Okay, so you have a dissertation to write - your last hurdle on your way to obtaining your degree. You know to start playing around with topics, researching early in order to give yourself enough time to sift through tomes of information in order to find what you’re looking for, and you know that it’s going to be challenging. But then of course there are those elusive strategies, or minor tips to follow that can really go a long way when it comes to crafting the perfect thesis.
Before you can put pen to paper, or rather fingers to keypad, you have to understand that you can’t just write any place you come by. Everyone has different methods when it come to what suits them best and they hold their own key to productivity, but this tip can really apply all across the board no matter what type of student you are. Not many people think of environment when they take on this project. It’s very important to find a space where you are comfortable and won’t get easily distracted. This will allow you to train your mind so that every time you see your workspace your brain shifts into writing mode. Oftentimes it’s better to work in an uncluttered space – a visually sparse space will feel more liberating and prevent you from getting mentally cluttered as well. If you must switch physical environments or if you feel like a change of pace when it comes to where you’re writing try not to rotate it too much. Consistency is a very good habit to get into.
Now that you’ve got the where down it’s time to get to the actual writing portion of your thesis. That’s right, it was unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be the worst part of your day. There are ways to make the process go as quickly as possible, while also being efficient. The answer is not to spend twenty hours in front of your computer, staring blankly at the few sparse sentences. The answer is to always go in with a plan or else you’re wasting your time. Not many people are aware that the optimal time chunk for continuous writing is 45 minutes and after those 45 minutes are up a 15-minute break is in order. Reward yourself with a snack or a stretch in this time but don’t start checking your social media or your phone messages because this tends to derail your focus.
Another useful tip is to always make sure that you are tracking your progress. This isn’t about just making sure you’re progressing in a timely manner, but rather to reassure you psychologically that you are in fact one step closer to finishing your goal. This is positive feedback in visual form, there to acknowledge all of your hard work and pushing you to achieve your goal because it went from being an impossible assignment to one that you’ve taken control of.
Lastly you have to let go of the expectation of perfection. This isn’t to say that your final product shouldn’t be held to those standards, only that the interim drafts don’t need to be. The thing you need to realize is that your dissertation will be far from perfect when you’re finished putting all of your ideas on paper for the first time. It’s called a rough draft for a reason after all, and that’s perfectly okay because you have finished one of the most important steps in the process, which is to have decided exactly what points you want to make. Everything you want to include is already on paper! It just needs a little polishing, re-arranging and revising in terms of concepts (now that you have all of them spread out before you, you can pick and choose exactly which are worth keeping and which aren’t exactly relevant).
The main goal at this stage is to just write, write without stopping the way it pops into your head and don’t revise until you have finished a section or a chapter. Revising prematurely will waste time and interrupt the natural flood of ideas and the details you want to include in relation to each. You want to make sure that you don’t forget that brilliant thought you wanted to include because you were too busy deciding between two synonyms for that connector word in the second sentence of the above paragraph.
And so my fellow burgeoning college student, you are ready to get to writing that thesis!