I got the idea for this newsletter after listening to past Dissertation House participants describe how they were able to complete their dissertation. Most of them relayed almost heroic tales of what they had to go through in order to complete their degree. One told of sleeping in his office only two hours a day and living on freeze dried rations for sustenance. A female graduate remembered giving birth and having to get back on task only three weeks later, despite her desire to spend time bonding with her newborn. Yet another recalled being so anxious about her ongoing workload that she wasn’t ever able to get a full night’s rest.
When students in the Dissertation House heard these stories, many sat silently thinking, "I don’t think I can do that". This newsletter is for all of you who have the same fear, or who are thinking you have to be "Superman" or "Superwoman" in order to finish your degree.
The truth is, when you hit the home stretch and are close enough to see the finish line, you’ll find that you’ve had your own "cape and tights" the whole time. Just like a marathon runner, 26 miles and five hours after starting the race, you’ll be able pull more strength, energy and motivation from deep inside than you ever thought possible to complete that last .25 miles. And your friends, family and committee members will be standing at the finish line cheering you on.
The key is getting to that finish line. Seventeen percent of all graduate students never earn their degree, because they don’t finish their thesis or dissertation. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you! Like any marathoner, no matter how hard you’ve trained, you will get frustrated, exhausted, and even bored sometimes. You’ll be tempted to throw in the towel at numerous milestones along the way. But think ahead to your life-long goals, rather than stressing about the tasks at hand. Keep that finish line uppermost in your mind, and you’ll be able to get through.
Most importantly, use the TA-DA! Online system to access all of the information, strategies and tools you need to succeed. No matter what you’re studying, or where you are in the process, TA-DA! can help you finish your thesis or dissertation and earn your degree.
Two of TA-DA’s most important strategies are to break down your project into small, manageable parts, and to make a commitment to work on your project every day. You’ve got to constantly be moving towards that finish line and, as such, it’s critical to keep the momentum going by making a commitment to dedicate at least 12 minutes a day towards your thesis or dissertation. No task is to small and no item too insignificant. Every action you take will move you closer to the goal!
In order to meet this commitment, you may have make some temporary sacrifices. For example, are you willing to give up your favorite TV show? A few hours of sleep each night? Your early morning run? Some of the time you now spend with your family and friends? Your relaxation time on the train or in the airport? Many successful graduates have told me of the many different ways they used TA-DA’s "12 minutes a day" strategy to help them earn their degree. One took her dissertation with her to the dentist’s office and read in the waiting room. Others fit in quick naps between working on their dissertation. I’ve talked with many people who — after becoming so frustrated they wanted to give up — took just one weekend away to escape phones, the internet and all other distractions, and were able to make such substantial progress that they were motivated to keep going. Other students I’ve worked with agreed to try working on their dissertation during commercials while watching TV.
While some of these methods might seem unconventional, the students who used them — and the many other TA-DA tips, tools and techniques — were able to successfully finish their dissertation and complete their degree.
What is your story going to be?
Like most graduate students, you probably undergo a daily struggle between wanting to work on your dissertation and wanting to have fun. A recent speaker who appeared at the Dissertation House relayed the story of his own struggle. He said the part of him who wanted to work eight hours a day on his dissertation was "the drill sergeant". When the drill sergeant was in charge, the other part of him felt bullied. But when the drill sergeant lost out, and he didn’t work eight hours a day, he felt guilty.
If you’re having this same struggle, give up the guilt and resentment! Like the speaker ultimately did, you can completely reconcile these two different personalities: one doesn’t have to win at the expense of the other. Believe it or not, you can actually get your dissertation done if you make a commitment to work on your document at least 12 minutes a day. You may be skeptical that you can quiet that drill sergeant by completing only 12 minutes or work each day, but it’s better than spending no time! Some days, of course, you’ll work longer … but the key is to just take some actionand get something done every single day.
Each morning, refer to your checklist of things to do and ask yourself, "What action can I take today to move my thesis or dissertation forward?" Choose one or two and resolve yourself to work on it that day. In no time at all, you’ll see the finish line just ahead of you.
So what are you waiting for? Maybe today you don’t need both the capeand the tights. Just start by setting your timer, cell phone or microwave for 12 minutes, and start finishing your thesis or dissertation today! Never forget: a good thesis or dissertation is a done thesis or dissertation!
Dear Dr. Carter!
I am just beginning my Ph.D. dissertation in political economy at Virginia Tech. I would be very interested to learn more about the structure of the dissertation including the number of chapters, content of each chapter, etc.
Thank you for contacting us at TADA!Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished.
Generally there is no set number of chapters for the dissertation. An average dissertation has 5 chapters:
Chapter 1 is the Introduction
Chapter 2 is the Literature Review.
Chapter 3 is the Methodology
Chapter 4 is the Results/Discussion
Chapter 5 is the Conclusion/Final Recommendation
Some people break up Chapter 4 into separate chapters; meaning that Chapter 5 would be the Discussion chapter and Chapter 6 would be the Conclusion. Note that you could also have more than one result chapter as well. Students in the Sciences write up their results somewhat differently.
See the link below to writing a dissertation proposal. It tells you how to match up the components of the proposal to chapters in the dissertation.
All the best to you,
Congrats to some students at U of Maryland.
Dissertation House Alums who defended and passed their dissertations this month a big congrats goes out to you! Welcome to the Club.
Congrats some DH alums who passed their Proposal defense this summer.
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—TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. To learn
more, contact us.
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