Published by Stylus Publishing L. It is aimed at postgraduate students in humanities and social sciences. And it mostly is and it offered me some fresh insights. The book is written from a US perspective, and non-US readers will occasionally have to provide their own parallels with doctorate process they are following. The author is a graduate teacher and knows and understands her students and the challenges they face in writing a dissertation. This book provides practical advice.
This book offered me some new tools and approaches that I could apply immediately, particularly the focus statement, a short summary of what your research topic is about in plain English, and a one page outline of your dissertation although other books cover this as well.
The strength of the book lies in its focus on the writing process. A Set of Constraints 2. Choosing a Dissertation Topic and an Adviser 2.
Additional Constraints to Consider 2. Entering the Conversation: Subject Matter 2. Examples of Dissertation Topics 2. Entering the Conversation: Theories and Methods 2. Reading Is a Privilege 3. Collect Notes, Not Articles or Books 3. Interactive Reading in Practice 3.
Rules for Recording Quotations 3. Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement 3. Elements of a Useful Focus Statement 5. Providing Useful Feedback 5.
Formats for the Dissertation 6. Planning and Organizing Your Scholarship and Research 7. A Regular Writing Routine 8. The Importance of a Designated Writing Space 8. Developing a Writing Network 8. Perfectionism 9. Procrastination 9. Impatience 9. Depression and Dysphoria 9. Revision at the Organizational Level Revision at the Content Level I would like to offer my appreciation and thanks to Bob Boice for introducing me to his method for uent writing and for taking a chance on me.
Much of what I present in these pages is a derivation of what I learned from him. He is an amazingly warm and generous man who has helped many writers through the books he has written on writing and through advice to new faculty. His many bits of wisdom about writing and life I carry with me. I have so many people to thank who have helped me along the way.
Thanks to Christa Vetter, who helped me get started on the journey to graduate school, literally and metaphorically, as she drove with me crosscountry from California to New York. Thanks to David Boedy for helping make a dream a reality. Thanks to Julie Exline for being my writing partner since we were in graduate school. Many times I thought I would never write again, and perhaps would not have, without Juless support and wisdom.
Thank you to all the students who have taken my writing seminar, whose candidness and experience provided me with unique insights into the writing process. I also greatly appreciate the support of my writing group, who provided invaluable advice and support while I was nding a publisher and completing this book Clare Ginger, Kathy Manning, and Denise Youngblood.
I also want to thank the three anonymous reviewers who read an early version of Demystifying Dissertation Writing.
This book is better because of your helpful and candid comments. They have provided unwavering love and support and have expressed the utmost condence in me in all my endeavors.
Thanks to Theresa Boyle for her love and support and for visiting with Aydan and Liam for regular funlled breaks from writing. To Donna Fontana, many thanks for being the best lifelong friend anyone could have hoped foryou are an inspiration to me. Your ability to balance a successful career with international travel, your impressive capacity for maintaining close friendships, and your involvement in community service continue to inspire me.
My greatest appreciation goes to the two with whom I share my home. My dog, Felix, was my writing companion while I was working on this book. He kept me company by sleeping underneath my desk while I sat at the computer. Richard is my husband and the love of my life. Before I met him I could never have imagined being so happy and enjoying life so much. This book could never have been written without his love, support, and laughter. PREFACE or more than fifteen years I have conducted writing seminars and provided writing coaching to graduate students and new faculty members.
During this time, I have helped doctoral students complete dissertations who otherwise would be at risk for remaining ABD all-but-dissertation. I have seen new faculty members engage in a writing program that all but ensured their earning tenure. In all cases, I have worked with academic writers who are bright, motivated, creative, and interesting.
They learn quickly. When they come to me for help with writing I can be sure of one thing: They have never been taught habits of writing uency and productivity. Rarely do they discuss their writing concerns with colleagues or classmates.
Because writing is a hallmark of success in academe, admitting such weaknesses would open them to concerns of not having what it takes. As a result, too many struggle in isolation, not only at the expense of their writing, but also at the expense of their health or personal life. When I meet writers who do admit their difculties with writing, they are reassured when I tell them that they are not alone.
They are also surprised at how a little coaching can go a long way. Learning habits of uent writing can be short on effort and long on effect, especially for those who have a record of excelling at learning. I know because I have watched more than a hundred academics dramatically improve their writing uency and scholarly productivity. I know because I used to be a blocked writer.
Techniques of uent writing, techniques used by productive writers, can be taught and learned and are readily transferable to you.
If you are a doctoral student who wants to improve your writing or a faculty member or administrator who wants to support your doctoral xi xii PREFACE students as they complete their dissertations, this book can help. I wrote this book for graduate students and their advisers in the social sciences, the humanities, and professional elds.
This book can serve as a textbook for informal writing groups led by students or formal writing seminars offered by departments or graduate colleges. My goal in writing this book is to disseminate writing techniques so that as many graduate students as wish could learn these techniques.
I do, however, also hold a loftier goal: to demystify the writing process thus the title of this book. I am concerned with this demystication because of my commitment to democratizing the academy. My reasons for linking writing to democratizing the academy are fourfold.
First, writing continues to be the hallmark of intelligence in our society. Although there are notable exceptions often in the eld of politics, social activism, and lm , many who receive MacArthur Fellow genius awards, Nobel Prize awards, and Fields Medals and those who are interviewed by Terry Gross ultimately proved their expertise through some sort of writing. The importance of writing is particularly evident in higher education, often referred to as the academy.
To enter the academy, one has to write. To stay in the academy, one has to write. The notable exception is at community colleges, where the focus is on teaching and advising. The second reason I want to demystify the writing process is because writing is cloaked in mystique, allied with muses, and associated with myths, such as the myth of the isolated and tortured writer. Sure, plenty of successful writers t the stereotype of the isolated and tortured writerI just never wanted to be one of them.
I want to write and live a happy and connected life. Do not misunderstand me: I wrote this book through many long hours sitting at my computer, nearly alone, save the companionship of my dog. But I was neither isolated nor tortured. What I have found is that successful writers at least the writers I want to emulate inevitably have strong writing networks. These writers have writing partners or groups with whom they share early and embarrassingly error-prone drafts.
I have yet to meet a writer who, when asked, does not have a network or support system of other writers. Although I freely debunk the myth of the isolated and tortured writer, I want to underscore that writing is hard work.
Fluent writers regularly work at writing. If the myths are debunked, it is through persistent and sustained effort. If the writing muse ever appears, it is because she was coaxed, pleaded with, and pulled down from the heavens through regular sustained effort. The third reason I seek to demystify the writing process is that writing still straties our society.
Meanwhile, writing techniques are too rarely taught in formal settings. In graduate school, I found myself hanging out with other rst-generation college students we did not realize this common attribute while we were bonding.
All three of us had learned our writing through the old Thorndike method of trial and error and had been successful with the semester-long papers we needed to complete. None of us had ever been taught how to write a lengthy academic paper. Although many of our classmates were not working class and a few had professors as parents, even they had not been taught the skills necessary to complete a dissertation in a timely manner. I took two years of coursework during graduate school.
It seemed necessary for me to take courses in which I would learn about psychological theories and experiments and study complex statistical analyses. Not once did my professors walk me through writing a long dissertation-length paper. There were no courses or training sessions on how to complete the one big project that separated me from earning my Ph. This was, and still is, untenable to me. Mind you, this was no particular fault of my graduate program. At the time I was in graduate school, few psychology programs offered dissertation writing programs.
Now more writing seminars are offered. Colleges of education seem to be on the forefront of offering structured support during the dissertation stage. I hope that this book supports doctoral students, whether they have access to formal dissertation writing seminars or not, to improve their writing process, increase the efciency with which they nish their dissertation, and enjoy the process a little bit more. Faculty members may not offer writing seminars because they may not think that their students need one.
For instance, I was having lunch with another faculty member who was in the social sciences but not in my department. I told her about my dissertation writing seminar. Without giving it too much thought, she said, My students dont need that. I had to chuckle when I heard the opposite response from two students in her department. When my dissertation writing seminar came up in conversation, they wanted to hear more.
They wished that their department offered a dissertation writing seminar for them and their classmates. I propose that all doctoral programs offer structured writing seminars. I do not mean research seminars or pro-seminars, where faculty members present their research.
Although these are great professional development activities, they do not directly help students write and finish a dissertation. Nor am I talking about seminars focused on research or methodology, where students can discuss and conduct their dissertation research as part of the seminar. I am talking about seminars that focus on the writing process. On how to take useful notes, to prepare functional outlines that include references, to sit down every day and put fingers to the keyboard, to overcome writer's block, to revise adequately, and to know when to stop.
I am talking about seminars that teach habits of fluent writing. When I was a graduate student, I excelled in my courses. I was required to take two years of grueling coursework on psychological theories, research methodologies, and statistical methods. I could pull off writing course-length papers, but the dissertation was a whole different matter. I was fortunate in that I met Robert Boice, an expert on academic writing and faculty development, and he agreed to facilitate a writing seminar for me and a group of graduate students.
He also agreed to advise one last doctoral student before he retired, and that last doctoral student was me. Through him, I learned how to take notes in a way where I kept the purpose in mind, that is, using and citing the research to support my argument; I learned how to write in what he called "brief daily sessions" and give up my practice of writing only when I had ridiculously large blocks of time and often an impending deadline ; I learned how to turn off my internal critic and overcome my penchant for procrastination.
Had I not met him, I may have completed my dissertation, but I truly fear that I may not have. Because of my experience, I have spent the past fifteen years offering writing workshops and seminars to doctoral students and new faculty members and provided writing coaching to quite a number of academics.
While teaching a dissertation writing seminar at the University of Vermont, I tried various writing books as required reading. Many of them are very good. But none of them served my purpose for the course. I wanted a book that emphasized the importance of working within a group setting and of sharing outlines and drafts, encouragement and accountability.
So, I wrote it. Or at least I wrote outlines for each class. Then, when I taught the seminar the next year, I expanded and revised the outlines, and revised them again the following year. Before I realized it, I had written a book that could serve as the central text for a dissertation writing or proposal writing seminar or could be used by a group of students who informally met to support each other as they wrote their dissertations.
I address the nuts-and-bolts of writing a dissertation. I write at length about the importance of prewriting and how prewriting is the best antidote for writer's block.
You can develop a seminar around the ten chapters in the book. References Gravois, J. My work and study habits helped me get accepted into a doctoral program, complete the coursework, and pass the comprehensive and qualifying exams. Reis, Ph. Richard M.
Impatience 9. If your department does not offer a dissertation writing seminar, take this book to your adviser or the director of your doctoral program and request that they offer one. So begin reading and beneting from this book.
Also, I debunk the myth that inspiration drives the writing process. The most immediately refreshing perspective is that the author recognizes that PhD students have other dimensions to their lives; that their research and their thesis are only one of several elements which they are juggling. I was fortunate in that I met Robert Boice, an expert on academic writing and faculty development, and he agreed to facilitate a writing seminar for me and a group of graduate students.
I continue today to use the writers notes and methods I developed under Pegs guidance. Singles practical, step-by-step guidelines not only helped me nish my dissertation in sociology, but her specic techniques transformed my approach to writing. It also makes them think twice about giving you contradictory advice. I agree: no one person, no matter how right, can meet all your needs.
Informal writing groups work well with four to six students. In addition, as I have suggested to the dozens of new engineering faculty members who have attended the New Century Scholars workshops, make sure you are establishing your absence. We have high attrition rates for some of our most successful and strongly recruited students. Why and when Ph.
Elements of a Useful Focus Statement 5.
Far too many doctoral students leave graduate programs without completing their dissertations. And it mostly is and it offered me some fresh insights.
So the university gains a "win" also. Bulk Purchases Quantity discounts are available for use in workshops and for staff development. Or at least I wrote outlines for each class. If you experience anxiety, blocking, impatience, perfectionism or procrastination when you write, then this system is for you.
Madden, Ph. Entering the Conversation: Theories and Methods 2. I write: By including the outline, you provide your adviser with a quick refresher on your project.