Read Write Perfect

Written By Jennifer Harrison

How to Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed by Dissertation Writing

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when the task of writing 10,000+ words of dissertation report content looms before you.

Here are my top tips for making the task feel more manageable.

Tip 1: Make a Writing Plan

You can make any task feel more manageable by breaking it down into smaller chunks, and dissertation writing is no exception.

Start any writing project by creating an outline, a list of writing tasks (define “intersectionality,” explain the history of phenomenology, articulate my study limitations, etc.), or—best of all—both.

Each task or outline section should be small, contained, and manageable. That way, you can start to see individual trees, rather than getting lost in a forest of research.

Tip 2: Create a Schedule

A list of small, manageable dissertation writing tasks is good, but it is no use at all unless you actually go about completing those tasks.

To accompany your outline or to-do list, create a schedule for completion. This might take the form of one task per day, x number of words written per day, or any other measurable outcome that works for you.

Just remember to take account of your schedule as well your deadline. Regardless of how tight that deadline feels, any writing plan you create needs to be realistic about your abilities to juggle classes, family commitments, work, and everything else you have in your life. Decide what time you can realistically set aside in your day and create your writing schedule accordingly.

Tip 3: Avoid Comparisons

It may be tempting to look at what the other students in your dissertation cohort are achieving, but this kind of comparison is NEVER conducive to writing productively.

Remember—every writer is different, and every dissertation student’s personal circumstances are different too. Don’t compare your progress to that of others—compare yourself to yourself. If you’ve got more written today (or have a stronger draft today) than you did yesterday, that’s progress—regardless of what anyone else has achieved!

Tip 4: Wait to Revise Until the End

An easy trap to fall into in dissertation writing is to endlessly revise the single page you have already written, never leaving time to write new content.

Avoid falling into this trap by waiting until you have a complete draft before trying to revise anything.

Remember, both feedback and revision will be more accurate and more effective when the whole picture is revealed. You’ll save yourself time and energy by waiting until you’ve finished the draft/section/chapter to revise.

Tip 5: Put Your Sources in Another Room

Sometimes, that feeling of being overwhelmed by dissertation writing is caused by the clamor of voices coming from your sources, all of which contain so much detail that your own thoughts get lost in the mix.

Avoid losing track of your point and getting stuck by keeping your sources in a different room while you write. Sources, after all, should only ever be a support for YOUR ideas—so focus on getting those onto paper, and let your sources wait. You can always add them in later.

Need some help staying on top of your writing? Get in touch to find out how dissertation coaching can help.