Keys to Writing your Dissertation Quickly and Effectively
You have a few weeks left until your dissertation deadline and you have barely written anything. All your friends are way ahead of you and you are anxious and nervous especially since you know that your dissertation is necessary for graduation. You sit down to try to write but one hour later you’re staring at a blank page. You begin to worry and lose hope of ever graduating and continuing the career of your dreams.
This is the experience of far too many doctoral students today. In fact, many doctoral students give up on their dissertations long before their deadline. In addition, over one third to one half of doctoral students who reach the defense stage end up failing (Cassuto, 2013). According to Cassuto’s article, “a disturbing 50% of doctoral students leave graduate school without finishing.” These are some scary numbers indeed.
However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. In my twenty years of experience as a dissertation consultant, I’ve helped hundreds of desperate and hopeless doctoral students turn their fate around and submit quality dissertations. Based on these experiences, I would like to share a few important factors that will help push you past the dissertation finish line if you are short on time.
First, Stop Your Negative Thinking
I’m sure that you’ve heard the saying “you are what you eat.” Well, regarding the fate of your dissertation (as well as many other things in life), “you are what you think.” Negative thinking will result in negative results. On the other hand, the opposite is true. The well-known book and 2006 best-seller, “The Secret,” talks about the law of attraction which has been supported by a number of studies (Byrne, 2006). Basically, think positively and good things will happen. Visualize success and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you start feeling down because you find yourself far behind then you’ve already lost the battle. Instead, think positively. You’ve got nothing to lose. If you expect to fail, then why not at least try. You’re not losing anything by trying. So, before anything else, it is vital that you get a hold of your emotions from the outset. Think positively and don’t start moping. This is crucial to clearing your mind for the rest of the way.
Find Your Support Person
Now that you’re mentally ready, you should seek help from any one well-versed in your field of study. This help could be a colleague, your adviser, or an experienced dissertation consultant. Regardless, no matter what stage of the dissertation you are on, you must find someone as soon as you can to give you valuable help and feedback. Your adviser is the natural place to look to in this situation but many doctoral students end up in their predicament in the first place because, for one reason or another, their adviser’s help wasn’t enough.
Make sure whoever you get is dependable, well-versed in your field, experienced with dissertation writing, knows what your committee expects and, most importantly, has enough time to give you the attention you need. But instead of taking a chance on someone, it is often a good idea to get the help of experienced dissertation consultants who write dissertations for a living and know the process inside out. They will give you timely feedback and will be there every step of the way. No matter how little time you have, they will work rapidly to help put your dissertation together and prepare for your defense. Moreover, most dissertation consultancies have numerous staff members highly experienced in your particular field of study. Either way, don’t wait to find your support person whoever this person may be.
Create Your Plan of Action
The next factor is creating your plan of action. Start by putting down exactly what chapters you need. Then, break down each chapter into its smaller components until you get a somewhat-detailed outline of what you need to work on. Make sure to break down your general goals into smaller goals which will help you gain confidence as you knock each one out. To help you with this process, you can refer to the below general outline (although the details of your outline will be different, the general framework will stay the same):
A. Preliminary Items
– cover page
– title Page
– dedication page
– theoretical background
– problem statement
– purpose statement
– hypotheses (quantitative studies only)
– research questions
– brief intro to methodology
– relevance of study
C. Literature Review
– discussion of different studies relevant to your literature
– study one
– relation to your study
– study two
– relation to your study
D. Research Methodology
– research method & design
– reasoning of chosen method
– operational definition of variables (quantitative studies only)
– data collection & analysis
– methodological assumptions and limitations
– evaluation of results
F. Implications, Recommendations, and Conclusions
– implications of results
——————————————————————————————————————— In the end, your outline may look something like this:
This may seem like a long list but you’ll be surprised at how fast you can knock many of the outline items out in just one day. But you should also keep in mind that it’s important for you to decide on deadlines for each of these aspects. This will help give you direction as well as structure. You should also make sure that you’re making the utmost use of your support person and have them help in creating your plan.
Put Your Phone on Silent and Minimize Distractions
All too often I see students who are reading or writing their dissertations while looking at their phones. Cell phones are the biggest items of distraction that man has ever known. Therefore, they are your enemy when you are rushing to finish your dissertation. From my experience, you can work up to five times faster with your phone on silent than with your phone on ring. Or better yet, keep your phone far away from you. No phone means no distraction and thus your focus and concentration will reach high levels.
Of course, it will be no good to put your phone on silent if you’re not working in a quiet location in the first place. Therefore, look for a quiet and serene environment allowing yourself to delve deeply into your work.
Focus on Speed, Not Quality
No. This is not a typo. Even if you put great effort to write a mistake-free dissertation, you are still going to go through it later and modify many aspects (unless you want to hand in a sub-par work). So, at this stage, just write, and write fast without worrying about details. You will shoot yourself in the foot if you start getting bogged down on details. Write and don’t worry about grammar mistakes or perfect structure. You and your support person will take care of the details later. The biggest mistake that students can make in this particular situation is moving on to the next section only after they have completely revised and finalized the section they are working on. If you want to miss your deadline, spend another year before graduating, and put thousands of dollars in extra tuition, then you can do exactly that.
Set Aside Daily Writing Time for Your Dissertation
It is very important to commit to a specific amount of time for working on your dissertation every day. This amount of time depends on your particular situation as well as the amount of work spread over the remaining time left. However, it is not just about setting aside time for writing your dissertation, but as previously mentioned, it is about minimizing distractions. However, in addition to this, it is very important to work during the time of day that you are most productive. For many people, this time of day is in the early morning. For others, it may be in the evening or late at night. Regardless, know when you’re most productive and work on your dissertation during that time of day.
Keep in Touch with Your Advisor
Even if your support person is not your adviser, you should always maintain a good relationship with your adviser since this person plays a big role in the success of your dissertation. They are also a member of your committee and therefore they can effectively sway the other committee members on their opinions of your dissertation. So, keep your adviser fully informed about your progress and, if this person is your support person, make sure that he or she is giving you timely advice and in-depth feedback.
Ask for Feedback, and Lots of It.
Your support person has a crucial role to play but you must make sure that your support person is able to give you the comprehensive attention you need. Especially since you are tight on time, once you have your support person, don’t be shy to keep bothering them for help. Every time you finish a piece of work, forward it to your support person for review. A dissertation consultant can even help proofread and modify your thesis while you begin working on the next section. Regardless of who your support person is, keep asking for feedback and modify appropriately.
Write Something Every Day
This final factor is perhaps the most important. Don’t ever go a single day without writing something new for your dissertation. Even if you’re stuck on modifying a section, start writing the next section. You will be surprised at how much time you will save if you simply put aside time to writing something new every day. Even when you experience a lack of energy and motivation on certain days, which happens to us all, you can get closer to your goal by simply scanning your outline task list and finding a small task that could be done quickly and easily (e.g. acknowledgements, title page, etc.). The point is, don’t ever go a day without adding to your dissertation.
Following these guidelines will go a very long way in helping you submit your dissertation within a very short time frame. You’d be surprised at how many students have told me that what started out as absolute despair turned into a satisfying sense of satisfaction and self-confidence. However, we don’t live in a perfect world and some students simply won’t be able to put their dissertation together in the required amount of time. If you find yourself in this situation, do not waste time. Contact a dissertation consultant who will swiftly help you submit a complete and quality dissertation. Even if you’re not sure whether getting the help of a dissertation consultant is a good idea, just get in touch with one to simply see what they have to offer. This will allow you to be more aware of your options and thus help you decide on how to appropriately move forward.
Byrne, R. (2006). The secret. New York: Atria Books.
Cassuto, L. (2013, July 1). Phd attrition: How much is too much? Retrieved from