From Dr. Wendy Carter of TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished

A Good Thesis or Dissertation Is a Done Thesis or Dissertation

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Finish Your Thesis or Dissertation by Working Your Way Backwards

To accomplish any long-term goal, you must have desire and faith in the process and you must be able to visualize yourself accomplishing the goal. In other words, you must believe it, affirm it, and visualize it before you can actually achieve it.

The TA-DA! CD resource tools help you do exactly that. This incredible toolkit leads you step-by-step through the process of writing your thesis and dissertation, providing direction and strategies every step of the way. As a result, you can clearly visualize exactly what needs to happen, how you can accomplish it, and by when. Now that’s a process you can believe in!

To tackle a big writing project, the TA-DA! method uses a strategy of clearly defining the goal and then working your way backward, step by step, until you arrive at a step (or several!) that you can complete right now. For example, if your goal is to submit an article to an academic journal for publication, your “backwards” journey might break down like this:

Clearly Defined Goal:
  • Submit my article to an academic journal
  • Before that:Complete final edits
  • Before that: Format the article according to the journal’s requirements
  • Before that: Decide which journal would be appropriate for my article, and find out their average turnaround time from submission to publication
  • Before that: Write the paper
  • Before that: Write the introduction, literature review, methods, results/discussion and conclusion
  • Before that: Conduct research
  • Before that: Determine what I need to know and what I am going to write about
In reality, your “backward” list would have many more details, as every one of these steps would have to be further broken down into several small, easily manageable tasks. Don’t be fooled into thinking that easy tasks don’t need to be included on your list! Everything should be taken into account and mapped out, including something as simple as creating a title for the article.

Regardless of whether you’re looking at a process backwards or forward, you don’t have to complete the tasks in order. In fact, if you’re in a bit of a slump and the next “to do” item on your list is one you just don’t feel up to accomplishing today, simply choose one of the other tasks on your list.

The most important thing is to JUST DO SOMETHING!

The single most important TA-DA strategy is to make a commitment to work on your project every single day. And the minimum amount you should dedicate each day is 12 -15 minutes. That’s where your detailed task list will come in handy. Many of these items are what we call “12-minute tasks,” such as creating the cover page, dedication, acknowledgement pages or table of contents, or sequencing figure numbers, table and appendices, formatting your document, or checking your bibliography against the citations in your document.

On those days when you’re feeling a little less ambitious, work down your list until you reach one (or more!) of your tasks that can be completed in 12 minutes or less. No task is too small, and no item is too insignificant. Every action you take will move you closer to getting accomplishing your goal. What can you cross of your list today?

Following is a good example of a series of questions you might ask yourself to start creating a list of “to-do” tasks:
Q: What needs to happen before I can finish my thesis/dissertation?
A: I need to write chapters X, Y and Z.

Q: Can I get those chapters finished by tomorrow?
A: No. First I have to clearly define what information and conclusions will be included in those chapters.

Q: Can I come up with a clearly defined list of what will be included in those chapters by tomorrow?
A: Of course. I already wrote and defended a proposal, so the information is right under my nose!

Q: Can I finish writing all of the chapters tomorrow?
A: No, but I can get a good start on the chapter I know the most about, and most certainly finish a section within that chapter that contains the information with which I am most familiar.
Q: Do I really think I can finish a section by tomorrow?

A: Yes, because I can write based on the outline I already created a few days ago.
Q: Can I finish the chapter outline by tomorrow?
A: Yes, because I have already created the Table of Contents.

Q: Do I have an outline for my thesis/dissertation?
A: Yes, because I completed that step when I was preparing my proposal … and now it can serve as my first step towards completing my thesis/dissertation! So my real first step is finding my proposal and starting with that.
Continue “working backward” in this manner until you have a long list of “first steps” you can take … so many that you won’t possibly be able to complete them all in one day. Then schedule all of those steps in your TA-DA! calendar. You will find it truly inspirational and invigorating to see your dream broken down into easily accomplishable tasks and written down in black and white. This process will help you to clearly visualize achieving your dream and, even more importantly, to actually begin tackling the tasks necessary to doing so.

So what are you waiting for? Start “working your way backward” today … and you’ll soon find yourself back at the Finish Line!!!

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