The first time a student attempts to write a dissertation, they’re often overwhelmed and concerned by how ill-prepared they feel. The fact of the matter is, many students are simply taken aback by the scope of the project, and they truly are prepared—they just need a little bit of coaching to help them see that their prior learning has prepared them to tackle a dissertation. These three stages will be a great help to anyone struggling with writing their dissertation.
- Stage One: Preliminary Research
- Stage Two: Staying Organized
- Stage Three: Outlining
In this case, “preliminary” means before even committing to a subject let alone a thesis statement. Obviously, the bulk of the research will be completed after this point, but it’s vital for a student to know from the beginning that they will actually be able to complete their dissertation and adequately defend their thesis with the information currently available. Students can consider this step a preliminary literature review, and in fact, it can streamline their later literature review process, if they take care to make a list of viable sources during this stage. Too many students think that every intriguing idea will make a great thesis statement; they need to keep in mind that a great thesis statement is only “great” if it can actually be supported by the research.
When students are passionate about a topic, they tend to research in a thousand different directions at once. While it’s completely normal to switch gears often during the research stage, it’s also important to remain focused so that one doesn’t end up with a lot of unrelated material which can’t be formed into a cohesive final paper. Students should, as soon as their main ideas begin to take form, begin filing their notes into categories which will become the eventual sections of the dissertation.
Outlining is seen, quite unfairly, as a waste of time for many students. However, when writing a dissertation, outlining can actually be quite a time saver. Students should begin by outlining each section of the dissertation on its own, and should focus on the body of the paper; the introduction and conclusion are far more easily formatted after they have a finished body to reference. This will make for a better structured and more smoothly flowing dissertation, and will also save them rewriting time.