October, 2005Volume 1, Issue 10

In This Issue:

Making Progress When You Don't Feel Like Writing

It’s October and the year is almost over. I don’t mean to scare anyone, but truly if you haven’t started working on your thesis or dissertation or aren’t currently actively working on it on a daily basis — let’s face it, you will most likely not finish it by the end of the year. That’s why you have to establish several mini-goals for the end of the year and start working towards them.

What is it you want to cross off your to-do list this year instead of rolling over to next year’s resolution list? Perhaps you are looking forward to making significant progress on your thesis or dissertation before the end of the year. Be specific. How many pages/chapters would you have to finish for you to feel like you have made significant progress? At TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished™ we believe that a good thesis or dissertation is a DONE thesis or dissertation. TA-DA! provides you with the tools to make that happen.

The biggest misconception about finishing a thesis or dissertation is the belief that writing is the key component to completion. The real key to finishing is effective time management. This is particularly true given the fact that, for most students, writing the document must be completed in tandem with numerous other important tasks, such as preparing for the job market; moving to or starting a new job; preparing for graduation; or working a full-time job. If time-management is not your forte, let the TA-DA! CD help you manage, structure, and organize your time to maximize your efforts.

To help better manage your time, enlist your network of friends and family to assist you with completing tasks that don’t require your intellectual capital. Most loved ones are more than willing to be supportive if they only know what they can do to help. In response to my request, for example, my friend flew out to Wisconsin to help me pack up my house while I worked on my dissertation. He also got up at 2:30 a.m. to help me format tables, make copies, and drive me to Kinko’s, because my exhausted brain was simply too numb to be able to complete those simple tasks.

In addition, it is imperative that you give yourself ample time to complete your thesis or dissertation. I can’t emphasize enough that you should NOT wait until your coursework or qualifying/preliminary exams are finished to begin thinking about getting an early start. In fact, you should be thinking about a possible topic on your first day of graduate school. Let your interest guide you regarding what courses to take. Pursue a possible topic in one or two of your graduate seminars; these will force you to adhere to a strict deadline, and will also provide you with insightful feedback from your course instructor.

If you haven’t followed this advice, and have already finished your coursework and exams, all is not lost! Keep in mind that you aren’t actually starting from scratch. Think of this document as an extension of your proposal. Pull out your approved thesis/dissertation proposal and begin by reading, editing, and formatting it based on your university’s required specifications. Be sure to update your literature review by including any new studies that address your research question.

Regardless of what stage you are at in completing your thesis or dissertation, the following tips are designed to help keep you going when you feel you simply can’t write anymore. Remember: the key to finishing is to keep moving the project forward, and it is critical to spend at least 12 minutes EVERY DAY working on your document. Your goal is to make consistent, incremental, daily progress. And, even if you just can't contemplate writing some days, there are still a number of required tasks that you can accomplish. Find something from this list you can do right now!!!

1. Transfer important semester deadlines to your TA-DA! Calendar. Missing some of these deadlines can cost you time and money.

2. Get a copy of the format manual. Colleges and universities often have a book or brochure that provides information on the required format of all theses and dissertations. The manual includes detailed specifications for margins, page number locations, minimal font size, spacing and a host of other formatting rules. Pick up a format manual from your graduate school office/secretary, or download it from your university’s website.

3. Get your hands on ‘Depositing and Defending’ guidelines and deadline materials. Again, these documents are typically available through your graduate school office/secretary, or from your university’s website.

4. Do some field research. Visit the library and look at other theses or dissertations in your field. Make a note of how many chapters they contain, and be on the lookout for those in which your advisor served on the committee. If you find a thesis or dissertation on a topic similar to yours, be sure to photocopy the bibliography.

5. Nail down the format requirements. You’ve already gotten yourself a copy; now thoroughly review the format manual and become familiar with all of its contents. These requirements are not “optional,” so be sure you get them right the first time. Begin formatting your proposal and by creating a format template that reflects all of the requirements.

6. Have the tools you need in place. Making sure that you have – and have ready – tools such as your methods journal, binder, and the correct software settings. Being prepared will make your path much easier!

7. Create your title page. Be sure to set it up according to the format requirements!

8. Complete your approval page. Remember: every committee member will sign this, so it’s important! Again, be sure to set it up according to format requirements.

9. Develop your abstract. Even if you have only the energy to write the word “Abstract” on the page, do it. It will help as a page reminder that you still have to create an abstract.

10. Produce your “Dedication and Acknowledgements” page. This is your opportunity to thank your best friends and family for supporting you! Completing this page might even inspire you, and rekindle the energy you need to continue moving your thesis or dissertation forward.

Email Question of the Month:

Q: Is there anything I can do to prepare for my defense?


Your thesis or dissertation defense should take about 2-3 hours. In the defense you are considered the most knowledgeable person (on your thesis/dissertation) in the room. You have been working on this document for years or months. Come to the defense prepared to answer a whole host of questions about your thesis/dissertation. An answer of "I don't know" is not expected. Take some time to repeat the question and breathe before answering it. Even if you don't know an answer you should take note of the issue/point and consider it for future research.

  •  Prepare a 1-2 minute talk on why you came to graduate school, why you chose to pursue your topic and what the overall findings of your research were.

  •  Get a good night's rest; you need to be well rested to be ready and alert.

  •  Read your thesis/dissertation from cover to cover the night before.

  •  Spiral bind ($2.50 at Kinko's) your copy of the document so that you can gain a psychological edge (by easily turning to the requested pages of the document) and calm yourself when the committee are firing questions at you.

  •   Be aware that you know more about your thesis/dissertation than they do; On this matter/research YOU are the expert.

  •   If your committee argues with each other during the defense do not interrupt; it is to your advantage to let the clock keep ticking away.

  •  And finally, know that your committee would not have scheduled the defense unless they thought that you would pass.

What TA-DA!™ Users Have to Say...

If you're still wondering whether or not TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished™ can help you — don’t take our word for it. Take a few moments to read what some of our customers have told us.
See how TA-DA!™ helped them...

Ph.D. Doctoral Students…

  •   The calendar really helps to outline my goals for the week, and see it in front of me. I absolutely love the newsletters that come every month. The information is very useful.
Lynette; Philadelphia, PA

  •   Biggest help was that it walked me through the process and helped me budget my time and expenses. It gave me a full picture to view ahead of time. This surely helped getting my ducks in a row. TADA saved me a lot of time by helping me with upfront planning. Biggest help was that it walked me through the entire dissertation process and created a time and expense budget for me. It painted a complete and detailed picture of the entire dissertation process and left no room for surprises. This surely helped getting my ducks in a row. Now I know exactly what I need to do and when I need to do it to finish up my dissertation in time. I can already hear the final TADA! while still on the start line.
Ahmad; Franklin Park, NJ

  •   It helped me to set goals for my chapters and give me some practical strategies for finishing. Also I believe it's good to list your finish date. It gives you something to strive for rather than letting the thesis become nebulous.
Martha; Albany, CA

  •   TA-DA explains the dissertation process and lifts the curtain to a process that seems impossible to accomplish. It provides strategy for selecting the committee and provides timelines that enable accomplishment of the dissertation within a specific time frame.
Randall; USMC Jacksonville, NC

  •   The program helped me to understand the dissertation concept much better. I am a visual individual; the tutorial was a great help.
Deborah; U.S. Army

  •   Provides helpful suggestions for how to proceed as well as suggesting disciplined and reasonable timelines for completion.
Lawrence; Philadelphia, PA

Master’s Thesis Students…

  •   It has helped with the fact that my graduate school does not have a formal format for the proposal. The Journal has helped a lot.
Talia; Naranjito, Puerto Rico

  •   This is a great tool for those who will be starting either their Master's Degree or Dissertation. I highly recommend it.
Teresa; Naguabo, Puerto Rico

  •   Requesting that I set a goal date for finishing, kept me focused and it was the first step in accomplishing the task. Also, I kept remembering the words; a good thesis is a done thesis.
Gladys; NY, NY

  •   It guided me to a fair start. Gracias!
Jess; San Francisco, CA



Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.

About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters' degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TADA! Thesis and Accomplished. To learn more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at Privacy is our policy. TADA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers' names or e-mail addresses.

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Inside This Issue:

Making a Plan and Staying Motivated

Email Q & A of the Month

What TA-DA!™
Users Say

Next FinishLine Features:

Making Progress When You Don't Feel Like Writing


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