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FinishLine | Tips Tools Techniques for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation from Dr Wendy Carter

January, 2007 spacerVolume 3, Issue 1

In This Issue:

Leap And The Net Will Appear: A New Year’s Plan For Success

Happy New Year! If you’re like many of us, you began the New Year with a resolution … perhaps even a resolution to finish your thesis or dissertation this year!

Stop waiting for the “stars to align” for you to write your thesis or dissertation; leap and the net will appear. Make a decision in 2007, because with your actions or inactions you are planning for something.

Are you planning for success or for defeat? Success starts by setting a specific goal. Without a specific plan about how to accomplish your goal, your enthusiasm is destined to wane around March or April, and completely diminish before the year’s end. A solid, detailed plan that you can look towards to continually engage, encourage and energize you is absolutely necessary to keep you moving doggedly toward your end goal.

Following is a checklist that will help you plan for each goal you wish to achieve this year. Be sure to take your time and think thoroughly through your goals while completing this activity.


To successfully finish your thesis or dissertation, it’s important to pinpoint a specific date by which you want the project completed. Setting a deadline will help you to remain focused on your goal and all of the rewards that go with it.

Be realistic about setting a completion date, and be sure not to overlook or underestimate the time you will need to set aside for current and future responsibilities and relationships. You should also take into consideration any upcoming special events that will detract from your time: an anniversary or reunion, for example. Don’t ignore these type of events; plan around them!

I will achieve _________________ by _______, 2007. (Be specific)


One effective approach to completing a long, unstructured project is to break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. In some disciplines, for example, professors suggest that students should think of the dissertation as a series of three journal articles on a related topic. With that mindset, the student can focus on writing one “article” at a time.

Of course, the further you can break down the project into smaller tasks, the more successful you can be. Take time to think your project through completely, and make a list of all of the action items you will need to complete to reach your goal. It will give you great satisfaction to be able to check them off as you complete them!

The steps I need to take to accomplish this goal include: _________________ (include as many details as possible)


Writing a thesis or dissertation takes a significant amount of time and effort. It is not something that can be accomplished easily or quickly. As such, it’s critical to keep the momentum going by making a commitment to work on the project every day. On some days, your commitment might be as little as 12 minutes; on other days, you may log hours working on your project. The point is that every day you need to take sometime and take some action.

Each morning, you should start your day by asking, “What action can I take today to move my thesis or dissertation forward?” Refer to the checklist you made of all of the small items that must be addressed or completed in order to make forward progress, and refer to it often. Resolve yourself to work on one of those items each and every day. No task is too small, and no item – such as “creating the cover page” – is too insignificant. Keep in mind that every action will move you closer to your goal.

Help yourself make this commitment by using our online TADA!™ Certificate. Print it out and use it as a daily reminder of your commitment to yourself. This is a process that really works!

Today, I will do _________________ to bring me closer to my goal.

Tomorrow, I will do ______________ to bring me closer to my goal.

Next week, I will do ______________ to bring me closer to my goal.


No one completes his/her thesis/dissertation alone. Needing help is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, knowing when to ask for help can be a sign of wisdom! You have friends, colleagues and advisors who sincerely want to help you succeed. And most people are far more willing to help you answer a specific question or tackle a particular task than they are to listen to you moan or complain.

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, a friend flew out to Wisconsin to help 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. The result was a definite “win-win”: he got the satisfaction of getting to share time with me and truly help out a friend, while I got the help I needed to complete the tasks at hand.

If I need help with _______________, I will ask ________________.


Within your master plan it’s also important to have what I call a “Plan B.” Even with a competent plan, you are still likely to become tired, discouraged, distracted or otherwise de-motivated at some point (or points!) along the way. Knowing what you need to do to counter such negative emotions can mean the difference between failure and success.

In addition, you are certain to face a lot of obstacles in the pursuit of your plan. What will you do if your research project stalls or the results are not what you expected? If your advisor goes on sabbatical? If your funding falls through? If you fail your preliminary exam?

A “Plan B” allows you to be prepared for these type of situations rather than be surprised by them. A “Plan B” will help you to work within your limitations, rather than waiting and hoping for everything to become perfect (again). A “Plan B” is what you can fall back on instead of quitting or admitting defeat, and is what will keep you working steadily, even during those times when you have lost your way and can’t see the end of the project. In short, a “Plan B” will help you to succeed.

When I become discouraged, or run into an obstacle, I will __________to overcome it.

Setting a goal is not enough to make it happen. You must also embrace a sincere commitment to achieving the goal. You must feel the desire, have faith in the process, and be able to truly visualize yourself accomplishing it.

Even if you can’t push yourself to hope for the very highest manifestation of your goal, at least set a milestone that you do feel is manageable. For example, when I decide to run a marathon, I didn’t attach many specifics to my goal (such as how long it would take me to complete the marathon). To begin with, I simply set a goal of finishing the race. A week prior to the marathon I ran the last mile of the race to know what I would be looking at when I was tired and dragging myself to the finish line. I didn’t care if I was the very last person to pass the finish line; I just wanted to complete the task. And I could truly visualize myself doing so, sore and exhausted but elated by my accomplishment.

It’s important to be able to visualize the completion of your project, and the emotions surrounding your achievement. So take the time to answer the following statements, as well:

When I visualize my goal, it looks like and feels like___________. (Be specific. Paint a picture with bright, vivid colors.)

The day after I defended my dissertation was the most relaxing day I have ever felt. Wearing my favorite color, I walked around the campus with a sense of accomplishment and peace in my heart. I celebrated by buying myself an expensive gold bracelet. How do you see yourself in that moment and how will you celebrate your accomplishment?

When I reach my goal, I will celebrate by ____________________.

Another effective process to help move you through the crossroads is to visualize the benefits of achieving your goal. After you complete your project, will you be able to look for a better job? Find a better place to live? Take a real vacation? Have a child? Looking beyond the thesis or dissertation will help you to visualize success. What will your next step/goal be?

When I reach my goal, I will be able to ______________________.


Email Question of the Month:


Dr. Carter, I think I will be writing (my Master's thesis) about Language Acquisition. I want to focus on language development in preoperational children (ages 2 to 5). What causes some children to have delayed speech problem and what strategy will help reverse this problem. I am stuck with ....writing a proposal. I dont know where to start with this paper...what should I do.
Steven M.


Happy Holidays. Thank you for contacting us here at TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. Your topic appears to quite clear. Last year I wrote a newsletter on Writing a Proposal see the link below. I think you should start your proposal by reading the newsletter, and writing the 13 ingredients of the proposal on a blank screen. Fill in the sections you already know and go from there. You might also consider reading our 2 part series (October, 2006 & December, 2006 newsletters) on writing a literature review if you get stuck on that as well. These newsletters can be found on the left in our ARTICLES ARCHIVE. I hope this moves you forward.

I wish you all the best,
Dr. Carter

TA-DA!™ Graduates —
Congratulations on Your Success

Thank your encouragement and support. Dr. Shaun G.

Congratulations to Dr. Shaun G  at UMCP in Computer Science!!!
Dr. Carter

Nuite S. Finished a Master's Thesis and found TA-DA! helped with organization of time and to stay the course until completion.

Hello Nuite, Happy New Year. We at TADA!Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished wanted to say congratulations on finishing your Master's thesis. I hope that you are able to use what you learned in the process to either complete a dissertation as well or any long-term project. Wishing you all the best in your upcoming ventures. Dr. Carter

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…

•  Hello Dr. Carter, I met with you a few months ago. I had an impossible deadline to meet: to complete my dissertation proposal in 6 weeks time. I just wanted you to know that I successfully defended the proposal on October 3rd!! Thanks for your help and encouragement! All the best, Harriette W.

•  How it (TADA) Helped: In many ways but I will mainly highlight two areas for now. 1. The TADA Calender. The main problem I faced before was how to get down and do my work. But with the TADA Calender, I have made a committment and I everyday I have the motivation to fulfill this commitment. 2. The 12 Minutes Tasks. I was never even aware of some of those requirements. Now I feel more confident since each day I know exactly what is expected of me and I can make an exact plan of how to accomplish them. Dear colleagues in Thesis/Dissertation writing. Anybody wanting to have a peace of mind and confidence in whatever she/he does during the whole Thesis/Dissertation writing, you have no choice but to buy the TADA CD. I won't explain what wonders it will do to you, but buy it and experience it." Connie, U.K.

•  TA-DA gave me the incentive to "get the lead out" and finish. The 12 minutes a day has lead to approximately two to three hours. I have really got a lot done, just knowing that the twelve minutes does wonders for the psyche.
Maryjane, Fayetteville, NC

•  The commitment to a deadline and to working 12 minutes a day actually reduces stress. I can always do 12 minutes--even if I'm tired, sick, uninspired or grumpy. Facing a deadline makes it feel like I will actually get done! "I have to do my 12 minutes" we say in our house these days. I've been progressing steadily on my dissertation by committing to 12 minutes, and my husband has covered huge amounts of material for an upcoming professional exam. My friend has committed to completing the annulment papers she has procrastinated on for 10 years, and my father-in-law has started studying Spanish 12 minutes a day. Thanks!
Christine, Seattle, WA

•  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

Special OfferIf you haven't ordered your TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished™ CD yet, don’t wait until you are finished with your coursework to start thinking about getting it. Don't wait until you're wondering how to begin or how to stay on track to finishing. Take another look at TADA! right now.


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 Dissertation 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.

Published monthly.
To subscribe to FinishLine, see below.

Inside This Issue:

Leap And The Net Will Appear: A New Year’s Plan For Success

Email Q & A of the Month

Congratulations Graduates

What TA-DA!™
Users Say

Next FinishLine Features:

After The Defense...

Dr. Carter's

Getting What You Came For...
The book explains the entire process of completing graduate school, from selecting and applying to a graduate program to obtaining a teaching position. Selected chapters provide overall practical advice on selecting an advisor, managing the committee, selecting a topic, writing a proposal, writing the dissertation, and preparing for the defense.

Getting What You Came For...

The Dissertation Cook Book
The authors uses a cookbook metaphor define the ingredients of a dissertation. This book provides useful information on each section of the five-chapter dissertation common in the social and behavioral sciences. It also contains practical tips, hands-on exercises, and checklists dealing with getting started, choosing a topic, types of research instruments, statistics, sampling, and analyzing data. Most of the information is relevant for writers at the proposal stage.

The Dissertation Cook Book

The Artist's Way
This book by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan leads you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.

The Artist's Way


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