed to be entertaining. Remember
that the most important goal in thesis/dissertation writing is to get your intelligent
point across in a clear concise manner. This style of writing is structured,
formal and objective. A wide range of vocabulary is of course important,
however, when writing academic papers, it is often helpful to find
key terms that are familiar to your reading audience.
on scholarly text will also ultimately assist you in the writing
process. Use academic journals to prepare a list of key words that
are important in your research area---use this set of key words
repeatedly throughout your document.
Resist the urge to use your
thesaurus to come up alternate synonyms to substitute for key terms;
these words all have different meanings, nuances, and connotations.
For example, if the key phrase for your discipline is "family structure",
---do not try substituting other phrases like "family composition", "family
formation", "family arrangement", or "family size." Experimenting
with alternative word choice can do more harm than good.
other hand, purposely repeating key words and phrases links sentences
and paragraphs. Moreover, repetition of key words and phrases not
only emphasizes important points but also adds cohesion to your
overall argument by creating powerful links between ideas in your
paper and helping your reader understand the logic of your paper.
Organizie Your Thoughts -
Organize Your Thesis/Dissertation
At some point you’ll need to stop garnering
ideas and facts, and start to write. First, however, it’s
important to organize your project. Out of the mountains
of raw data you have accumulated, you’ll need to decide what
material to include, how to sequence that material, and how to
shape your document to achieve the strongest possible argument
One of the most productive approaches
to organizing your thesis or dissertation is to begin with your
proposal and a well crafted table of contents (TOC). Your
thesis/dissertation is really just an extension of your proposal;
as such, a good starting point is to go through your proposal and
simply change the tense from future to past. Then you can
craft and use a TOC to create headers and sub-headers for the entire
This exercise will help you to organize
your ideas effectively, and might also point out areas where you
may need to collect more information. Be sure to involve your advisor
in this process, and take careful note of the feedback he or she
Edit Your Thesis or Dissertation
It is difficult for any writer to critique and proofread
his or her own work. For the best result, take a “top-down” approach,
and begin by reviewing the general organization and content of
your writing. Don’t worry about sentence-level editing
at this stage. Instead, focus on the flow of your paragraphs
and sections, and whether they are properly ordered to facilitate
a smooth stream of thought.
One way to gauge this is to
write down all of your topic sentences in the order in which they
appear in the document. (You can accomplish this quickly
and easily by using the “blocking” function of your
word processor to copy them to a blank page.) Once the sentences
are listed in this fashion, you can easily observe whether they
flow logically and make any necessary changes.
Additional tips for effective self-editing are to:
Only edit for short blocks of time;
Edit in a quiet place to avoid distractions;
Read your document out loud;
Read your document backwards, reading the last page first and
working your way back to the first page;
Changing something about your document (e.g., paper color,
font size, font color or spacing) to give it a fresh look.
Find an Thesis/Dissertation Editor
Each time I begin writing this newsletter, I am comforted
by the fact that I have an editor who will review my work. Knowing
this allows me to freely pour out my thoughts on paper without
having to simultaneously worry about the details of style and proper
While I highly recommend using a third
party to edit your work, it’s important to find the right person. Your
thesis/dissertation will be written for a highly intellectual
community, many of whom are experts in your field. As such,
the editor you choose must be practiced in an academic style of
writing that will appeal to this audience.
Evaluate potential editors by having them
edit a few pages of your work to get a feel for their style. It’s
helpful to provide samples of journal articles in your field, and
to advise the editor of your style requirements and expectations. Some
editors only edit for grammar and specific MLA or APA formatting
issues. Others edit for overall continuity, and will check
to ensure that the paragraphs are in the proper sequential order,
and whether a particular argument makes sense. Editing fees
range from $20 to $150 an hour. Be sure to clarify issues
such as how many words or pages an editor can complete in an hour’s
time. For more useful information about finding an editor,
Overcome Writer’s Anxiety:
Write Your Thesis/Dissertation
with a Clean Slate
I got high marks in all of my college preparatory
English classes, but hit a sticking point in my freshman year of
college, when a visiting instructor told me that my writing skills
were lacking. I was devastated by her negative assessment,
and my confidence in my writing waned.
The following semester, I finished my
freshman writing sequence at another university. Despite
the fact that I wrote my essays on the bus rides to and from class,
I was able to achieve straight A’s. Still, my confidence
in my writing remained shaken.
If you have suffered a similar negative
experience, it is important to understand that time and continued
practice will heal this wound. Writing is like everything
else: the more you practice, the better you get. It is important
to move past any confidence issues you have by just writing and
writing more. Another good way to build confidence
is to share your writing with trusted confidantes who will appraise,
constructively criticize and help edit your words.
Write Your Thesis or Dissertation with
an Attitude of Confidence
Many of us experience writer’s block because
we are worried about whether or not what we are writing is actually
right. I suggest that you abandon “right” and “wrong” and
just write with abandon! Write as if you know you
are right, and worry about the details later.
Writing with recklessness allows you to
clear your head and move ahead of whatever may be blocking your
thoughts. I used this technique to write the summary chapter
of my dissertation. I had been struggling with the document
for months, and finally said to myself, “I know more about
this thesis/dissertation than anyone else, so I’m going to act like
it!.” I began writing as if what I had to say was important,
and as if my findings were an important academic contribution to
the field. My new attitude was absolutely freeing! I
was able to quickly finish the last chapter and rewrite the first
one, as well!
Find a “Coach”
I strongly advise students to find a “coach” to
help them organize and complete their project. There is a
considerable difference between an advisor and a dissertation
coach. An advisor is, first and foremost, an academician with considerable
responsibilities that do not involve you. A thesis/dissertation
coach, on the other hand, is paid to focus on you and
help you finish your degree by listening to all of your
concerns … academic or otherwise.
Thesis coaches focus on a
holistic – not strictly academic -- approach to finishing
your degree. In person or on the phone, they can discuss
your project on an individual basis in absolute confidence, and
also serve as a sounding board for stress relief. They can offer
both emotional and academic support to help you complete important
tasks, as well as provide the tools you need to achieve your goals,
which enable you to accomplish more with less effort.
Coaches can help you get organized, and
regularly track your progress to ensure that you stay on top of
tasks. Their goal is to work in every possible way to help you
write your dissertation, finish it, and get it published.
“Group Coaching” is also valuable. Through this model, once
coach provides counsel to several students over the phone (via a bridge line). Everyone
involved agrees to confidentiality, and the group is configured to guarantee
that no one in the group will be in competition with another. The advantage
of this approach is that you can accomplish more in less time, and can have
the opportunity to work with students in different disciplines from all over
the world. The group setting also provides built-in peer support.
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