Notes from: Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minute a Day

This book is a slight understatement; it does not provide techniques to produce a dissertation in only 15 minutes a day; it does, however, provide some tips for writing dissertations.

When writing it is important to get things written; even if the quality is not perfect there should be some degree of daily writing, this should be between three and six pages daily, allowing yourself one day a week off. There is a need to keep writing every day, much of it will be junk writing, but the writing will allow ideas to shape themselves and arguments will begin to develop. Furthermore, don’t waste words, whenever you have ideas write it down. Have somewhere to write it down; develop the habit of writing down those bright ideas that come to you while you’re on the run.

When you are looking at writing and filtering it down, try to summarise a paragraph in a single sentence, it has too many ideas this can form a structure for a future series of paragraphs.

When you have set up your writing process reflect on it:

  • How do you feel about the writing process you’re using?
  • Do you feel that your process is doing what you need it to do?
  • Are you writing regularly, with reasonable ease?
  • Are you able to focus clearly on your writing?
  • Is the place you have chosen to write working well for you?
  • Are you reading too much? Enough?
  • Are you letting too many things get in the way of your writing?
  • Are you well organised so you can get your work done without having to step over either psychological or literal obstacles?
  • Is the process you’ve set up efficient?

Bolker also provides a list of strategies for revising drafts:

  • Work on one chapter at a time until you’re well along in the process; only then you should struggle with the final shape of the whole.
  • Consider leaving the revision of both the introduction and conclusion until last.
  • When you are unsure of your argument or the shape of a chapter, make an outline of what you have.
  • Leave editing at the individual word leave for last.
  • Remember the saddest rule of editing: less is more.
  • Use your eyes – a page of one paragraph is daunting to read; one that consists of very short paragraphs looks superficial.
  • Use your breath – if you can’t read a sentence without turning blue, it needs more punctuation.
  • Finally, paradoxically, realize you will never get your dissertation perfect, at some point, you’ll have to stop fiddling with it and send it off into the world.

BOLKER, J. 1998. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis, New York, Henry Holt and Company.