Try These Tips to Overcome Major Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation
Your situation may seem hopeless, but you can get beyond those major challenges to finish your dissertation.
by Michael Premo
Over the years, I’ve helped a lot of doctoral candidates (over a hundred) experiencing major challenges while writing their dissertation. Many of them had either stalled out or were dead in the water, and, because they waited to get help from a writing coach or APA editor, they were getting dangerously close to no longer qualifying for graduation. That’s years of time, energy, and money going toward nothing.
What’s Your Major Challenge?
The process of writing a dissertation is difficult. So, when other things get in the way, it becomes next to impossible to complete.
Let’s start with defining what a major challenge is to writing your dissertation: anything or person that disrupts your writing process for several months or more. Here are some examples of major disruptions:
Lack of clear knowledge on the topic
Any of these look familiar? Sound a bit similar? If so, then you need to come to terms that you have a major challenge and need to address them immediately.
Tips to Get Writing, Again
Frustration and anxiety over not being able to write can destroy the entire process. In order to stay on top of it, I’ve got some tips for you to use today.
Lack of clear knowledge on the topic
You may have been forced into this area of research by your advisor. Or, you’re not very strong in the area of methodology. The problem is that you’ve become bogged down with trying to ramp up and it’s really got you frustrated with the whole process. Let’s face it, you’re not going to be an expert on this topic, so you’ll need to stop trying. For the sake of your dissertation, please stop trying.
Tip: Focus on the relevant research and annotate those articles. Organize articles according to your research question variables. This will help in chapters 1 and 2. As for methodology, you’ve chosen it so learn it enough to have the resources and information needed for you to cite what you’ve learned in Chapter three, supporting all of the aspects necessary to get IRB approval.
This is probably the most difficult to overcome and a major disruptor, if not a killer, to the process. Typically, this is a long-term situation, a sick loved one, or you are ill. Because the process of writing a dissertation takes so long, these things can happen and often do.
Tip: Hire professional help. Your attention has been pulled away from the task at hand, so you need to optimize the time you do have. Yes, it costs money, but so does paying tuition while not writing. You need to take care of you and your family the best way you know how, so find the support of a professional writer to help you succeed.
Your work pays the bills and feeds your family. It’s a priority. But, the demands of your job have taken over and you no longer have the energy to work on your dissertation.
Tip: Time to call a family meeting: your spouse, children, parents, siblings and close friends. You need to lean on their support during this process. During the meeting, find out how they can help you. They may free up an hour a day. That’s 7 hours a week! Pure gold for research and writing. You should also hire professional help to keep you organized and on track.
This is a tough one. I’ve had lots of clients with advisors that were absent, didn’t respond for weeks or months, or just mean and egotistical. They don’t like your writing and there seems like there’s nothing you can do.
Tip: Reach out to people who had this advisor and find out what works and what doesn’t. They will give you the best insight and offer quick solutions. No such luck within the academic community? Work with a writing coach to act like a mediator. They will be able to see the disconnect and try to adjust your course of action.
Never been good with your time management skills? You’ll end up paying tuition for a year or two, when you shouldn’t. This can be a huge hit to your family’s finances.
Tip: It’s never too late to learn how to manage your time better. There are lots of books out there to teach you. I suggest finding the ones about building productive habits. This will help you at work, too.
Bottomline: Get Help!
As you can see, major challenges aren’t writer’s block or procrastination. These are situations beyond being stuck. You need more than gaining momentum. You need to get yourself out of a hole and get your dissertation done.
Getting help is one of the only ways you’re going to be able to do it. There are many ways to get help, but you need to take the first step; reach out to your colleagues, friends, family, and maybe a professional writing coach or APA editor. With their help, you’ll avoid the dreaded All-But-Dissertation (ABD) label, and save yourself a lot of time and money.
I’ve helped hundreds of doctoral candidates through every stage of this process. Send me an email if you have any questions, or would like to know what a writing coach can do for you.
Writer. Editor. Project manager. Researcher. Collaborator. Graduate of the Spalding University Masters in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Fiction. Theory junkie. Avid reader. University of Iowa (BA '97).
Michael's unique ability is to understand and write to the audience for any business application or ghostwriting project. It's his passion for writing that keeps him learning more-and-more every year. He is a member of the Association of Writing Professionals, and fully versed in Associated Press (AP) and American Psychological Association (APA) writing guides.