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

March, 2007 spacerVolume 3, Issue3

In This Issue:

I am sending out a big hello to the graduate students of Bowling Green State University and the University of Maryland students who participated in the Rocky Gap dissertation boot-camp this past weekend.

10 Mistakes Graduate Students Should Avoid:
Mistake #1: Failing to Present Your Work to the Public During Graduate School

Let’s face it: mistakes are a part of life. We all make them. The good news is that we can learn from our mistakes. The better news is that we can learn just as much – if not more! – from the mistakes of others.

Take heed, learned students! Following are some of the most common mistakes that graduate students make. Make note of them, and be sure to avoid the same pitfalls yourself.

Presenting your work to the public is an important part of the graduate school process and experience. It’s critical that you take advantage of the many opportunities that exist in this thriving scholastic environment to present and publish your work. Graduate school is replete with opportunities to begin building a solid academic reputation. Take advantage of them!

Publishing Your Work

The biggest mistake that most graduate students make is sitting back and waiting for an invitation by a faculty member to co-publish an article.  In reality, most faculty are waiting for the student to step forward and express an interest in doing so.

I was able to co-author two papers with a professor simply because I volunteered to help him analyze some data for a presentation.  This bold step – asking if he needed any help – led to a public acknowledgement of my contribution to his findings as well as further collaborations that included a national conference presentation and co-authorship of a book chapter.  The moral of this story is that sometimes you just have to take a chance and take some action. Mark Victor Hansen, Ph.D. co-author to the Chicken Soup Series writes "It's not the size of the step that gets you there. It's the fact that you're taking the step."

Grad school offers plenty of venues through which you can publish your work.  Each time you write a seminar paper, finish a thesis or present a paper at a conference, you are looking at another opportunity.  If you don’t feel your papers are publication-ready, or if they are at various levels of completion, hiring an editor might help to get those documents ready to hit the press.  Your instructor and advisor can also provide critical feedback regarding what it would take to get a paper ready for publication.

Keep in mind that not all of your papers need to be sent to the top level journal(s) in your field. Try M.Tuton Editing Services at to get an estimate for your work. Research all of the publications available, learn their deadlines and requirements, and get a sense of the type of work they generally feature.  Consider using the summer months or other slow-down periods to move these papers off your desk and on to theirs.  If you work at it, you’ll be published in no time! Let the TADA! CD help you organize your writing schedule.

Presenting Your Work

Take the opportunity to present your research every chance you get; a wide range of potential forums exist, from informal on-campus “brown bag” seminars to poster sessions.  These provide a venue through which you can present your “work in progress” and garner feedback on your research at an early stage that can help clarify your concepts and arguments.  In addition, these type of settings allow you to “practice” your public speaking skills in a casual and friendly atmosphere, and can also help you prepare for other tasks that you will ultimately be required to complete, such as teaching a class, leading a conference, and defending your thesis or dissertation.

You should also strongly consider attending and/or presenting at regional or national conferences.  Your academic discipline will promote these types of conferences by putting out a “call” for papers which list research categories and specific deadlines for submission.  Be sure to mark those deadlines on your calendar!  In addition to seeking presenters, the “call” will frequently request help fulfilling other key roles, such as session/topic organizers, discussants and presiders.  If you’re not prepared to present, take advantage of these pathways to participate. Even simple attendance of the conference can beneficial, as it allows you to network with experts in your field; meet publishers; view firsthand the most effective means to present your own research; and even “interview” for a job!

If you don’t have the funds to attend many conferences, be selective about which ones to attend. Be sure you are a presenter, and plan ahead to make your networking efforts purposeful. In addition, research what type of financial assistance might be available to you; some departments, graduate student associations, traineeships, grants or fellowships provide travel monies specifically earmarked for students to attend conferences. 

At the end of the boot-camp this past weekend many of the graduate students were frantically searching for pen and paper to write down the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of the students they wanted to keep in contact with. Net working experts suggest that you use business cards to cement professional relationships that you have cultivated during the conference.  Business cards provide a point of contact between two people; it’s always better to have a business card than to have to fish around in your bag or pocket to try to come up with a pen and a piece of paper.  Be sure to give your business card to the other person with both hands, one on top of the other. Always travel with your business cards. If you don't have business cards make some up on your computer, ask your grant/fellowship provider or you can get FREE professionally looking business cards from

Take the TA-DA! Spring Break Challenge

It’s almost Spring Break and many of you are still questioning whether or not you should take a real break. Can you take a break from your thesis or dissertation without that nagging sense of guilt ruining your break? Yes you can, especially if you develop a specific plan for after the break.

However, if you do not know what you will be doing the first day our your Spring Break, perhaps you should join our Spring Break Challenge (March 18-25, 2007).

Many people use the TA-DA! Spring Break Challenge to focus on getting one thing accomplished and setting a schedule to get that one thing done. They get that one thing done and then are able to enjoy their break without the sense of guilt looming in the background. Other people set out to see how much they can accomplish in 7 days.

Mark Victor Hansen, Ph.D. co-author to the Chicken Soup Series writes "It's not the size of the step that gets you there. It's the fact that you're taking the step."

Many of you already work with deadlines. If you're joining this challenge, your deadline is March 25, 2006.  Let's see how much can you get done in a week! Are you ready? Here are some tips:

• Breakdown your tasks into bite-size manageable chunks and make a list and post that list in a public space.

• Set aside a reasonable amount of time each day to work on your thesis or dissertation.  You can get a lot done in 15 minutes a day.

• Work within your limitations…if you are a morning person by all means make yourself some coffee and spend 15 minutes with your dissertation before everyone else rises…if you are a night owl…turn the TV off 15 minutes earlier and write for 15 minutes.

• Celebrate small victories when you accomplish your tasks for the day.  Spend the rest of the day guilt-free enjoying your Spring break knowing that you have done something (no matter how small) on your dissertation.

• Whatever you do, don't spend the week constantly worrying and saying to yourself 'I really should be working'. Above all, enjoy your Spring Break!

Take Me Up On A Spring Break Challenge!

I have posted the challenge on my blog. I invite you to begin by posting a comment telling us how much you plan do daily. You're also invited to write to each other for support. Join us--don't go it alone! I've already started by posting my own writing intentions. Keep me honest and see if I can get anything done! All comments posted to my blog go immediately to my email. I'll write you back with encouragement and advice as well.

Best wishes,

Dr. Carter

Email Question of the Month:


Dear Dr. Carter, I have already started my research proposal. And I am now working on chapter 1. I still have a problem on how to write a conceptual framework. Would you please help me? J.K.


Hello J.K. Thank you for contacting us at TADA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. You don't have to write your proposal in a linear fashion. I always recommend starting with the section that you know best. If your chapter 1 is just your introduction you should consider moving on to chapter 2 and leaving the introduction chapter to the end (Most people do it this way).

If Chapter 1 includes your literature review and that is what you are having trouble with I strongly suggest you read our previous newsletters on writing a literature review . Some people start with the Methodology chapter because that's what they know best. There is not right or wrong way to start writing. Just start with what you know best because it builds confidence.

To get started and to sort your articles in a meaningful way Christine Feak, PhD from University of Michigan suggests that you create an Excel spread sheet to help you see the big picture of how relevant the literature is to your research question. I provided an example below to get you started. If your research question was "How does intergenerational mobility in the United States change over time?" you might begin with the landmark study listed below.

Author Title of Book / Article Year of Study Research Question Theoretical Frame work (Similar / Different to my study) Sample Size Method Supports / Negates my Research Question +/-
Hauser & Featherman Opportunity and Change (1978)    Is there a relationship between fathers occupation & Son's  similar      (7965)       Quantiative /Mobilty Tables supports

Best Wishes,
Dr. Carter

TA-DA!™ Graduates —
Congratulations on Your Success

I completed my proposal defense and now I am in the process of organizing my chapters and writing schedule and the analysis. I am using restricted data for my analysis so when I can't run my analyses at home, I try to write every day a page at least and thus far it worked for me. Will see how it goes. My goal is to finish this fall in October. -Gabriele P.

I finished writing my thesis last week and I am waiting for my advisor to send me the corrections. . . I am also looking for a job related to Environmental Science.
- Kam

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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…

•  I am just beginning my doctoral coursework but I wanted to get a jump on this thesis stuff so I purchased your product just about the same time I enrolled in my classes! Darlene G

•  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.

•  TA-DA provided me with some useful ideas for how to use short amounts of time that would normally be unproductive completing small tasks that move the dissertation forward. Donnell B.

•  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.

•  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

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 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.

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Inside This Issue:

10 Mistakes Graduate Students Should Avoid: Mistake #1: Failing to Present Your Work to the Public During Graduate School

Email Q & A of the Month

Congratulations Graduates

What TA-DA!™
Users Say

Dr. Carter Is Co-author of a New Book

Next FinishLine Features:

10 Mistakes Graduate Students Should Avoid: Mistake #2: Leaving Before You Finish Your Degree

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