Maintaining the Flow of Text while Writing a Thesis or Dissertation
Life is full of distractions, and they seem to multiply in both number and kind when a student sits down to write a thesis or dissertation. The type of concentration as well as the range and depth of thought required often place new demands on a student’s mental discipline as well as his or her writing skills. The process of writing a scholarly thesis or dissertation is also a process of learning how to write such a long and complex academic or scientific document, so it is wise to accept this fact, be patient with yourself and enjoy the growth experience. Maintaining the flow of text is imperative, however, to both the learning process and the final product, so these tips might prove helpful.
How to Achieve Academic Success
• Establish a writing schedule and exert the self-discipline necessary to stick to it. Remember that not feeling like writing your thesis or dissertation at a time when you should be writing is not a valid reason for not working. Your writing may not emerge as smoothly and well polished on some days as it does on others, and sometimes you may need to turn your attention to a different aspect of your document for a while, but progress is essential. Your text will in any case require proofreading and revision more than once as you proceed through the chapters, receive feedback from your mentors and address their concerns, so there will be plenty of opportunities for improving even roughly drafted work.
• Look back over the last parts of your text as you begin each new writing session. This will help you resituate yourself within your thesis or dissertation and its argument and thus allow you to make the best use of the time you have available for writing. You may find yourself making slight adjustments to the last parts of your text from the previous session, but this will usually take very little time and compensate for the loss by immediately thrusting you into the facts, ideas and concerns you were exploring. See also my next point on providing yourself with helpful notes to look back over each time you sit down to write.
• Look ahead as you finish each writing session. This can be done informally and need only involve jotting down a few rough notes. These notes might remind you when you next sit down to write that you intended to move immediately to a certain topic; inform you that the last piece of evidence for the section you are writing still needs to be presented; outline the way in which you were planning to approach the upcoming part of your text; list the main points for the following section of your chapter; or warn you that the last paragraph you wrote the night before may need some attention because you were very tired indeed. If you are writing every day, these notes may not be crucial, but if the night before was particularly busy or you will be away from your writing for a few days, they will come in incredibly handy when you begin writing again.
• Finally, do not try to write during every waking hour you have available. You may be working feverishly to meet a deadline, but taking breaks now and then will be conducive to progress in the long run. When a student’s mind is packed with all the data, thoughts and plans that are intellectually juggled when writing a thesis or dissertation, breaks from the actual writing provides the brain with time to rest and process all that information. That is why the best of ideas often arise not while you are plugging away at your computer, but when you are running through the park at dawn or dashing through the grocery aisles in search of supper. It is therefore important to carry with you at all times a means of quickly jotting down your ideas on the go. You can then refer to them next time you start writing, allow them the reflection they deserve and develop them further in your text.
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