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Dissertation Boot Camp
Transcript of Dissertation Boot Camp
Maintaining Professional Writing Habits
Presentation Created by Lamiyah Bahrainwala, Brianna Hyslop, Tom Lindsay, Courtney Massie, & Sara Saylor.
Last updated by Tom Lindsay, May 2017
Bank of stock frames:
How we can help you:
Where do you like to write? Where do you not like to write?
What time of the day do you like to write?
How long do your writing sessions typically last?
What does a "productive" day typically look and feel like?
Any personal strategies you use to keep yourself “on track”?
What is your greatest strength as a writer? Your biggest challenge?
What are your research questions?
What in/about the critical conversation(s) prompted this question or these questions?
What methods might you use to answer these questions?
Why these methods? What are your rationales?
What are your hypo-theses or your (tentative) arguments?
What's the significance of your (tentative) findings or arguments?
Look at examples of dissertation abstracts in your field.
Note what kinds of information they include.
Bring with you:
Any materials that will help you write a rough draft dissertation abstract.
The Undergraduate Writing Center Presents:
Peer Review and Transitioning from Research to Writing
Created by Tom Lindsay, Lamiyah Bahrainwala & Brianna Hyslop
Last updated July 2014
Next Week: Peer Review
Offering structure and tried-and-true strategies
Playing to your strengths and personal best-practices
Mastering the elements of academic writing:
Content and Style
A Strategic Professional Genre
What role do you want your dissertation to play in your professional development?
A Self-Maintained and Habitual Process
A Writing Inventory:
Rules To Live By:
Play to your personal strengths. And cultivate your personal best-practices.
But remember, your preferences are not destiny. When necessary, work outside your comfort zone.
Strategies for Establishing a Writing Habit.
Schedule writing sessions on your calendar.
And schedule sessions 5-6 days a week, ideally around the same time each day. Sessions can be as short as 10-15 minutes!
Whatever you schedule or plan on, treat it as non-negotiable and non-transferable.
The Writing Log
And no excuses.
Not feeling it one day? Don't quit. Instead, switch to another kind of writing activity or modality.
See examples of dissertations from UT and beyond:
As the reader...
Attend to the "global" before the "local."
Be supportive; be specific; offer strategies.
Tend to the writer's concerns.
your experience as a reader.
Talk about the writing, not the writer.
As the writer...
Listen first; respond second.
Listen actively and plan for next steps.
Be respectful and generous.
Being strategic means being receptive.
Step into your audience's shoes.
Making the transition
Talk it out.
Yes, it sounds silly. But it's actually a useful and more structured form of free-writing.
(Especially for sections that might be formulaic, such as your literature review.)
Ooo, that's interesting! Tell me more.
I don't understand, can you put it another way?
Okay, so what I'm getting is X... Is that what you're trying to say?
But what if I was to argue Y?
You seem to be circling around the same point... Is that your argument?
Start with a topic, a question, a concern.
Keep writing. Write anything. Write for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour.
You might arrive at a big idea or a moment of clarity.
If not, hunt through your material for main ideas, questions, and next-steps.
It's like outlining only non-linear.
Put a main argument, idea, chapter title, task, or question in the middle of a landscape page. Maybe this will come from your free-writing.
Write sub-arguments, supporting ideas, constituent sections, relevant sources, leading questions, next-steps, etc. around the central theme.
Write an idea, section, or chapter at the top of a piece of paper.
Write subheadings for supporting ideas, sub-sections, or specific goals.
For 15-30 minutes, "dump" all the ideas you have for what to put under those subheadings. Use keywords or short phrases.
Some Thesis Models:
thesis question or problem
"I'll do X, then Y, then Z"
hypo-thesis or tentative thesis
history or literature review
The Introduction as Contract:
We often have little instruction in or institutional support for extensive research.
Advisers typically don't offer us models.
We often don't feel we have permission to try and fail, or to write less-than-perfect drafts.
Dissertation advice is often idiosyncratic or "self-help" in style, e.g.
"I did X, and it worked for me!"
Writing guides (and often advisers, too) offer one-size-fits-all or "magic feather" solutions.
Traditional ideas about writing process come from a time when paper was expensive.
These ideas tend to emphasize a linear composition process:
invention to thesis to outline to draft
We're skilled but often have little to no training for the dissertation itself.
We're often told our dissertation ought to be
But ultimately, most dissertations are primarily
will revolutionize the way we look at
will contribute to
"Although at first it looks like
, when you
texts, or apply
you also see that..."
, but we haven't applied it to
The one that helps you write the dissertation
the one that goes in your final draft.
is not necessarily
Model for a Typical Research Article Introduction:
why it matters
how you're going to solve it
What conversation(s) are you joining?
Set realistic goals, expectations, and timelines.
Regularly clarify and re-assess the above with advisers.
Write the dissertation, not the book.
Be deliberate and reflective.
Try new approaches and find what works for you.
, but we haven't yet seen if it's true for or works for
outlines a limited project
a framing or guiding function
write or re-write after drafting
Possible Elements for a Dissertation Introduction:
meet and manage audience expectations for your genre, ethos, and stance.
is flawed; instead, it's
, I'm going to complicate the way we understand
To break up sessions longer than 30-60min, POMODORO!
Exchange 5pgs. of chapter material (Monday, June 6).
Attach a note with some concerns for your reader.
content, ideas, structure vs. editing and sentence style
introductions and conclusions
overall cohesion (intro, main clams, evidence, conclusion)
Read your partner's material for Peer Review.
Structured Peer Review on Wednesday, June 8.
Feel free to frame narrowly: Describe a few articles you're engaging.
Dr. Sara Saylor & Dr. Tom Lindsay
Read (or Skim) Models:
Ask your advisers and committee members.
Look at great ones, good ones, and "just okay" ones. (They all passed!)
Some big questions to consider:
How long is it? How many chapters does it have?
What's its overall structure?
What components do individual chapters contain?
Strategies for Establishing a Writing Habit.
For writing sessions, distinguish between
Until you need to edit, the bulk of your writing sessions should involve writing and revising.
Write fast, revise slowly. Write fast, edit slowly.
Write early and often, even when you're in the midst of research. With very limited time, just "check in."
Consider using these activities to structure your writing sessions.
project worked on
goals for the session
what you accomplished
for next time...
When planning writing schedules and setting goals for writing sessions, consider
What does a successful dissertation look like?
Consider expectations from your...
As you continue to write...
Demonstrate respect for your readers' time and preferences.
Highlight your revisions and progress.
Working with your adviser(s)...
Be proactive. Initiate and sustain regular communication.
Propose timetables for draft submission and adviser feedback, counting backward from your graduation date.
Ask about your readers' expectations.
Don't hesitate to ask for clarification.
Clarify when/how additional committee members will participate and "sign off."
Send regular reminders and updates.
Plan your defense well in advance.
When planning, consult your department's graduate coordinator and a Graduate School degree evaluator in MAI 101.
Experiment, work early and often, write messy drafts.
Set yourself up for success:
Try strategies for a short period, reflect on them, and change tact if needed.
UWC Graduate Services
UWC Graduate Student Services