13 Tips for writing a PhD thesis

by paperpal
13 Tips for writing a PhD Thesis - Paperpal

Completing a successful PhD research thesis is extremely challenging. If it’s not difficult, you’re not doing it right. However, there are ways to make the process less bumpy. This article will provide some PhD thesis writing tips for making the writing process smoother and help you complete your thesis on time, with your sanity mostly intact.

Only about 50% of students enrolled in a PhD program ever complete it1. They drop out at many different points during the process for many different reasons. Some leave because the course work is too difficult or time consuming. Some leave for personal or financial reasons. One common cause of non-completion, or late completion, is the daunting spectre of writing a PhD thesis.

Tips for overcoming challenges when writing your PhD thesis

First, remember that although writing a PhD thesis is difficult, it can be accomplished. Here are some things to consider that will increase your confidence and make the task of writing your PhD thesis less scary.

  • Create an outline before you start writing – The most effective way to keep your work organized is to first create an outline based on the PhD thesis structure required by your university. Using an outline to write your PhD thesis has tremendous benefits. It creates a handy space to keep and organize all the little snippets of information and questions you will have during your preparation. It allows you to effectively plan your work and manage your time and makes the actual writing much easier. A thesis is shaped more than written, and an outline provides the structure.
  • Follow all university guides – Be careful to ensure that you are meeting all the requirements of your university. This includes everything from topic selection to structure to writing style. It is extremely frustrating to spend a lot of time and effort on a section only to have to do it over because you didn’t follow the proper guidelines. Read all relevant material from your university over and over until you have it memorized. Then, check it again.
  • Section order – It is usually best not to write your PhD thesis in chronological order. For researchers, the easiest parts to write are usually the Method and Results. So, gain some confidence first and write the Introduction and Conclusion last to tie it all together.
  • Work extensively with your supervisor – Do not hesitate to ask for help from your supervisor, advisors, or other committee members. Clear and regular communication with these important resources can save you untold heartache during the PhD  research and thesis writing processes. This should not be a solo exercise; they have all been where you are now.
  • Plan carefully, create rough drafts, and refine2 – This is so important and basic to all academic research that it bears repeating. You will not write the final PhD thesis on your first try. Do not become frustrated, trust the process.
  • Produce quality writing –  Make sure your ideas flow easily and are clear and easy to read. This is not a strong skill for most beginning researchers, but it’s a skill that can be learned with a lot of practice. Therefore, edit, edit, and edit some more. If you need it, there are many places to get PhD thesis writing assistance.
  • Details matter – Pay attention to the small things, especially with the document formatting. If you start out using the proper format, you will be saving a tremendous amount of time and grief later.
  • Avoid plagiarism – Quote accurately, otherwise paraphrase. There is no excuse for being a lazy writer. Consider using a smart tool or service to check for plagiarism during your PhD thesis editing process to make sure you did not unintentionally copy any material.
  • Rein in the references – Use a database, such as EndNote or Mendeley, to keep them organized and under control; check and double check citations and references with the bibliography to ensure they all match. Don’t forget to use the PhD thesis style required by your university.
  • Keep it simple – Remember, this is only the start of your career, not your ultimate work3 ; perfectionism can be a disaster.
  • Make consistent progress – Try to write at least a little every day; check quotations and references when writing seems too difficult.3
  • Keep your reader in mind – As with all writing, your PhD thesis is meant to be read, so be considerate of those who read it; be concise, include all necessary data/information to support  your argument but nothing extra. Strive to be understood and avoid unnecessary words.
  • Be persistent and eager – All other things being equal, your attitude will ultimately determine your success. Have patience and work hard. Create work you will be proud of for a lifetime.

References

  1. Cassuto, L. Ph.D. attrition: How much is too much? The Chronicle of Higher Education.   https://www.chronicle.com/article/ph-d-attrition-how-much-is-too-much/?cid=gen_sign_in [Accessed 20 July 2022]

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