Thesis and Dissertations Without Tears
by Rose M. Beane, Ph.D.
When writing a thesis or a dissertation, there are several things to consider to ensure that the process is not overwhelmed with tears:
• Two important Tips
• Writing in the Discipline
• Research and Literature Review of the Topic
• Research Methods
• Documenting the Findings
• Organizing the Work
When I was on my journey to the doctorate, I received a piece of advice that really served me well. I also found a reference book that demystified the process into a practical, doable task. I will share this wisdom in the hopes that it might allow your process to continue without too many tears and writer’s block. Keep in mind, that what I will share will be way beyond the selection of your committee (whose members each have their own opinions of what your right of passage should be depending on their perspectives.). The committee is quite another matter and you absolutely must learn the rules of engagement for their unique mix and the tensions that arise.
The thesis and dissertation process is a very self-directed, self-motivated, and self-regulated process that requires self-management. The whole aspect of emotional intelligence comes into play (Bradberry & Greaves, 2009) (Goleman, 2006):
Self-Awareness – you must have a secure identity of yourself in your field, genre, and discipline and the triggers that may set you off to quit when it is not in your best interest or a return on your investment.
Self-Management – you must be able to handle your emotions and the resulting behaviors to facilitate rather than interfere with the task at hand and delay gratification to pursue the goal, Dr.____; ______ Ph.D.; _____, M.A.; _____M.ED.
Social Awareness – you must be able to listen and observe on multiple levels and read the politics of your advisor, committee and discipline and perceive what they are thinking and feeling during your interactions. You need to handle your emotions in these relationships and accurately read the social situations and networks. Actually, isn’t this what qualitative research is all about, listening and observing and following the rules of engagement.
Relationship Management – you must be able to use your awareness of your emotions and those of others to manage interactions over time ensuring clear communication and handling conflict while building a bond under stressful situations. You will need these relationships and network of colleagues after accomplishing the goal of a Masters or Doctorate.
It is not for the faint of heart. Otherwise, the path would not be crowded with the road kill of “ABD’s” (all but the dissertation). The “Emotional Intelligence 2.0’ book is available through Barnes and Noble bookstores for about $25-$30 (make sure the sealed envelope at the back of the book is in tack which provides the code to go online and complete the emotional intelligence assessment). You can also go online to www.TalentSmart.com and purchase the assessment for approximately $20. The results provide the customized strategies that will help you increase your scores (quotient). I recommend this coaching advice because the thesis and dissertation process on all levels is an emotionally challenging process even if one has all the technical skills of the field.
All in all, there are some basic mechanics that you must discipline yourself to negotiate and they are:
Big Picture and Details
Grammar & Style
Writing & Editing
Formatting and Organization
These basic must be in place without question, otherwise you should consider a “Writing Coach” to help you scaffold through the process and bridge the support for your areas of strength. All author’s during their development benefit from hiring a Writing & Editing Coach. A ghost writer is not appropriate in this credentialing process. However, it is honorable and wise to hire a Writing Coach.
You can use the course work along the way to your advantage, especially in this age of technology. Which by the way, brings me to the first tip I was given when I was interviewing for a residence life graduate assistantship in the first semester of my doctoral pursuit.
Tip #1 – You already have written a hundred pages in your discipline if you count all the papers you have written [10-15 pages] in your Master’s program or Doctoral Program [depending on where you are in the process]. To ensure that this tip works to your advantage, as much as it is possible when given a course writing assignment, use or align it with your thesis or dissertation topic. In this way, you will get a head start on your literature review. The technology of word processing (Office, etc.) allows you to catalog the references and store each writing document to cut and past when you are writing your thesis or dissertation. If you are able to negotiate this tip, a great deal of the work will have been completed and you are ahead of the game.
Tip #2 - The second tip that I discovered was the resource book entitled, “Completing your Doctoral Dissertation or Master’s Thesis in Two Semesters or Less,” by Evelyn Hunt Ogden. This resource can be obtained as an investment through Amazon for Kindle ($29.50) which allows you to download a sample (you may want to review the book) or the list price is approximately $40.00. In my opinion, it is worth the investment and it is a doable challenge.
All the items that I listed above that you should consider can be found by researching “Writing in the Disciplines.” The specifics of your discipline should be explored with your thesis or dissertation advisor or the chairperson of your department. They can provide various resources to guide your journey. My recommendation is to research writing in the disciplines and adhere to the rules of engagement:
Writing in the Discipline – All academic disciplines require you to answer a question and support your assertion with different types of research [qualitative or quantitative]. Papers in all academic disciplines often include the following components (chapters): abstract, introduction, review of the literature, research methods, findings, and conclusion. Specifically, all disciplines rely on certain familiar patterns of organizing material: history/chronologically, science/process, etc. Thesis and Dissertation writers must be clear what their discipline patterns of writing are and adhere to the style, organization and format. It is a good idea to research writing in the Humanities, writing in Social Sciences, and writing in the Sciences and note the assignments, arguments, conventions of style and format, documentation formats (APA, MLA), and sample papers. Writing in the Discipline titles are available on Amazon prices ranging to $100 or you can rent the text books for as little as $15.
Finally, develop a personal strategic plan, a timeline for the process. Writing is the name of the game and that is the hardest part sometimes. You must commit to writing at least one-hour or more a day. Set a convenient time and be relentless. Delay immediate gratification until you get the job done. Reward yourslef at milestones during the process. I had a full-time job when I was working on my dissertation and a five year old son and husband who had needs. My opportune time was to write in the quiet of the night and sometimes all night. You have to "get at it" as they say. Also, I used some special music which had the effect of triggering my energy (Yanni). I can't really tell you how it works except that it focused me to get in the zone of writing. Do whatever it takes because it is worth it.
I believe this will be helpful to you. Your thoughts…