Solution Number One—Get Dissertation “Mentors” (Professors AND Students)
As you approach finishing your coursework, you will probably begin suffering from what is commonly known as dissertation anxiety! One of the best resources for students is other students who are going or have gone through the dissertation writing process. Why? Well, first, dissertation students in your area can recommend you to professors you definitely do and do not want on your committee. For example, let’s say you are an MBA student whose specialty will be Human Resources Management. If you befriend other students more advanced than you in the Human Resources program, they can give you all kinds of advice – from committee members that will be the most helpful, tell you the best dissertation director to choose (and the one not to!), help you compile necessary documents like your dissertation guidelines and formatting guides, help you learn about new areas of research and, most of all, they can reassure you that you are not alone—that all graduate students panic—and that what is best to realize is that the only way this will get done is one chapter at a time, one page at a time. Gather about you a group of supportive people—you will need them.
Organize Your Dissertation Committee Strategically
When you organize your dissertation committee, you’ll want to talk to people about the array of possibilities from which you can choose. Some professors are great directors because they are very good at grammar and editing—since the dissertation director is the one who will read every single page of your dissertation (while the other members more skim, perhaps, the chapters) you’ll want to choose this individual especially carefully. Ask other students—especially the ones you hear triumphantly exclaiming that they have just finished theirs! They will have all kinds of fresh experience to share with you.
Steps in Compiling Dissertation Materials
There are several ways you can go about the trajectory of completing your dissertation. Here’s my recommended strategy –and keep in mind – do not write your introduction until you are finished. Like all long research papers, the writing of each chapter is a discovery process – and your entire focus may shift a bit with these discoveries. Here’s a little list of how to get writing initially and what is best to have on hand to do so:
- Get your dissertation guidelines from your department or the graduate school to keep at easy reach in a click-on file on your desktop. You can use these as you go for formatting, directions, and reminders.
- Write Your Dissertation Proposal—Keep in mind this is not set in stone. Your committee knows your focus may shift. So it’s not that big of a deal—Again, ask other students to share theirs with you so you can get a feel for them.
- Pick the chapter you know the most about to write first—this will help you to realize this will NOT be that hard.
- And, most importantly—find, at your library and order through Interlibrary Loan—any dissertations in your same subject of focus to use for inspiration and sources of interest
Why Dissertation Samples are Fantastic
Ordering and checking out other students’ dissertations on my topic saved my life when I was writing my dissertation. Why? Well, they gave me an idea of how a dissertation progresses from the Table of Contents to the Works Cited pages. They taught me what endnotes are all about – those notes that add extra information to the text. And one of their greatest assets is they’ll contain a slew of articles and books you never would have discovered on your own on your topic. Most of all, they reassured me that (a) I really was a good writer—better than most of what I was reading—and that (b) YES! I can do this!