The first three sections of this article are devoted to ways that you can get way ahead of the curve from the very beginning of your graduate program—BEFORE push comes to shove. Keep in mind that these seminal papers will be heavily integrated into your thesis or dissertation:.
Starting the literature search…. How do you find these papers? Hopefully, your advisor will provide you with a few of the original papers that got the ball rolling.
Find out what papers cite them. You can perform Boolean searches in Pubmed and Google Scholar great tips explaining how to do this can be found at Boolean. Pubmed offers another great strategy: Pubmed has a tutorial on how to do this here: You can control how often you receive these alerts, or adjust later based on how inundated your inbox becomes. Google scholar offers a similar citation alert service. Go to Google Scholar, http: You can set up alerts based on Boolean searches Figure 4 , or by author.
Setting up alerts in Google Scholar. Setting up alerts in Google Scholar, part 2. Setting up alerts in Google Scholar, part 3. Setting up your search criteria using Boolean operators. Setting up alerts in Google Scholar, part 4.
Realize that unless you are a genius, you will probably have to revisit these nuggets of wisdom several times during your graduate career, particularly when you have a better grasp on the research.
I am a big fan of saving paper and not printing out reams of articles to be read and then stuffed into filing cabinets. I highly recommend a citation management program, such as Endnote. Find out which program your advisor uses see if he or she will let you install the program on your computer. Some departments even offer this software free of charge.
Not only are all of the citations in your library searchable, but you can also file them into folders based on the subject matter Figure 6. Filing papers in EndNote—beats a filing cabinet! As you do your literature search, you download the citations into your citation manager. Citations inserted Figure 9!
You can format the bibliography later, when your behemoth is completely written—yet another convenient, automatic feature. Think of your thesis or dissertation proposal and any grant applications as being a big first step toward the first chapter of your final document: Preparation of these documents entails a thorough review of pertinent literature to set the stage and explain the rationale for the research you are proposing. So by this logic, you should have taken a very large bite out of the first chapter of your thesis or dissertation by the time you take your preliminary exams.
In the STEM fields, theses and dissertations require a chapter devoted to methods. You know how you write detailed notes on the conditions of each experiment every time you do them in your lab notebook? This is all information that you can take even an hour per week to write up in your thesis document. By the time you actually for-real start writing your thesis or dissertation, your methods chapter can be practically done already!
Well, you have a good chunk of the intro done already, right? Your chapter 2 is practically done as well! Be sure to check out the deadlines not only for getting your document to your committee, but also for depositing it with the graduate school. Now, I will tell you a huge time-saving tip. Before you start well, continue writing, find a colleague who has recently turned in their thesis or dissertation and still has their final word document kicking around.
Ask your colleague for permission to use their document in the following way: You know the part where the clerk at the grad school pulls out the ruler and measures your margins, page number position and other random stuff while you hold your breath? Why re-invent the wheel? Just use the document as a template—delete ALL of the text and leave the margins and other formatting alone.
Of course, check over everything carefully before you deposit your document! Also, before you get down to the serious writing, sit down with your advisor and come up with a plan of action. I like using a story board approach to planning papers: Next, agree upon deadlines: Can you do a chapter per week for each of the remaining chapters?
Put the deadline in your calendar, and stick to it. Then, based on how much time you are still expected to spend in the lab, decide a set number of hours per day that you will spend on nothing but writing. I would suggest asking your advisor for blocks of time to hole up at the library, or wherever it is that you do your best work. You will be working weekends, no doubt, but try to work steadily and avoid all-nighters.
Adjust as necessary—you may need to have an additional meeting with your advisor to request more time away from lab. Do have a colleague read your document installments before you give them to your advisor. Run spell check and do all the basics before you offer up your baby to the red pen of death. If you really struggle with writing, or if you are not a native English speaker, there are services out there that will clean up your document on a by-the-hour basis.
Spare your advisor the frustration of correcting simple errors. Just because you have a deadline that you are sticking to like an embedded tick does not mean that your advisor will adhere to similar deadlines in getting you edits and feedback. Many advisors, bless their hearts, are procrastinators erm…busy with grant deadlines, writing their own papers, editing, and other important stuff that advisors do.
But your most important work will come later. Think of your PhD as an apprenticeship. Your peers are unlikely to read your thesis and judge you on it. They are more likely to read any papers articles, chapters, books that result from it.
It allows you to make checklists too so you know that all of your important stuff is listed and to-hand, meaning you can focus on one thing at a time. On the contrary, actively draw attention to them; identify them in your conclusion as areas for further investigation. Repeatedly reprinting and editing draft thesis chapters has two very helpful functions. Firstly, it takes your work off the screen and onto paper, which is usually easier to proof.
Secondly, it gives you a legitimate excuse to get away from your desk. Remember that you are the expert in your specific field, not the examiners, and ask your supervisor to arrange a mock viva if practically possible. What I found constructive was paying attention to the work of novelists I enjoy reading. It may seem that their style has nothing to do with your own field of research, but this does not matter.
You can still absorb something of how they write and what makes it effective, compelling and believable. Share with them your milestones and goals, and agree to be accountable to them.
Nothing more self-crippling than perfectionism. Work outside if you can.
Work on the text as your PhD takes shape, remember that all writers need editing, and help yourself by using these basic tips to make life easier. Read what great writers say about how to write before you start, and take their advice to heart.
How I wrote a PhD thesis in 3 months. August 13, How to write your PhD thesis, Part 1: The fundamentals of academic writing. 5th/6th September Click here for details. I took the time to think about what I needed to do and get myself in the right frame of mind to come back and deal with the problem.
1 How To Write a Good (no, Great) PhD Dissertation Priya Narasimhan Assistant Professor Electrical & Computer Engineering Carnegie Mellon University. GUIDELINES. FOR WRITING A THESIS OR DISSERTATION. CONTENTS: Guidelines for Writing a Thesis or Dissertation, Linda Childers Hon, Ph.D. Outline for Empirical Master’s Theses, Kurt Kent, Ph.D. How to Actually Complete A Thesis.
Finishing your PhD thesis: 15 top tips from those in the know Write the introduction last “Writing the introduction and conclusion together will help to tie up the thesis together, so save. How to Write a PhD Thesis. How to write a thesis? This guide gives simple and practical advice on the problems of getting started, getting organised, dividing the huge task into less formidable pieces and working on those pieces.