While the internet offers no shortage of dissertation writing advice and while no writing strategies are universal across fields, I’m here to offer the best tips I’ve cultivated in my year of dissertation writing.In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had the benefit of a duty-free or non-teaching year because of the way my university funding structure worked out (and I’m lucky, no doubt, to have a funding structure at all).
I also highly recommend using a website blocking app – I’ve loved “Self Control” – which allows you to set a timer and blocks websites you input yourself.
Social media will be there for all your browsing pleasure later, I promise.
And while it is often used in jest, especially in online memes frequently shared by popular social media accounts like @Shit Academics Say, the sentiment is funny because it’s true. Of course, memes are not solely to blame for perpetuating this idea; they merely reflect a broader academic culture that often reinforces toxic norms surrounding “work-life” balance (or lack thereof) and the injunction to “publish or perish.” Nevertheless, I have often heard graduate students say that they feel like they have to give up everything else or shut themselves off in some little corner of the world to get their dissertation writing done.
I want to challenge the narrative that getting a dissertation done (or, at least, drafted) has to mean sacrificing a lot of time and energy, and instead suggest that there are ways to make the process quicker and more practical.
The craziest thing of all, however, was that finishing the draft was totally anti-climactic. But more important, I finished without having experienced any kind of race-to-the-finish or writing up-to-the-deadline adrenaline rush.
Sure, I felt accomplished, proud, and definitely relieved, but there was hardly the kind of euphoria or fanfare I had long imagined and anticipated. By the time I wrote the final sentences of my conclusion, working on my dissertation had become a deeply ingrained part of my weekly routine.
I wrote a full draft of my humanities dissertation in a little more than a year.
It feels crazy to type that and maybe even crazier to read it, because it’s fast by most standards. For one thing, I knew that even if it was complete, the work itself was still very much a draft; a lot of revisions lay ahead.
So writing those last few sentences was, in fact, totally . And this, I think, was ultimately the secret to my success.
Early on in the writing process, I made a conscious decision not to view my dissertation as an all-consuming task but as an essential part of my weekly and often daily experience.