Things You Can Write When You Don't Want
- Transfer your important semester
deadlines onto your palm pilot or daily calendar. You
are responsible for knowing and meeting deadlines for degree
completion. Missing one of these deadlines can cost
you time and money. These are usually published a year
or two ahead of time, and you may be surprised at how early – relative
to the graduation date – that you will need to submit
items such as your defense application forms and a bound
- Pick up or download the format
manual or template required by your college/department for
a thesis or dissertation. If you’re
still inspired to do additional work, go ahead and set up
a formatting template for your document. Following
the rules for margins, fonts, table formats, and other requirements
in early drafts of your proposal will be much easier and
less time-consuming than having to go back and reformat all
of your different files later. You can generally find
formatting requirements on your university’s website. If
you prefer, the graduate school/graduate department secretary
can typically provide you with a hard copy.
- Investigate graduation requirements
early and plan a meeting with your department's
graduate secretary or Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)
to ensure you are making appropriate progress toward your
- Visit the library and
study other theses or dissertations from your field. Make
note of how many chapters they contain and be on the lookout
for those whose committee included your advisor. Pay
particular attention to those who had your advisor as chair.
- Create your Title Page. Use
a working title if you’re not yet sure of the exact title.
- Create your Signature
Page. This is a page for the signatures of
the thesis or dissertation committee members. The
format manual will tell you how this page should look.
- Buy the specialty paper for
your thesis or dissertation. If you are not
required to submit your thesis or dissertation electronically
you will need to submit in on high-quality, white 8 1/2 x
11 inches, acid-free or acid-neutral paper.
- Create your Abstract Page. Your
department may require an abstract to be part of the dissertation. Please
follow your department's style requirements. Even if you only
have the energy to write the single word “Abstract” on
the paper, do it.! By completing this small task, you
have created a page holder for the abstract that must eventually
- Complete your Acknowledgement
Page. Completing this page – which
is a forum through which you thank your family and friends
for supporting you – is an emotional process that
may inspire and re-energize you. You may very well feel
more like working after it is completed.
- Find out the turn-around time
and format for Binding. If you must submit a bound
copy of thesis or dissertation as part of your requirement
for graduation don’t wait until the last minute. At
some universities, binding the dissertation is the student's
responsibility and must be completed at
the student's expense. Note that binding requires anywhere
from one day to two weeks. Prices and time required vary.
Some binderies charge a premium for rush jobs.
- Create a Dedication Page. I
dedicated my dissertation to my daughter who had been patient
and understanding throughout the entire process.
- Create your Reference/Bibliography
Page. The bibliography should meet your major
department's style requirements, which often conform to
the leading journals or book series of the field. This
page is used to document the sources of information you
have cited in your document; a bibliography must be included
at the end of the thesis or dissertation and it includes
all of the bibliographic details your readers need in order
to seek out your sources on their own (i.e., to replicate
your research). References may be numbered or listed alphabetically.
Within any bibliographic section there should be consistency
and adherence to an acceptable journal style for a bibliography.
Each reference in the bibliography must contain the name
of the author, title of the paper, name of publication,
volume, date, and page.
- Create a Copyright
Page. If you choose to retain and register
copyright of the dissertation, prepare a copyright page
conforming to required format. Do not number the copyright
page. There maybe additional fees for copyrighting
- Take 12 minutes to prepare
for tomorrow. 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 12-30 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. This is not
the time to start a new routine!!!
- Try writing the section that’s
muddling you as a letter (or email) to a good friend. Sometimes
setting aside the academic prose and just writing informally
to a buddy can be liberating and help you get the ideas “on
paper.” You can make it sound smart later.
- Free-write an analysis of why you're
stuck perhaps even about how sick and tired you
are of your dissertation advisor, committee, etc. Venting
can sometimes get you past the emotions of writer's block
and move you toward creative solutions. Give yourself 12
minutes to make yourself write or type without
lifting your pen from paper or fingers from keyboard (whatever
comes to your mind, related to your research or not.)
- Moving On From
the Free-Write: Read what you have written
during your free-write stage, find a sentence that's interesting
or useful and expand on it. Don’t be self-critical--even
if you haven’t written anything related to your work,
try to draw a parallel between something you've written
and the task at hand, even if it's only a word of encouragement.
Johanna a fellow graduate student suggests that if you
wrote, "I'm so broke," ----take time to reflect---- "Finishing
this ______ is one closer step to graduating and getting
a job that pays the bills." Motivation and inspiration
is the key. Enjoy!
Rewards and Punishments as Motivators
- Celebrate major accomplishments. When
you meet a deadline or complete a significant accomplishment,
reward yourself by doing something you enjoy such as shopping
with a friend, reading a non-academic book, scheduling coffee
with a friend, renting a movie, buying yourself an ice cream,
emailing a friend, or something else. Having a tangible
reward, however small, can provide some added motivation to
get work done.
- Schedule daily motivational
rewards. Tell yourself that you won’t
allow yourself to enjoy that luxury until you’ve completed
your allotted time of dissertation work. I wrote my dissertation
during the NBA finals. I wouldn’t watch the game
unless I had accomplished my daily goals. This method
allowed me write with purpose and watch the game without
a sense of guilt.
Maryjane, Fayetteville, NC
Christine, Seattle, WA
Martha; Albany, CA
Randall; USMC Jacksonville, NC
Deborah; U.S. Army
Lawrence; Philadelphia, PA
Master’s Thesis Students…
Talia; Naranjito, Puerto Rico
Teresa; Naguabo, Puerto Rico
Gladys; NY, NY
Jess; San Francisco, CA
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 Accomplished. To learn more and sign
up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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