Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Worthy Reading: "Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day"


My friend and prior office mate has recently made a big transition in her life. After successfully completing her Ph.D. and becoming Dr. Kelsey, she packed up her stuff in the office and said good-bye to Boulder, Colorado as she moved on to the next step in her career. After she had left, I took a look at where her desk used to be and noticed that she had left something behind. A little, well-worn book titled "Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day". It was a very serendipitous moment for me, as I've been having troubles with getting myself into the mindset of writing my Ph.D. dissertation. I read the book through right away, and I have found it to be a great reassurance and a swift kick in the butt for motivating me to write my graduate dissertation.

"Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day" was published in 1998, but I found it to be as fitting to writing a graduate dissertation now as it likely was then. The author, Joan Bolker, is a long-time teacher of writing and a counselor of writers. The way that she writes in this book makes it feel like a personal coach's practical approach to writing a dissertation. 

Bolker takes the reader through all of the stages of graduate school life and suggests a great methodology for embracing graduate work by writing on a constant basis. She admits in the book that we obviously can't just write a dissertation in 15 minutes a day (a dissertation is practically a book-length report of our studies), but she advises starting with writing a small amount of time each day and then building to longer times. I've found this to be a tremendously helpful suggestion. I've already started working my way up to writing my dissertation for an hour each day.

Graduate school can be a hellacious roller coaster of happiness, guilt, discovery, feelings of imposterism, excitement for learning new things, and depression. The good and the bad seem to balance themselves most of the time, but sometimes the emotional impacts of grad life can teeter us one way or the other in great, or sometimes not-so-great, ways. We get paid for part-time work, but are expected to be overworked. We honestly have it better than many people and usually don't have as much to complain about as it sometimes feels, but one definite thing that seems worth complaining about is the dissertation. It looms over our heads like a vast storm system that we can see rolling in from our bedroom windows and we just know is going to keep us inside all day. A lot of people will almost never again read their dissertation once it's written, while some people will take their dissertation forward and publish it as a book. Since I'm looking at my final year(s) in graduate school, now is most definitely the time to be speeding ahead on writing my dissertation.


Quite honestly, I wish I had found Joan Bolker's book years ago. It would have been very helpful to build up a writing habit for my dissertation as soon as I started grad school. Indeed, I now highly recommend just that (as well as this book) for anyone who is looking into graduate school. If I had built up a pacing of writing for a short time each day over the past few years, I might actually have most of a couple of dissertations written by now. Still, I look forward to getting deeper into my writing, to letting it guide my future work as the writing helps me discover what needs to come next, and to having some decent drafts of my dissertation for revision in the coming months. I think the serendipitous action of discovering this left-behind book, "Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day", has been one of the best "kicks in the ass" that I've had in my time as a graduate student.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing about this, Graham. I'll be starting a grad program this Autumn, and I'll definitely be picking this book up. I have a book called, "The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors", which I highly recommend, but it doesn't say much about actually sitting down to start a dissertation.

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    1. I'll have to find that book and give it a read. This one is definitely easy reading and can be purchased on the cheap, but has a lot to offer for new and old grad students.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this post.

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    1. You're quite welcome. Thanks for reading!

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  5. A debt of gratitude is in order for expounding on this, Graham. I'll be beginning a graduate program this Autumn, and I'll most likely be lifting this book up. I have a book called, "The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors", which I profoundly prescribe, however it doesn't say much in regards to really taking a seat to begin a thesis. coursework writing service

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  8. Thanks for sharing this one. There is nothing impossible for man in this universe. Well written. You have a great potential to be great in the future. Keep it up.

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    1. Thank you for that. It was rough getting through my dissertation writing. It ended up at 267 pages in the end, but it came together, and I now have my PhD.

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