Here is a post on the second part of my dissertation journey. Since my last blog update my dissertation started moving fast. I completed the design and development of the simulation that I used in my dissertation research. I also completed recruitment and data collection procedures. After the data collection, it was time to start the data analysis. Throughout the entire research process, I was also re-writing chapters one, two, and three. Once I had completed my revisions to the first three chapters, I wrote chapter 4 and chapter 5. I have to say that it was a tremendously stressful period. I am very grateful for my family, friends and colleagues who provided words of support throughout the entire journey.
I don’t know if I can provide specific advise for others that are completing their dissertation but here are some of the important elements that helped me throughout the dissertation process:
1. Start writing early in the morning. You will get in a nice writing mood since it is nice and quite in the morning. I started writing at 5am every day for about two months and it was a good start to my day. It was definitely hard at first because I had to change my schedule but it was worth it.
2. Write every day.I got in a habit of writing every day as much as possible. You will not loose track of your ideas and you immerse yourself in the topic. Basically, you will get into a state of flow. It feels good. Also, it helps you keep up with your dissertation schedule.
3. Sacrifice a few weekends for dissertation work. I had to completely devote my time and energy to my dissertation for a few months. Social life and family life were very limited. Again, it helps to have a very understanding family and husband. Every weekend, I would would work a few hours (10 – 12 hours) in the lab. I would basically continue my writing flow during the weekends.
4. Read all the material for a section before you write that section. I divided my literature review into key sections that combined served as the basis for my research. I always finished reading all the articles, conference papers, and dissertations about the topic before I started writing about it. It helped me because I knew how to write and cite that specific section.
5. Think about recruitment in advance. One of the majors issues that I had with my dissertation was the recruitment of participants. I was collecting data from a fairly specific group and I was not expecting delays. If I could give one word of advice to others, it would be to plan for delays due to recruitment. Or, to have the connections in place to help you recruit the specific groups of participants you need to complete your research.
6. Limit your email, meeting, and social networking time. This is pretty self-explanatory advice. The better you are at organizing your time with electronic and face to face meetings, the more time you will have to work on your dissertation.
7. Take small breaks. Taking breaks while writing your dissertation gives you clarity and it will help your health. Sitting down for hours is not good for your physical health and it can also hinder your writing judgement. I tried to take breaks at least every 45 minutes (15 minute break to make more tea).
9. Have a support system. As you go through your dissertation research and writing you will have moments of self-doubt. Having a support system will give you the strength needed to keep going. For some of us this groups is our family but sometimes it will be your friends, classmates or colleagues. In any case, you get the point! Don’t think you can do it alone. It is okay to have a group of people that will cheer you in the difficult moments. They will likely be the ones that you will include in your acknowledgments.