Want to speed up your dissertation process?
Want to make your committee members happier?
Want to look more like a professional scholar?
If you answered yes to any of those three questions, continue to read this post.
Some things to remember
You are learning to become an independent scholar by completing a research proposal conducting research, analyzing the data, and finally reporting it in the form of a manuscript and defending it in a presentation. Don’t forget that
-A doctoral degree costs you much more than money. If you are committed to completing a doctoral degree, you must make sacrifices to achieve that goal. Your family and social life will change drastically, and your entertainment will become a walk to the library or an opportunity to sit with a friend for a few minutes during the day. You’ll find yourself alone more than you like and all of your conversations will be focused on your work. It makes sense to maximize the time spent working on the dissertation.
-Your committee does not sit and wait for you to submit a draft. They are scholars who are most likely teaching more than one course and trying to complete research of their own at the same time. They will probably need a week or so to review any submissions and expect those submissions to be quality work. They are not editors, and they read your work for content to see if you can communicate your ideas effectively. Submitting a fully proofed, complete draft makes sense.
No One is Perfect
No one is perfect including you. All papers will have some mistakes but every week, I get student papers that have careless errors in them, things that could have easily been fixed had a final check been done before submission. If there are excessive mistakes like these, I will return the paper without reviewing it because it is impossible to understand the content. The only thing accomplished is wasted time and effort. It has always amazed me how simple some things can be yet how complicated we make them! In this case, we make creating a quality, professional-looking draft harder than it already is by not taking the time to do some very straightforward and practical things first.
Checklists, checklists, checklists!!
My wife and I love to go RV camping, and a big part of the fun is doing so with minimal mistakes. When we prepare to leave or return, we use checklists. I cannot recall how many comments I have read by RVers that prepared to leave and either left something behind or destroyed some part of their RV because they forgot to pack correctly or stow something. Had they used a checklist, most—not all—of those omissions could have been avoided. As you read this, you probably think, “I don’t need checklists! That’s why I have a brain!” Good for you! So do I but I realize that I will no doubt forget some things and if I am not careful, those things will cost me time, money, and ruin an otherwise good experience. Working on a dissertation will consume every ounce of your energy and crowd your mind with little things that are important but take away the time you need to think about your work. Putting those little things on a checklist can make sure that you don’t forget them.
It Makes Good Sense to Use a Checklist
The next time you fly somewhere, you can be sure that the pilot and copilot completed a thorough preflight checklist to ensure a safe flight for all. You would never hear, “Hey, Fred? Did you remember to check the warning lights for the storage hatches? I forgot to do it.” Nope! Doesn’t happen because those folks are professionals. Aren’t you a professional? After all, only about 3% of all the people in the world have doctoral degrees. I would say that makes you a professional, at least in word. What about in deed?
Before submitting any document for feedback, do the following checks:
- Consult any guiding documents provided by your University
- Refer to any templates from your Chair
- Review articles about how to write sections of your paper
- Find and view video clips about the particular submission. There are some good ones on YouTube
- Outline or flowchart your paper
- Is there a logical flow for each section? For example, if you are writing a purpose statement, before discussing your planned interviews of participants, explain how you will access those participants.
- Use the outline to write or rearrange the paper.
- Check spelling and grammar
- Do a final check after all revisions.
- Be familiar with how your word processor marks spelling and grammar concerns.
- For example, Word uses one color for grammar and one for spelling. Be sure that grammar checking is turned on in the settings.
- If necessary, consider finding an editor to help with sentence structure and formatting. At least, have a friend read your work.
- APA Style check.
- Table of Contents
- Page numbers
- Put the paper aside and later, go back to it and reread to make sure it is ready. A good rule of thumb would be to never ever submit a draft without carefully reading it at least three different times.
- Use an identifying filename for each submission. Never submit two documents with the same filename! (Example: JonesJ Ch1 draft 2-16-16)
- Your name
- Name of the paper
- Current date
Bring your "A" Game
Make the decision to take it to the next level! See yourself walking across that stage and start doing what it takes to realize that vision!