On Writing Dissertations

From the Director’s Desk:

Writing a dissertation is a daunting enterprise: it’s the most in-depth researching and writing enterprise of your academic program.  Its chapters & their purposes can be unfamiliar and the pressure to “validate” can be enormous. It can also intimidate just by its “book-sized” length. Each of these characteristics can incite a unique “writer’s block,” but if you take it one step, one chapter at a time, you can find yourself gradually completing the dissertation. As my mentor once said: “The only good dissertation is the done dissertation.”

One cause of writer’s block that can be easily overcome relates to what I call the “product-focused” trap. Rather than seeing the dissertation as discrete parts, we become overwhelmed by the visual of bound books lining library shelves. Friends and family might share their admiration that you’re writing a book. And the academic system inadvertently fosters this notion. For example, a common exercise in a doctoral program is to locate dissertations. If they’re hard bound, you’re presented with shelves of books. If they’re electronic, you’re typically seeing a document of about 200 pages. So, it’s natural that any immediately equate a dissertation with producing a book. Yes, it’s a book length text; however, it was written just as any other piece of writing: one sentence, one section, one chapter at a time.

The dissertation is the penultimate of academic writing and researching, relying on your sophistication of thought on a given topic. It engages the researcher in rigorous researching and writing in arcane genres and processes that require an intense level of resilience. However, fundamentally, a dissertation is an “academic exercise” engaging you in multiple researching and writing activities that have been cultivated throughout your academic career. The dissertation becomes the symbol, if you will, of your successful departure from student to scholar. To succeed, you deserve to allow your ideas to unfold by writing every day for periods of time. 

If you’ve come to this stage of your academic career, you have the skills to complete a dissertation. It might take you as long as your coursework, but you can do it. Think about the “enterprise” in discrete, manageable tasks: researching, drafting, reflecting, writing, revising. And if you need help, hire a WEX coach or editor to support this process.

Be curious, Be resilient, Be Patient. And keep the process alive by writing every day!

2018-11-05T22:54:05+00:00November 5th, 2018|Comments Off on On Writing Dissertations