There are a few "Classics" when it comes to books on dissertation writing. One by David Sternberg called How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation provides tons of good tips. Even though it was reissued in 2014, however, I still find some of the concepts a touch dated. Many of your faculty might be part of the "old days" too!!
Dissertation/Thesis Writing in the "Old Days"
No professional life:
Back in the old days, folks usually just went to school. Yup, they enrolled in a masters or a doctoral program and they probably didn't work. At least they didn't hold a full-time job or have an extremely demanding "non-academic" life.
Back in the old days, folks had typewriters or wrote by hand. Long, slow, and if you'll ask you'll hear quite a few stories of the husband making the edits and the wife retyping them. I have heard this a few times.
Oh and if you lost your draft it was over!! One of my professors at the University of Pennsylvania, somehow put his dissertation draft on the top of his car in a box and then drove away. It was impossible, he said, to collect all the pages all over the highway. He wrote it again.
Bibliographies & materials all by hand
Yup! They had to do it all by hand. All the articles they read and books they skimmed they had to do live. Anything they wanted to site, they had to touch with their hands. Furthermore, they had to squeak out that bibliography letter by letter.
Dissertation/Thesis Writing Today
Now many folks have to balance very real and very demanding professional lives WHILE writing these labor intensive documents. I am working with folks in the military who are trying to get work done AFTER they finish their day job. Another colleague is running a non-profit, taking care of her newborn AND working on her dissertation. It's an insane challenge and we need new strategies for dealing with these challenges.
My future blogs and videos will talk more about this. In my coaching sessions we deal with these issues often, creating individualized plans that work for folks.
Ok, the death of the typewriter is probably the greatest gift for the current doctoral or masters student. Being able to edit, save, revise, etc. all on this handy portable device is extraordinary.
I have worked on my documents on the beach in Bali, Indonesia, at dozens of Parisian cafes, in the Library of Congress, and in airport waiting areas.
On your worst days just be thankful for the laptop.
While we get the laptop and bibliographic software (endnote and zotero), we have another challenge. Now when we type in our topic, we get 50,000 hits! It's information overload.
My future blogs and videos will talk about how to deal with this. For now, suffice to say, if you're overwhelmed, it's normal. We are the info glut era and if you are writing a research paper you're going to hit it head on.
The difference between the past and the present actually takes up much of my coaching sessions because most faculty wrote in the THEN not the NOW. So I work with folks on these issues.
Keep trucking...just remember you're not alone...tens of thousands of folks are struggling to finish their writing projects.
Sarah Federman, PhD