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Stop Procrastinating to Complete Your Dissertation

Part 1: Initial Steps

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Are you an ABD (All-But Dissertation) student? Doctoral dissertation looming over your head like an ominous black cloud? The dissertation is the most difficult and time consuming academic requirement a doctoral student faces. It's way too easy to procrastinate and put off writing your dissertation under the guise, "I need to read more before I can write." Don't fall into that trap!

Don't let your dissertation drag you down. Stop your procrastination. Why do we procrastinate? Research suggests that students often procrastinate when they perceive the dissertation as an overwhelming task. Big surprise, huh? Motivation is the biggest problem that grad students face in writing the dissertation.

A Lonely Time
The dissertation is a time consuming and lonely process that usually takes about two years (an often longer). The dissertation often is a major blow to a graduate student's self esteem. It is not uncommon to feel as if it's an insurmountable task that will never be completed.

Organization and Time Management are Key
The keys to completing the dissertation promptly are organization and time management. The lack of structure is the difficult part of the dissertation because the student's role is to plan, carry out, and write up a research project (sometimes several). Structure must be applied in order to complete this task.

One way of providing structure is to view the dissertation as a series of steps, rather than as one mammoth task. Motivation may be maintained and even enhanced as each small step is completed. Organization provides a sense of control, holds procrastination at minimal levels, and is key to completing the dissertation. How do you get organized?

Outline the small steps needed to complete this large project.
All too often, students may feel that their only goal is to finish the thesis. A goal this large may feel indomitable; break it down into the component tasks. For example, at the proposal stage, the tasks may be organized as follows: thesis statement, literature review, method, plan for analyses. 

Each of these tasks entails many smaller tasks. The list for the literature review may consist of an outline of the topics you wish to discuss, with each outlined as detailed as possible. You may even wish to list relevant articles in the appropriate places within the outline. The method will consist of the participants, including items on locating them, rewards, drafting informed consent forms, locating measures, describing psychometric properties of the measures, piloting measures, drafting the procedure, etc.

 

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