As you may have gathered by now, a small proportion of your race to finish your dissertation is a bit luck-based. How quickly do you get your chair assigned? How much does that chair agree with your direction in terms of topic, purpose, and problem? Even when choosing a topic, the stars might align and show a very obvious and defendable gap in the literature, or you might have to do more digging. However not everything is left to fate; there area few easy things you can do to make your work much easier.
Get a good start: Sounds simple, right? It is! But a lot of people put more work into their first draft than is actually necessary. Start by looking over your school’s template; you cannot always rely on your chair to give this to you without some prompting, so either ask them or take a quick look through your program’s web page. If there is not any kind of template available, check your school’s archives for approved papers. Start by laying out all the headings that you see and check out our dissertation template for a generic guide on what should be included. You do not have to start by completing each section, just drop things in as you go along and eventually you will start to see the pieces align. Statistics Solutions offers plenty of resources here, and if you are signed on with us, we can help you craft a good starting point.
Stop editing and turn it in: So many doctoral learners want to turn in something perfect the first time. Unfortunately, perfect does not exist. Just like beauty, your paper’s eligibility for approval is in the eye of the beholder… and there will be a lot of beholders to please. Once you have down a good working draft (and clean it up for spelling or grammatical errors – nobody likes those!) send it over to your chair or first reviewer. Do not spend too much time perfecting it in your eyes, because you never know what subsequent reviewers are going to want you to do. Once you have a good amount of feedback, you will have a much better idea of the direction you need to go in and will ultimately finish faster.
Defer to you chair: This can be the most difficult part. You might disagree with your reviewer’s recommendations. Sometimes you can resolve disagreements by citing a reputable source that supports your decision. Sadly, that is not always enough. If you are up against a roadblock like this, it is often in your best interest to simply do what your reviewer says. If it is blatantly wrong, make sure you have a good record of everything you had to change, and consider keeping a backup of the document that you feel is correct. Eventually, your paper will meet the eyes of another reviewer, who may identify the same issues you originally had with making those changes, but it has to get the first green light before that can happen. If you are ever told that you are nearing the end of your time in the program, having evidence that you were lead down the wrong path may be your saving grace. A good rule here is to know your stuff, but only push back if it is absolutely necessary. This, especially, is where assistance through Statistics Solutions can be your strongest lifeline.
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