Whatever you think of your academic capabilities, writing a PhD dissertation is almost certain to become a challenge and cause you some problems. The reason is simple – it is a completely new experience, a work of a completely different scale from anything you’ve tried so far. However, any hardship can be overcome if you are aware of it and prepare in advance.
So, why is writing a dissertation such a difficult task?
1. Facing the Unknown
The majority of what you did as an undergraduate was along the same lines as whatever you were doing throughout your student life, no matter what your majors are: labs, essays, tests, reading assignments, papers – all this is familiar and comfortable. A dissertation, however, is something entirely different – you, by definition, have no experience in dealing with it.
2. Getting to Grips with Independence
The most intimidating thing about dissertation is independence associated with it. Up until this time you have been guided through your academic life, each task was controlled by your professors. Now you are on your own: nobody is setting intermediate deadlines or give you tasks – you have an assignment and have to figure out on your own how to deal with it.
3. Getting on with Writing
A lot of people have trouble with starting the actual writing – it is an enormous mental block for them. Some think that they should sort everything out before they begin, others are too sure about their writing abilities and put it off until the last moment or, in contrast, are too busy with research and want to finish it first. The truth is, writing is an essential part of this research, and time spent drafting and re-drafting your dissertation is time well-spent. Moreover, you may be asked to present some parts of your dissertation for assessment halfway through, so you’d better have at least something done by that time.
4. Meeting the Requirements
Before you set about writing the main part of your dissertation, it is worth paying attention to what exactly is required of you: what chapters should be there and in what order, what information is better placed in appendices rather than in the main part, what the word limit is and whether it includes the words in the appendices, the list of references, tables and so on.
5. Understanding the Structure
Each segment of a dissertation has a clearly defined function and conventions according to which it is supposed to be written. There is no space for creativity here; you have to do each part in exactly pre-determined way. Thus learn how it is done before beginning to write each particular segment so that you don’t have to introduce alterations later.
Writing a dissertation is a hard and extremely complicated task – but with a correct approach there is nothing supernatural about it.