5 Books for Dissertation Writers

Classes are tough. Comprehensive exams are another hurdle. All lead to the biggest challenge of all: The dissertation.  Without a doubt, most students find the dissertation stage the most difficult. This is largely because there are no classes. Students must create their own structure. And so they sink or swim. These books will help you add structure to your dissertation and complete your dissertation more quickly.

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Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach

Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach is an especially useful read prior to beginning the dissertation, say while still taking coursework because it approaches the dissertation as project management and how to cope with scare resources. All students, regardless of what program they attend, deal with scarce resources: time, budget, and time with faculty. Useful chapters on scheduling, working with advisors and dissertation committees and writing the proposal.

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Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process

One of the books I used when completing my own dissertation two decades ago, and still a very useful guide. Surviving Your Dissertation: A Comprehensive Guide to Content and Process is designed for psychology students, but useful to all social scientists. This volume breaks the project into three steps: getting started, dissertation chapters, and the process. Unique parts include separate chapters for quantitative and qualitative data, presenting numbers, online data, and overcoming barriers. 

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Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

While you are not likely to finish your dissertation quickly if you only write for 15 minutes each day,  the advice in Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day is solid as successful writers find some time to write every day. Like other books, Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day contains chapters that walk you through the dissertation process, such as selecting topics and committee members. What's new here is that you'll find advice for managing the writing, including setting reasonable goals and deadlines, avoiding writer's block, and finding the writing process that works for you.

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Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish

Another volume I used way back when. In fact, Dissertations and Theses from Start to Finish was an assigned reading for all doctoral candidates. Again aimed at psychologists, but the process is useful for all. Like most of these books this is best read before embarking on the dissertation process as chapters cover finding a topic, choosing a committee, writing the proposal, time management, and so on. Other chapters focus on managing committees, data management and analysis, and writing up the results.  I'm a fan of the checklists that accompany each chapter.

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Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process...

Tacking the myth that big chunks of free time are needed to write, Demystifying Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process emphasizes organization. What distinguishes this book are the chapters on reading and note-taking, taking  citable notes, and using reference managers. An outlining approach is used - walking a student down the path from a focus statement to an outline, to a larger outline, and so on. Other chapters focus on developing a writing routine and avoiding writer's block. I especially like the final chapter - on revisions, something you don't see enough of.