Student's Advice for the Dissertation

  • When selecting a chair, look for a strong, assertive professor who will guide you through the dissertation and help you prepare for and negotiate the job market. 
  • Good comprehensive study often produces a good dissertation proposal. The proposal enables you to synthesize ideas you’ve explored in the continuum from your seminars through your post-comps ideas.
  • Another way to consider the proposal: It is not an end in itself, but a means to an end, so write it, get it approved, then put it aside. Your dissertation may depart radically from your original proposed ideas.
  • Write on something you’re passionate about: you’ll be thinking, writing, and talking about your topic for the next several years. At the same time, don’t attempt to do your life’s work in the dissertation.
  • Don’t be afraid to explore ideas and embark on research for a while – even several months – before you begin writing chapters.
  • Try to get at least one whole semester off from teaching or other duties for sustained writing. If you can’t, set aside blocks of time every day for writing and stay in a routine.
  • Treat dissertation writing as a full-time job. “Work like an Insurance Agent, 9-5.”
  • Find a writing space outside the home. Practical tools for dissertation writing include a graduate carrel in the library and a reliable laptop.
  • Avoid writing an Introduction first. Instead, begin with what interests you most to get in the groove.
  • Conceptualize chapters as future essays, or as parts of future book projects.
  • Draft chapters from beginning to end without major revisions. Return to revisions when a substantial amount of the book is done.



College of Social and Behavioral Sciences