1st Edition

Completing Your Thesis or Dissertation Professors Share Their Techniques & Strategies

By Fred Pyrczak Copyright 2000

    • Seventy professors share their tips, techniques, and strategies for overcoming roadblocks to the completion of a thesis or dissertation.

    • Many of the professors share their personal experiences in completing their dissertations. With hindsight, they offer advice based on these experiences. The personal nature of these essays makes fascinating reading.

    • The professors’ contributions cover a wide range of topics including

    · selecting a topic,

    · selecting a chair and a committee,

    · working with the chair and committee,

    · selecting literature to review,

    · writing a literature review,

    · time management,

    · overcoming writer’s block,

    · overcoming anxiety,

    · putting the thesis/dissertation into proper perspective,

    · establishing support groups,

    · understanding the role of the dissertation in professional development,

    · and many others!

    • This “in-their-own-words” book allows students to select the advice that is best suited to their situations and work styles.

    • Running sidebars throughout the book help students locate information on the matters with which they need help.

    • Ideal for independent reading by your students or use each of the contributions as a discussion topic in a thesis/dissertation preparation course.

    Dissertation Defense

    Attend other students’ defenses

    Have it in final form

    Lay it all out

    Make a friend for it



    Scheduling the defense

    What is expected

    Getting Help from Others

    Feeling a sense of isolation

    Job shadowing

    Join a group for real progress

    Meet regularly with others

    Shadow researcher

    Support group

    Weak member of a group

    Goals and Timelines

    Begin with the end in mind

    Dividing it into parts

    Goal-Setting Theory

    Major life events

    Master calendar

    Allow for “wiggle” room

    Strict policy

    Six-step plan

    Plan on it taking longer

    Time orientation

    Work backward

    Humor (Ha!)


    Butter up the committee

    Committees eat elephants

    Create a Dissertation Dartboard


    Donuts don’t always help

    Keep your advisor busy

    Latent chromosomal functioning

    Mom’s coffee table copy



    Regular schedule

    Take hours to answer

    Try smoking a pipe

    Words-to-peanut ratio

    Outside Pressures

    Being a first-year professor

    Finish school first


    Leave only with an approved proposal

    Overcoming Self-Doubt/Anxiety

    Challenge the validity of negative feelings

    Don’t think “defense”

    Emotional support system

    Fun then, not fun now

    Information is power

    Seek help if immobilized/overwhelmed

    Small problems

    Using subgoals reduces anxiety


    As a contract

    Avoid vagueness

    Include all components

    Limit literature review

    Write a mini-proposal

    Write two to four of them

    Reviewing Literature

    Bibliographic computer program

    Collect reprints of papers

    Complete 90%, then 10%

    Consult Dissertation Abstracts


    Electronic vs. paper search

    Endless search

    General suggestions

    Know people at the reference desk

    Limit the number of references

    Rule of 19 for citations

    Thoughtfully selective


    Rewarding Yourself

    Behavioral formula

    Build in time for fun

    Dance to the music


    Without guilt

    Selecting a Committee and Chair

    Ask major professor

    Avoid emeritus faculty

    Committee able to work together

    General suggestions

    Listen with three purposes

    Select someone with tenure

    Selecting a Topic

    Avoid grandiose ideas

    Avoid politically “hot” topics

    Consider prior knowledge

    Consider your passions

    Considering the future

    General suggestions

    Select during coursework

    Start early


    Cheerfully rewrite

    Courses as a sounding board

    First draft not perfect

    Good writing is short

    Headings and subheadings

    Make a model

    Notes for the next writing session

    One day per page

    Pedantic writing

    Provide a rationale

    Results section

    Sequence of steps

    Use of the first person

    Use the required format

    Write introductions and conclusions last

    Write a “spew draft”

    Work Habits

    A “real” job

    Annotate everything

    Avoid isolation

    Daily progress

    “Dissertation days”

    Do something every day

    Organize articles


    Number of hours per day

    Working with the Committee and Chair

    Allow sufficient time for review

    Avoid standoffs

    Check with your advisor first

    Create a visual presence

    Get feedback early

    Get to know other members

    Line numbers

    Prepare for the defense

    Put it in writing

    Seek closure

    Standing meeting

    Take notes

    What are their preferences?

    Write down your questions

    Writer’s Block

    Discover how you work best

    Imagine a sympathetic reader

    Start with what you can do

    Use a tape recorder

    Work on clerical

    Write—write anything


    Fred Pyrczak